Talk Story, November 2010

There has been a bit of chatter about how connected—to computers, TVs, handheld devices like phones, blackberries, etc., and all forms of electronic media—and how it's preventing humans from REAL interaction. If the result of real interaction is what births creative outlets, new relationships and so on, are we entering a period of compromised creativity? (Just flip through the TV channels and it does seem apparent.) So the question: How important is it to you to "disconnect"? Do you disconnect? What do you do to escape being connected? What does it do for you?

Alan Wong, chef and restaurateur

There are a couple of things that come to mind: First, the subject of creativity and how it relates to being connected, and the second, about being disconnected.

While there are many ways to inspire creativity, one way that I enjoy a lot is feeding off of another person’s energy. We create these moments by scheduling them. We schedule menu development and cocktail menu development sessions.  The purpose is to create and innovate, to make something happen. We may start out working individually on a specific task, however, we all come together at various points. The critiquing, the tastings, the fun we have together—creates a synergy that is positive and conducive to creativity. I say that if you are in the process of trying to create, you may come in with an idea and start working on it, however, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What matters most is what you find along the way. If you keep doing this, and keep finding things along the way, it’s who you become because you’ve put yourself in the process of trying to make something happen. As in most of our meetings, there are no cell phones nor any outside influences allowed.

It's important to bounce ideas off of other people. Running a restaurant is never a singular effort. It is a huge collaboration. I always want to have another opinion on how something tastes. Hospitality is a dialogue, and it is never good when it becomes a monologue at the table, so involving other people’s opinions and energies is important. One of my roles as a leader is to communicate. I believe that we don’t have people problems. We have communication problems. I have slowly begun to disconnect myself from communicating via email. I do not text at all, nor do I  have a facebook or twitter account.  I find that communicating via email causes problems when trying to deliver something sensitive. You cannot see the person’s face, or watch their reaction or body language. It is easy to have a misunderstanding. A stern message may be translated by the receiving party as caustic, condescending, while all you were trying to do (in your eyes) was to have the person see it through your eyes. Emotions run high in our business; the computer, phone, or ipad cannot send emotions. It’s better to do it one on one, just like in the old days.

As a leader, another one of my roles is to set time aside to work ON the business instead of IN the business.  I need to schedule this time because it is a necessary part of being a businessman. I have to wear my entrepreneurial hat, not just be a chef, in order to keep my company moving and ahead of the game.

Keahi Tucker, anchor, Hawaii News Now

I love to be disconnected! But it seems I have to leave the country to do it. Since that isn’t happening much these days (I now have 3 kids) my best hope is going for a surf. If I play my cards right I can get 3 hours of solitude. Then it’s back to the buzzes, bings and rings of all my gizmos.

Sunny Massad, President and Founder, Hawaii Wellness Institute

When I find myself running on caffeine fumes, suffering from sleep disruption, finding it difficult to remember details, or feeling too tired to enjoy my life, I know I am suffering from the effects of technostress. Techno-stress is the term used to describe the hyperactivity that occurs in the mind as a result of an overload of technology-related stimuli.

My prescription is to make a solid commitment to put my own well-being ahead of, or at least equal to, efficiency and productivity. It's essential that I schedule and enjoy “down time” in natural surroundings, nurture friendships with people who make me laugh, and move my body enough to offset the pressures of my daily life. Taking just a little span of time to rejuvenate myself results in a return of my sense of humor, a first step in supporting joy to flow again.

Sig Zane, apparel designer, Hilo hero, wordsmith

"Wiping the Slate Clean"

Jumping into the ocean has always been a cultural way to cleanse the soul. The hiuwai ritual is often used to purify oneself prior to an important ceremony. Surfing is definitely a way to cleane the slate each morning! It is also one of the best ways to disconnect—but at the same time, to connect. Entering the ocean is liberating and also opens one up to all sorts of connections. 

The universe is filled with ideas and solutions. Meditating on the thought, without any other influence, often times will provide the outline, the manner of presentation, and the true intent. The purity of thought is then ready for delivery!

Having “board meetings” on our surfboards in the ocean is a real good way to invest in the future. Lots will happen in the most natural way. 

Daniel Ho, Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, musician

I am completely dependent on technology to function as a business. I'm always seeking out the latest software and hardware to improve the sound of our recordings and the look of our products. The quality available to us at a fraction of the price was once reserved for big budget productions by major labels "back in the day."

I feel like I benefited from the lack of technology growing up. I enjoyed the outdoors. Early in my career I was forced to practice my instruments because a computer couldn't play it for me.

As much as technology has been a blessing, it has also kept us from personal, physical interaction. I find it uncomfortable when I'm in a car while someone is on their cell having a casual conversation or texting. Many people aren't present "in the moment" anymore, especially our youth who are immersed in these distractions. I was recently on tour in a magnificent city—taking it all in—observing people, the architecture and taking pictures. I was with someone who talked, tweeted and texted the entire time. I didn't want to engage in conversation for fear of interrupting. Nothing was so important that it needed to be communicated that instant. It was simply possible, so it happened. What was important was learning and growing from that wonderful experience.

I rarely turn on my five year old cell phone with the 10 minute battery life. And if it is on, I rarely answer it unless it is urgent. I communicate when I need to, but I believe in the value of doing— creating, practicing, learning, driving—things you can't do very well with a cell phone in hand.

Keala Kennelly, professional surfer, actor, spokesperson

I have found that when I spend too much time in front of "the machines" (with my face glued to a computer screen, tv or my phone) I become socially stunted. When I do get around to interacting with people face to face I feel awkward and uncomfortable at first and it takes awhile to feel normal... for my conversation to flow freely again.
I have heard that when you watch TV your brainwaves slow down to an almost comatose state. That is pretty shocking to think about.
I definitely think unplugging is a good idea for everybody.
I'm really lucky that part of my job requires me to go out in the ocean and completely unplug when I surf.
When I am back on land I try to limit my time on the computer to business emails and try not to get sucked in.
I put my blackberry on silence because I don't want to jump every time a text or an email comes through.
My favorite disconnect though is going on a boat trip in the Mentawais in Indonesia. There is no internet, no phone service. You surf all day and at night you hang out under the stars and talk story with your crew.
It really makes you appreciate the simple things. I come back from those trips feeling recharged, refreshed and reminded that I owe it to myself to find the same happiness in simplicity in my everyday life.