Since I started work on THE BOOK OF BETTER, I began to notice some of those things,
big and small, that make our life Better. Not just in our little diabetes world, but everywhere
you look. More Better is about all of those things.
Pencils are awesome. Graphite wrapped in wood. I hope they never get crushed out of existence by progress. Seems they have been around, more or less, since around 1700.
What a remarkable simple device. With a pencil, I can recall my purpose at the grocery. Draw the most lovely thing. Show you how to get to my house. Outline a business plan for the soon-to-be-greatest company ever in the history of business. Start work on the Great American Novel. Play hangman with a 4 year old. Express my eternal love. My 101-yr-old grandmother can use one. My 2-year-old is proficient. It’s like a 50
Today is my daughter’s birthday. She is two. Her first birthday in America and an American citizen. When you adopt a child from a foreign country, and you finally go there to bring her home, you have to acquire a U.S. visa. That allows her to board the plane to America. With the visa, the adoption means that when the plane touches down on U.S. soil—at that literal moment—she becomes an official citizen of the United States of America.
America does lots of things wrong. And we get beat up all the time, rightly and wrongly, for most of those things. When that plane lands in America, this country deserves a little credit for doing something magnificently right.
I know. You were not looking for another tribute to Steve Jobs.
Hard to deny, though, that he seems a pretty remarkable character.
A lot has been said, of course, about his role at Apple. How he redefined what a personal computer, and then personal technology, could be.
Ultimately defining what it SHOULD be, for better or worse, depending on your relationship at the moment with your iPhone. Regardless, this summer Apple surpassed Mobil Exxon, the company that sells much of the fuel that powers the world’s enterprise, in market value. Apple’s market value (stock shares outstanding x share price) makes it THE MOST VALUABLE COMPANY IN THE WORLD, currently around $390 billion.
Seems there is less talk, though, about Jobs’ role at Pixar. Of course there is at the company a remarkable creative force in John Lasseter. Much of the Pixar success can be rightly credited to him. But Jobs was the business boss. That is, someone has to say, “Yes, we should spend what it takes to get this right.” Someone has to say, “If we have to delay the commercial release, and forego all that revenue, because creatively we could make this better, then we delay the release.” Someone has to say, “Making ‘good enough’ animated pictures isn’t how we want to build this company.”
I don’t know anything about making animated pictures. But I do know how hard it is to do creative work that looks magical. And how hard it is to make writing sing. And characters come alive. And move people to have an emotional reaction to your work. And I can’t imagine how hard it is to make kids and adults, equally, respond to your work.
Somehow, Jobs created that environment at Pixar. Pixar single-handedly revived an industry (animated film) that had sunk into irrelevance. It transformed the industry and made it harder (obviously still not impossible) to unload crappy animated films full of cynicism, bad art and snide inside-Hollywood jokey writing onto the public.
In the extra material that accompanies “The Incredibles” DVD, there is a glimpse of an original direction that the movie might have taken. The introductory scenes had been drawn in pencil, but the characters were clearly in place as the setup to the story was being explored. Watching the clip it was obvious that a lot of work had been done and that the movie was well on its way. But the Pixar directors, Brad Bird and John Lasseter, trashed the whole thing. Threw it away and started over. It wasn’t a BAD start, and for most movie-makers, I would guess entirely adequate. But they knew it could be BETTER, so they started over. My guess is that Steve Jobs agreed. And ultimately he had to pay for it. But ultimately his determination to make it BETTER, paid off.
The quality of all animated films is BETTER for it, the industry is BETTER for it, Pixar, their employees and shareholders are BETTER, and consumers, all of us who have to watch kids movies over and over, are MUCH BETTER for it too.
Dr. Andrew Ahmann is a Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition, OHSU and the Director of the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center. Impressive title. Even more importantly, Dr. Ahmann helped me make my diabetes Better.
Diabetes management is a constant exercise in wrestling your high-octane race car to somewhere close to the middle of the track. Like any race car, diabetes doesn’t really harbor any malice or bias one way or the other. Other than wherever the race car is going, it is going there very fast and you are along for the ride. As the driver of the vehicle, it is your responsibility, and obligation really, to keep it away from the immovable barriers that would keep you from continuing around the course. With diabetes, there is not a “stop” option. There is no option to walk home.
Your endocrinologist, your specialist in the field of diabetes care, is the only person you will ever meet who might know more about diabetes than you.
Not more about YOUR diabetes than you, but more about diabetes, the medical condition.
So my fast-moving diabetes race car was regularly flying off-course, in the dangerous fashion that race cars do. Race cars, and diabetes, don’t tend to do things in slow gradual observable measured fashion. They tend more towards the roaring dramatic “HOLY SHIT!” school of change.
Dr. Ahmann gave me some tools and ideas, not the least of which was a persistent urging to get on the insulin pump, to help me roll more consistently in the middle of the road. A little safer. Much less dramatic. As a person with diabetes I’m always quite sure I know everything about diabetes. Dr. Ahmann, in his gracious way, made my life Better by sharing with me a few things I didn’t know. He still does that today. He could tell me, “That’s stupid.” And he would be right. But instead he says, “There is compelling evidence that you might be Better off doing that differently.”
The Better point? It’s still your diabetes. You still get to choose to do whatever you want. But the more you connect with smart people, people who can help, the more Better you get.