The Art of Framing

By Lloyd Graff

Beverly Sills, the wonderful soprano opera singer, was on one of her “if it’s Thursday it must be Seattle” concert tours. She had her routine publicity meeting with the local press. A columnist asked her if she hated to have to do the grind of eight concerts in seven days. She answered him abruptly, “I don’t have to do this, I get to do this.”

She had framed her work in a way that transformed it from a “grind” to a “joy” in her language and her mind.

Our choice of words to ourselves and others is crucial to our happiness. Is a man or woman fat, obese, a blob? Or well-rounded, zaftig, husky or voluptuous? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but also the ear – for language.

For children, words and tone can have a huge impact on their desire or disgust for education. Multiplication tables can be boring drudgery, or a fun game to learn. The tables can be put into a song to make them brain sticky, or be deadly and elusive printed on a slab of paper.

frame-jpThis year’s presidential campaign is a framing exercise at its ugliest. Donald Trump has learned the art of framing in business. He doesn’t build tall buildings, he builds Trump Towers. To Trump, Hillary Clinton is not “Mrs. Clinton” or the “Democratic Candidate” but always “crooked Hillary,” hoping to make the characterization an indelible tattoo.

Hillary Clinton has not been as skillful or persistent as Trump in her framing. She could use the “Dangerous Donald” or “Reckless Donald” description incessantly like her opponent. She may yet do it or leave it to her ad makers.

In the used machinery business that I’m in we occasionally use the phrase “crème puff” to describe a lightly used piece of equipment. I remember chuckling when I heard my father describe a National Acme 2” RB6 he bought which had been stored in the Atchison, Kansas labyrinth of caves for 20 years at a constant 58 degrees and 37% humidity, as being a crème puff. He said it with such conviction that I not only wanted to descend into those caves, but also try out one of the machines for dessert.

Proper framing demands not just the right words, but the proper tone. When my son, Noah, joined me in the machinery business, he struggled to develop his enthusiasm for trading in greasy, chip-filled 30-year-old bar machines. They carried no romance for my son, who made movies in his spare time.

I thought there was no need to call a Wickman a rose. It was what it was and that was ok for me, but not for Noah.

He finally redefined the business for himself. He was a “treasure hunter.” The treasure was disguised as a machine tool waiting to be discovered and turned into gold by somebody with superior knowledge and the guts to correct its mispricing. That was worthy work for an ambitious romantic.

Question: How do you frame your daily work? How could you do it better?

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3 thoughts on “The Art of Framing

  1. Rod Brower

    I have had a couple once in a lifetime projects that I looked at as “getting to do”.
    You need them to get through all the ones that you have to do to keep the doors open and people employed.
    It is still great to be able to operate your own business in this country and have the opportunity to live life as you chose.
    I need to keep looking at it in the Framework of I Get To Do This and not let the every day stuff drag me down.
    Going to IMTS this week is something I get to Do!
    Will You be wandering around there Lloyd ?

  2. Lloyd Graff

    I will be “wandering” around the “hardware store of the stars” tomorrow. Looking forward to meeting old friends and my brother, Jim. I will go to Hydromat and Universal Robots for conferences and check into the EDA Oasis for fresh water for the camels.
    I would love to get insights into IMTS from those who have already wandered through the halls.

  3. Misterchipster

    Spent yesterday there, looked over a lot of equipment, checked out my dream list, had great conversation with many knowledgeable people. I can’t say it was the biggest IMTS I have ever been to but certainly the most spread out. Had a friend there as an exhibitor in the cleaning and deburring area I felt sorry for. Whole area is almost hidden in the north end of the north hall lowest floor, down a corridor, felt like it was separated from the main show. Consensus of the exhibitors in that area was that foot traffic was down 25-30% because of their location.
    Robotics and connectivity was big this year as the upcoming trend. It seemed to me that the mammoth machines of the past were not as prevalent or numerous as previous years although the quantity of manufacturers in that arena have increased.


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