“I am an invisible man . . . I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”—Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
In my new book, I talk about the concept “BLOCKS”. A Block, when repeated quickly, becomes iconic in the mind of any person or collective of people whose attention and engagement you want. Once a Block has been imprinted onto the mind of an intended recipient it is no longer a Block but is now an ICON. Blocks are the anatomy as to why anything becomes iconic and magnetizes the attention of others – and by understanding the BOLD, simple, primal laws in my book, anyone can use them.
A BLOCK is a succinct, clear, bold, monolithic image, statement, melody, physical structure, or piece of design. With consistent, deliberate, and up-front repetition, the Block grabs attention, stands out, and imprints itself in the minds of those you are trying to reach.
The Dilution Generation
Excerpt from The Iconist by Jamie Mustard (BenBella Books, 2019)
Personal recognition and the ability to express ourselves are two of the primary drivers for humans to feel positive and more fulfilled. In my experience with clients, whether they’re painters, architects, or businesspeople, when I show them their work as a Block, they are relieved and empowered, mentally and emotionally. (In many cases clients breathe an audible sigh of relief.) The Block is already there—together, we work to chisel it from the body of their work. This is a testament to the restorative power of Blocks, and what they do for us.
Take self-expression away from people or make it harder for them to communicate, and it can have severe social and mental effects. The weird part is that even though most of us feel something is wrong, in terms of our ability to cut through the dilution cloud, we wouldn’t necessarily think of our personal dilution as a serious personal or social problem. It absolutely is. Many of my clients and the younger generation of workers I’ve spoken to feel this very intensely.
It’s making our society more depressed and anxiety-ridden because we feel it is harder to be seen and heard personally and professionally. It’s affecting us all en masse.
Renowned American psychologist Abraham Maslow defined the highest level of self-esteem, self-actualization, as “to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” This is the internal life and drive that Blocks instill when you use them. Maslow goes on to say that the “happiest moments” in life occur when we are hit by a great piece of art or deep human connection, making us feel more integrated in the world and more in control of our lives.
We can signal like minds toward like minds, renew lost dreams, rekindle hope and optimism, and rejuvenate anyone who chooses to use Blocks to engage the world.
Understanding how to use Blocks to express your unique gifts in a way that stands out and grabs the attention of others will be even more important for the Dilution Generation—even the worthiest, most motivated, and talented individuals among them. Despite their obvious power (they are out there in the world and all around you, easy to observe), there are so many reasons it can be hard for people to use Blocks and iconic communication as a way of relaying their ideas:
corporate or institutional inertia;
the discomfort of having all eyes on you;
the uncomfortable feeling that comes from saying
something simply and repeatedly;
the refusal, fear, or resistance to being simple and transparent; or
not understanding how to craft or deploy your Block.
And yet, right now, too many millennials and Gen Z kids feel like cogs in a corporate machine. And with more and more information overload, these feelings are metastasizing in the mind. This increased difficulty in getting attention is affecting the new generations, personally and professionally, but by the time they realize what’s happening, many may already be riddled with anxiety and depression.
The understanding of these prehistoric Blocks and Icons might be more useful to the Dilution Generation than any other group—it will only become more important to communicate with Blocks. The trends that have gotten us to where we are (data proliferation, an app for everything, increasing digitization and competition) aren’t going to go away. Blocks will be paramount in the same way we need road signs to guide us. The current and future generations can learn how to direct traffic toward themselves in a culture where feeling lost in the digital void is the new normal.
That said, radical simplicity is not just about success; it is about sanity. This transparency really is the only way to make a true connection in an overcomplicated world. There are people with something to say all over the world who don’t understand why they can’t grab attention. Just forming and using Blocks creates mental relief internally, even if you have not yet begun to receive the magnetism they generate externally.
The renewal, hope, and reinvigoration that we experience by leading with our simple toy Blocks can have surprising, profound effects on the feeling of any class and can completely reinspire one’s outlook on life. In this way, the use of Blocks—the anatomy of what commands attention and creates mental Icons—can help us to recharge and reconnect as humans worthy of recognition.