Thursday, October 29, 2015

Brunch on Bugs


In the Western world, people typically associate eating bugs with a childhood dare or a bet gone wrong. But before you get squeamish at the mere thought of it, a little reminder that humans have been doing it for centuries. For our hunter-gatherer  ancestors, insects were an important part of their diet. And for around half of the world’s population, chowing down on insects still isn’t all that uncommon.

Is it time for us to get with the program? Brazilian top chefs are leading the charge by including bugs on their menu, as illuminated in a recent article by Heriberto Araújo and Anna Veciana on The Guardian.

Ants, apparently, taste similar to ginger (I’ve heard they can be spicy too). After discovering this on a trip to a remote region in the Amazon state, chef Alex Atala, owner of São Paulo’s D.O.M. (which was ranked among the world’s 50 best restaurants) started serving them up as a delicacy. As in, “golden Amazonian ants over a coconut meringue” and “a raw Amazonian leaf-cutter ant on a pineapple cube.” For those who remain cautious about eating creepy-crawlies, baby-steps might be the way to go. São Paulo offers a softer option, courtesy of a burger bar aptly called ‘Meats’, which offers “a fat-free meat burger seasoned with vinaigrette of ants.”

As the human population continues to grow, it’s predicted that maintaining a diet rich in meat and dairy products is unsustainable. It’s likely that we’ll start looking for alternatives, although judging by our reaction to having bugs on our plate, it might take the Western world a while to come around to eating insects. A US student tried ‘the diet of the future’ for 30 days, with mealworms, waxworms and crickets forming the bulk of his diet. Needless to say, it was only a 30-day thing, and even though he claimed it wasn’t all that bad (“it was pretty good”), I’m not convinced.

Image source: pinterest.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Space Cathedrals


A few months ago I took advantage of a speaking gig in Barcelona to visit La Sagrada Familia. Labelled the “most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages”, Antony Gaudí’s La Sagrada is one of the most well-known – and most debated – basilicas worldwide. Gaudí, who both designed and began to construct the famous monument, did not live long enough to oversee the entire construction. Even today the basilica, which had Barcelona divided because of its extravagant design is not entirely finished. Its 100% completion is set for 2026.

In Air & Space Magazine, Michael Griffin draws an interesting comparison to our desire for space exploration. He argues that the products of our space research are today’s cathedrals. Many cathedrals were not finished by the ones who started the construction. “The society as a whole had to be dedicated to the completion of those projects. We owe Western civilization as we know it today to that kind of thinking: the ability to have a constancy of purpose across years and decades.”

Movies like Star TrekStar WarsInterstellar and most recently The Martian, all build on our desire to explore the unknown – in this case the unknown beyond our planet. It seems that regardless of how many movies we watch we still are captivated by the idea of travelling to space. Where does this fascination come from? Did it all begin with “one small leap for a man (but) one giant leap for mankind” when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969? Or is there something else rooted inside each one of us that makes us want to travel further than anything we know?

Stephen Hawking once said that “we explore because we are human, and we want to know”. It is that intangible desire that has fuelled progress over decades and it has “provided benefits to our societies for centuries”, according to NASA. Today we are so advanced in our research and technology that we need more to satisfy that curiosity. We live in a time where anything seems possible, where entrepreneurs like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos are actively chasing the dream of space travel and planet colonization.

Mars One, a Dutch not-for-profit organisation is planning a one-way Mars mission in 2024 for instance with the goal to establish a human settlement on Mars. They are hoping to “inspire generations to believe that all things are possible and anything can be achieved” just like the Apollo Moon landings did.

It seems that we as humans tend to strive towards what is beyond ourselves. We constantly want to do things faster, move faster or challenge ourselves to overcome our biological limitations. We have seen it in history countless times – with our amazing monuments, our desire to fly and our attempts at travelling through space. We are also trying to reach out and touch something or someone beyond ourselves and beyond our time on earth and it seems today we are doing that with our cathedrals or skyscrapers. That is what I call the wonder of humankind.

Image source: wikimedia.org

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What Would You Pay for Some Peace and Quiet?


“I just need some peace and quiet,” says someone, somewhere in the world, probably every day or possibly every hour or every minute. It’s something we’re familiar with saying and hearing but ironically, it’s something we’re becoming less and less familiar with, as the world around us gets louder and louder.

True peace and quiet really is quite a luxury, when you think about it. No longer can it typically be achieved within the confines of our daily routine. We yearn for it. We seek it out. We even take refuge from our daily lives in the hopes of finding it. And many will go so far as to pay for it.

Since when did we start paying a surcharge for silence? John Biguenet discusses how the association between silence and wealth isn’t just a recent marketing strategy in an article on The Atlantic. It is, however, a cunning one, as silence is no longer an everyday commodity for the general population, but something that often only the wealthy can access.

One place where it’s most obvious is in airport lounges, where fortunate passengers get to escape the hubbub of the terminal. The airport lounge provides an oasis of peace, with “muted lighting and dampened sound” and “discreet entrances [that make clear] that segregation of noise from silence is an expression of segregation by class.” Once people step onto the plane, those who can afford the luxury of noise-cancelling earphones (Bose not Beats!) will also arrive at their destination feeling more refreshed than those who go without.

Beyond flight travel, the reality is that noise has a disproportionate effect on those living in poverty. Biguenet refers to a review of the book, Why Noise Matters which highlights inequalities in noise pollution between rich and poor. People who live in lower-socioeconomic areas not only have to contend with the noise of their neighbors on a regular basis, but they’re also likely to live closer to sources that create very loud noise, such as busy highways and airports. Trucks, airplanes and busy roads all feature at the middle to upper end of sound pressure thresholds.

The racket of modern life is becoming inescapable, says Biguenet. “Even the rich may find a silent retreat impossible to locate.”

Image attribute: Brian Joseph

Monday, October 26, 2015

Shelf Service


In history, libraries symbolized a gathering of knowledge. The original Library of Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the World and home to many philosophers until it burned down. Today, we still have iconic libraries like The Library of Congress, home to more than 32 million books and 61 million manuscripts, and the New York Public Library which holds more than 50 million items. Through the years the library has changed. For many kids, their local library has been both entertainment center and babysitter. Now you are as likely to find a café in a library as you would DVDs.

It is heartening to hear that people still regard libraries as an important part of their community - but it’s not the kind of library that we have known. People want new services, digital resource - and books? Well, they’re almost secondary.

In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center:
  • People see the library as part of the ‘educational ecosystem’, and they think it should offer services and resources to support learning and advance education.
  • People think the library should improve digital literacy, such as by offering programs to help people learn how to use digital tools and new technologies.
  • People are interested in seeing an expanded mission for libraries, one that involves, for example, providing resources for business development and enhancing workforce skills, and offering services to help recent immigrants and other key groups requiring support.
  • Approximately one-third of people say that closing their local library would have a major impact on them and their family.
So what does all of this mean? One of the big questions posed by the researchers is what might happen to the buildings. If libraries no longer demand large, centralized spaces, could they be replaced with a handful of coffee-shop-sized locations spread across town? An article by Adrienne Lafrance on The Atlantic suggests this could be the model for the libraries of the future. Hard to imagine how one might repurpose these beautiful, bespoke libraries featured on Architectural Digest. 

Lafrance makes a good point about our current relationship with books. While in the past they might have served as one of our main forms of entertainment, they now occupy a cultural space that for many people, involves having a lot of them around and on display, but not necessarily reading them. In many ways, this mirrors the sentiment towards libraries that’s coming through in the Pew research findings. People like having them around, and they’re integral to their sense of community, but books are somewhat sidelined as people are increasingly seeing the main purpose of libraries as spaces where people can gather and learn.

Books aside, the concept of a library has already changed in response to our increasingly digital world. You can browse catalogues online and set up at a library workstation that offers free Wi-Fi. People continue to appreciate their local library – like I said, they like having them around – but as technology is changing the way information flows, there may be room for some reconfiguration and repurposing.

Image source: wallpoper.com

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The time of Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen has long been a Lovemark of mine. The subject of numerous interviews, biographies and documentaries, Cohen is no stranger to reflecting on his life’s work as a poet, novelist and musician. Time is a frequent theme. Those who know him well, and Cohen himself, give the impression that he spends a lot of time thinking, and that a great amount of time, and thought, goes into his work.

He works at his own pace. In an interview from 1976, he says “Songs seem to take me a long time. I don’t know why; they’re not especially excellent for taking so long. I don’t have any sense or urgency about any of my writing actually. I don’t think mankind will be damaged if I don’t put out a new album or a new book.”

While he was working on Beautiful Losers, he seemed driven by an inner clock that was somewhat more hurried. The 2012 biography I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen describes him, “sat in his room in his house on the hill in Hydra, writing furiously. He was driven by an overpowering sense of urgency. He had the feeling, he said, of time running out.”

I guess that’s the thing about thinking, and time. There’s little correlation between the two, which is why it’s hard to put a price on it. A student paper by Osarenkhoe Uwuigbe published in the published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics has tried to figure it out, starting with the popular idiom, ‘a penny for your thoughts’ and testing it. The outcome? One penny = three hours, seven minutes and 30 seconds of thought (and speech). It doesn’t seem right to me, given the power and value of thought.

The reason for the underestimation is that the model is based on how thought is powered, with the brain consuming around 20% of the body’s energy. Of course, the power required for the brain to operate doesn’t necessarily relate to power used in thought, nor does it imply productive or unproductive thinking. Just that your brain is being used.

Dear Leonard, I couldn’t imagine putting a price on your thoughts, much less only a penny.

Image attribute/source: Leonard Cohen / jensunmack.dk/ ricmais.com.br

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Seeing Into The Future


The word ‘visionary’ typically isn’t one that’s used lightly. It carries a lofty, almost daunting feel to it. Perhaps because there’s an element of the unknown; as in someone who is truly visionary can see into the future in their own special way. It’s this kind of big thinking that sets the stage for bigger things to come, having somewhat of a snowball effect.

But how do they do it? An article by Greg Satell on Forbes says visionaries are able to see into the future because they care about it. Their motivation isn’t about themselves, or about the here and now, but to understand more and to ask questions and to not stop until they’ve figured it out. You might say they suffer from an overactive imagination, one that comes up with preposterous ideas and impractical solutions, in the best way possible.

For people who happen to carry the label of genius or visionary, it may be the case that they have a head-start, literally. They’re wired to think in a different way. For example, Richard Feynman, who invented the field of nanotechnology, provided an insight into the way his mind works during a talk he gave about physics and engineering: “After thinking about the problem of shrinking things down to the size of molecules, he proposes some solutions, then thinks some more about what issues those ideas would create, proposes some more fixes and on and on until a full picture emerged.” Keeping up?

Big thinking is key, but another common denominator is action. Visionaries don’t just have an idea; they get stuck into making it happen. For example, Tim Berners-Lee, the man responsible for the World Wide Web, continues to take an active role in the growth and development of the internet through the W3C consortium, which he helped set up.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, visionaries don’t tend to follow the pack – they zig while others zag. And they carry on zigging, even when others don’t accept their views or even turn on them. They remain curious, because in their heart, they’re born discoverers. Perhaps that’s the starting point when you look at some of the great discoverers and inventors of our world today with an eye to identifying who might be considered visionaries in future. Here’s an interesting list, Utne Reader’s 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.

There’s a lot more to be discovered, there’s no doubt about that. But while some might be able to foresee the future, what we obviously can’t do is actually see it. So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how the snowball rolls.

Image source: adigaskell.org

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pianist Benjamin Grovesnor


Speaking of great reviews, there has been much anticipation about the Carnegie Hall debut of young British pianist Benjamin Grovesnor, 23, a wunderkind made of old bones. Here’s what The New York Times music critic David Allen beautifully wrote:

Benjamin Grosvenor might be just 23, but he commands a stage with aristocratic ease. And how. The darling of British pianophiles, Mr. Grosvenor, in his Carnegie Hall recital debut, at Zankel Hall on Thursday, proved a boy lord of the piano. In a program of remembrances (of Bach, Couperin and Italy), he recalled a distant age of pianism, playing with a judgment far beyond his years and a tone so achingly antique it sounded as if it ought properly to be heard through the crackle and hiss of an old monophonic record.

“It is said that the greatest sportsmen are so secure in their talents that they appear to have more time, at the plate or on the court, than anyone else. They err, but they are unafraid to. A similar patience distinguishes Mr. Grosvenor from the pack of young pianists touring concert halls today, and perhaps elevates him above them. For all that Daniil Trifonov, Yuja Wang, Khatia Buniatishvili and others can wow with speed or daring, Mr. Grosvenor makes you sigh with joy.”

And keep your eyes out for a brilliant, talented, exquisite, young English saxophonist Hannah Marcinowicz …one to watch.

Image attribute/source: Benjamin Grosvenor / benjamingrosvenor.co.uk

Monday, October 19, 2015

After Match Talk, Cardiff


I have no doubt that the after-match talk in Cardiff between Richie McCaw, Steve Hansen and the All Blacks team, following their 62-13 defeat of France in the Rugby World Cup quarter final, went along the lines of “Well, that was better. The Boks on Saturday. They’ll be ready and hungry. Remember 1995.”

But we can enjoy the moment. Here are some international reviews below. And the some highlights from Saturday’s matches are here on Universal Sports (5+ mins).

Robert Kitson in the Guardian: Pure black magic. The record books will show the cruel beauty of this nine-try exhibition. This was attacking rugby par excellence, performed by a side who prefer the stiletto to the lead piping.

Matt Lawton in the London Daily Mail: To the irrepressible, irresistible All Blacks a masterclass in international rugby. When New Zealand play like this nobody can live with them. It is rugby from a different world. Rugby on a different level. Rugby played with more speed, flair and ferocity than any other side can manage. My word this lot are good.

Rob Bartlett on ESPNscrum.com: This wasn't just a destruction, it was a brutal obliteration of Philippe Saint-Andre's side in front of a shellshocked Millennium Stadium.

Rick Broadbent in the Times of London: Where to start? Nine tries executed at exhilarating pace; Dan Carter playing with a sort of sublime dexterity that made a mockery of recent muttering about his form; Julian Savea scoring a hat-trick to make it 38 tries in 39 internationals, wrapped up into a team performance that should make World Cup survivors feel very afraid. It was the biggest World Cup quarter-final win ever. On a night of rare skill and entertainment, at a stage when games are supposed to get tight, cagey and one-dimensional, New Zealand looked like the team of 2015.

Paul Cully in the Sydney Morning Herald: So now we know where the All Blacks have been in this tournament. Quietly building behind closed doors, happy to let the others take the praise. Not any longer. Their dismantling of a shell-shocked France has changed the conversation in this World Cup. Now the talk will be just who is capable of stopping them.

Chris Dutton in the Sydney Morning Herald: New Zealand are the kings of this tournament and the team to beat. They were simply outstanding. Masterclass. They showed tonight they are definitely the team to beat and favourites to make it back to back World Cups.

Iain Spragg in the London Daily Telegraph: The intensity and the handling skills displayed by the Kiwis was incredible. That was absolutely ruthless and beautiful at the same.

Ben Dirs on BBC.com: The performance of Steve Hansen's side was undoubtedly the most impressive of the tournament so far.

Dan Lucas in the Guardian: That was terrifying. As good as I've seen from the All Blacks in a long time. That was sensational stuff: they started at a tempo unlike any we've seen in this World Cup. France were blown away, run down, torn apart and from then on it was far, far too easy for New Zealand.

But as Steve Hansen said, “Saturday’s our fun day. Monday to Friday are our workdays.”

Image source: All Blacks Twitter

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How quirky is Britain?


Scott Waters is an American from Florida who has been spending time in small towns in the England. He’s a professional portrait and landscape painter, commercial artist, designer and tech geek. He posted a long list of his observations of British life on his Facebook page and has had an exponential response, 153,000 Likes and counting. Here’s a selection, see the full list here.
  • Almost everyone is very polite.
  • The food is generally outstanding.
  • There are no guns.
  • Pubs are not bars, they are community living rooms.
  • You'd better like peas, potatoes and sausage.
  • Everything is generally older, smaller and shorter.
  • People don't seem to be afraid of their neighbors or the government.
  • All the signs are well designed with beautiful typography and written in full sentences with proper grammar.
  • There's no dress code.
  • They eat with their forks upside down.
  • English are as crazy about their gardens as Americans are about cars.
  • There are hardly any cops or police cars.
  • There are 5,000 year old rocks still standing around. No one is sure why.
  • After fish and chips, curry is the most popular food.
  • If someone buys you a drink you must do the same.
  • Many of the roads are the size of our sidewalks.
  • There's no AC.
  • Instead of turning the heat up, you put on a jumper.
  • You don't have to tip, really!
  • Everyone here has a passport, only 14% of Americans do.
  • Walking is the national pastime.
  • Their TV looks and sounds much better than ours.
  • Everyone enjoys a good joke.
  • Dogs are very well behaved and welcome everywhere.
  • You can get on a bus and end up in Paris.
  • Everyone knows more about our history then we do.
  • Radio is still a big deal. The BBC is quite good.
  • The universal greeting is "Cheers."
  • Soccer is a religion, religion is a sport.
  • The trains work: a three minute delay is regrettable.
  • Their healthcare works, but they still bitch about it.
  • Cake is one of the major food groups.
  • Their coffee is mediocre but their tea is wonderful.
  • Cheers.

Image source: anglotopia.net

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Film & Ferragamo


“Hollywood was calling; the future was calling.” – Salvatore Ferragamo

Salvatore Ferragamo was the eponymous founder of the Italian apparel and accessories label, who first found fame designing shoes for Hollywood stars in the 1910s and 1920s. The brand’s Hollywood connection is still strong, with a new campaign ‘100 years, 100 days’ and a flagship recently launched to commemorate Ferragamo’s arrival in Hollywood in a particularly fitting way.

The campaign captures the sweep-me-off-my-feet feel of old Hollywood, with photos and quotes from Ferragamo illustrating the founders’ Art Deco (and other) inspirations and rise as shoemaker to the stars. His passion for shoemaking and exceptional craftsmanship is inherent, as is the brand’s close ties with the film industry, which continue to this day.

Ferragamo’s clients when he first arrived in Hollywood included Mae West, Audrey Hepburn, Cicil B. Demille and Joan Crawford. Ferragamo continues to sell the iconic Audrey ballet shoe, which was designed for Audrey Hepburn in 1954. Marilyn Munro was another ardent Ferragamo follower; “she owned dozens of pairs, each with a simple design and not one without a stiletto heel.”

Fast forward to today and the brand’s Hollywood legacy continues, with Ferragamo’s original Hollywood sirens joined by modern-day A-list beauties. The Hollywood connection has also shaped the brand’s image over the years. Day 12 of the campaign is dedicated to illustrating the environment where Ferragamo’s designs were showcased, “where the service and sheer sense of bon vivant left his customers feeling like they had entered a rarified movie set.”

The company’s partnership with Hollywood is fitting and is obviously one that’s beautifully steeped in tradition. But not only that, Ferragamo’s passion for making beautiful (and comfortable) shoes. Massimiliano Giornetti, Salvatore Ferragamo’s creative director says: “Salvatore was interested in beauty and functionality. What he made was real shoes for real people – even if those people happened to be fabulous.”

Image attribute/source: Salvatore Ferragamo / LinkedIn.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Two Important Days


Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Finding out is the tricky part, which is to say, it’s all very well to tell people to follow their passion, but the actual process of getting there isn’t always going to be an easy ride.

“Let your own curiosity and interests help guide you toward your passion,” says Melissa Dahl in a recent article on New York magazineDahl cites recent research which suggests this kind of guided journey might be the best way of actually finding your passion – but the work, as tedious or as difficult as it might seem at the time, comes first.

The research looked at a bunch of entrepreneurs who reported on their experience of effort and passion for their work to establish a new venture. The results suggested a positive relationship between the two, i.e. that more effort led to more passion. Another experiment tested this and found that other factors weighed into the equation, like positive feedback and a feeling of ownership over a project.

The research certainly doesn’t suggest that working away on some mind-numbing task will create some sort of epiphany or excitement for the work, no matter how much you own it or however many pats on the back you receive. It does, however, suggest that maintaining a sense of momentum towards completing a task, with an ultimate focus on the big picture, is where it’s at.

There aren’t many people who feel 100% passionate about their jobs 100% of the time. There are always going to be aspects that you put off until another day, or that you need to down a couple of espressos to face up to. But getting stuck in and doing the work can sometimes lead to something much bigger (and better) than the task at hand.

It’s obvious that the day you were born is important. Living your life in pursuit of the ‘why’ will help you with the latter part of Twain’s adage.

Image source: squarespace.com

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sweat, Tears and Triumph


Being a true sports fan is not only about celebrating victories. “A true fan supports the team through thick and thin, good calls and bad calls, good plays and terrible plays”, according to an article in the Bleacher Report that investigates what makes a true sports fan.

Most of the time fans stick with their teams. It’s about loyalty. When the Boston Red Sox were not performing well, their fans felt like “they’ve earned the right to revel in the team’s success when ultimately things turn(ed) around for them”, says Professor Edward Hirt from Indiana University.

Regardless of the outcome of the game, we all react to a good game in some physical way. Hearts beat faster, hands get cold and blood pressure rises. According to studies conducted during the 2010 World Cup soccer final, our cortisol levels increase when we watch our teams perform on the pitch.

An interesting read for sports fans is Eric Simons’ book The Secret Lives of Sports Fans in which he explores the connection and “extreme emotional attachment” between sports fans and their teams. We feel like we are part of the game and studies have found that in a way we are – at least our brains are. When we see a player kick a goal part of our neurons react as if we were kicking the goal ourselves.

But that’s not all. Our reactions to what we see go way beyond the physical. Being a real sports fan has a range of positive psychological effects. According to Daniel Wann, sports psychology professor of Murray State University, it all boils down to our sense of community. Wearing fan wear or cheering for a team together with others gives us a sense of belonging and makes us feel integrated. That sense of community is even stronger when the team itself reciprocates something to their fans.

Manchester City has just unveiled the ‘City Circle’ outside the Etihad stadium as a tribute to their many fans. The ‘City Circle’ consists of discs engraved with fan messages. That is quite a community to belong to – and a large one, too.

Professor Alan Pringle from the University of Nottingham notes that sports can give us a ‘common currency’ that transcends distances created by age. There is no better feeling than celebrating your team’s success with other fans, which is another reason why being a sports fan is good for us – it gives everybody the possibility to experience success as in real life success often comes slow or we are too busy to enjoy it.

Image source: twitter.com

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Quick as a Cat


The iconic New York Yankees baseball player, Yogi Berra, passed away recently at the age of 90. Born Lawrence Peter Berra, he was nicknamed by childhood friends who noticed his cross-legged pose while waiting to bat resembled that of a Hindu practicing yoga, which they’d seen in a movie. His nickname would have to be one of the most recognized nicknames in sports.

Not only does his name precede him, but his wit and wisdom, evident in the many memorable phrases that he may (or as it turns out, may not) have coined. Such phrases have become fondly known as ‘Yogi-isms’, and continue to be referenced today. For example, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” and “it’s déjà vu all over again” and “you can observe a lot just by watching.”

He had a knack for stating the absurdly obvious in a philosophical kind of way. Apparently he was one of the most quoted Americans since Mark Twain, and his sayings have been mentioned in 124 decisions by federal judges, according to lawyer Michael McCann.

Beyond his goofy sense of humor and sharp-witted one-liners, what Yogi Berra was, first and foremost, was a sporting hero. He had a cracking baseball career (pun very much intended). If you’re a baseball fan (and even if you’re not), the stats speak for themselves: over 18 seasons, he hit 358 home runs and only struck out 414 times.

Described as a notorious bad-ball hitter, he set the career home-run record for American League catchers, and holds numerous World Series records. His former manager, the late Casey Stengal, once said of his pitching talent: “He looks cumbersome, but he’s quick as a cat.” After retiring as a player he went on to become a manager and a coach.

Those who knew Berra adored him, not only for his athletic prowess, but for his generosity of spirit, often supporting and mentoring others. He always stood up for himself (“I never said most of the things I said”) and had strong principles. At the end of his baseball career Berra reminisced: “It was fun. If I had to do it over, I’d do it again.” That’s a sign of a life well lived.

Image attribute/source: Yogi Berra / earhustle411.com

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Four F Words


I went to watch England crash out of their World Cup with old school friend and ex England (and Ireland!) Coach Brian Ashton. He reckons England Rugby needs a revolution, and as revolution starts with language, he has developed a new Coaching approach, The Four F’s.
  • Framework, not Gameplan
  • Freedom, not Restriction
  • Fearlessness, not Fear
  • Futuristic, not Flatlining
A solid recipe for business too.

KR

Image source: trustworks.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Datalicious


A black olive-gruyere dip and Greek’s economy. Sardines and New Delhi’s population density. Sausages with potato-salad and gender inequality in restaurant kitchens. These unusual pairings were just some of the  menu items at events hosted by Susanne Jaschko, Moritz Stefaner and Schott Ceran, whose initiative Data Cuisine explores ways to approach data differently rather than in the form of a graph: They visualize data with food.

Jaschko’s and Stefaner’s argument is that you are more likely to remember a data point when you are actually eating it. “Data is often said to be abstract and ‘dry’, unemotional, non-tangible and non-sensual.” They make a good point. Most people don’t find data and statistic graphs that exciting. Data Cuisine’s food creations, however, are.

Their black olive-gruyere dip for instance visualizes the amounts of money Greeks have stashed away in Swiss bank accounts (the Gruyère cream) as well as the number of Greeks that “fail to report income” (the chopped black olives beneath the cream).

We are constantly bombarded with stats and data, especially in business - to a point where people tend to only briefly look at graphs or numbers. There are obvious benefits to traditionally presented data. It is structured and usually straight forward but there is not a lot of room for interpretation or imagination.

Data Cuisine isn’t just visualizing data and making it look less boring. There are no pie charts created of pasta – their visualizations are more than that. The aim is to “create a culinary experience where taste, texture, and even smell convey their own data points”, according to an article Fast Co. Design.

Interestingly, consuming a meal slows data consumption. “I found it really interesting to watch how deeply people meditate on very simple data points when they think about turning them into food experiences,” says Stefaner in WIRED magazine. “This is a much needed counterpoint to the current trend of consuming lots of data in a very quick and superficial way.”

We are constantly bombarded with stats and data. Computer servers around the world process the “digital equivalent of a 5.6-billion-mile-high stack of books from Earth to Neptune and back, repeated about 20 times” in a year,” according to scientists at UC San Diego. That is a lot of data to digest in a year. What is wonderful is that there are just as many possibilities to create delicious data visuals with taste, texture, temperature and food presentation as there is data in our world. Bon Appétit.

Image source: trustworks.com

Monday, October 5, 2015

DMA15 &THEN Conference




Today I spoke to 3,000 highly energized people at the Direct Marketing Association’s &THEN conference in Boston. It’s a great event with fantastic presenters including award-winning musician and entrepreneur John Legend, Blake Mycoskie – Founder and Chief of Toms shoes and Jon Iwata – Senior Vice President Marketing and Communications at IBM.

&THEN was all about the new digital data-driven marketer. We live in the ‘Age of Now’ where the number of mobile devices exceeds the number of people. Our old rules don’t apply anymore. It might be all about big data, but to delight customers in our VUCA World we need to lead with emotions.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Feel the Fear


I’m not a fan of fear. I do fear once in a generation. Fear about the future of advertising and agencies led me to create Lovemarks as the new point of emotional relevance. I once picked up Susan Jeffer’s classic title Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, which was a big hit in the self-improvement aisle at bookstores when it came out in the late 80s and is still selling today. The book says that experiencing fear is natural and that people have the power to grab hold of their fears, move past them and move on with their lives.

Now there’s a different kind of conversation happening around topic around fear which has been introduced by Tara Mohr, an author and coach who encourages women to ‘play big’ in business and in life.

In a blog post Mohr shares what she learned about fear from the late Rabbi Alan Lew, who explained that in biblical Hebrew, there are different words for fear. The first, ‘pachad’ is projected or imagined fear. The kind that torments us with worst-case scenarios and threats that aren’t really there. The kind that makes us want to play it safe and stay within the confines of our comfort zone. It carries a sense of threat and panic. The second, ‘yirah’ is fear that makes us feel like we’re inhabiting a larger space, or possessing a greater amount of energy than we’re used to. The kind that is often aligned with matters of the heart, when we feel inspired to pursue an idea or to follow our dreams. It carries a sense of exhilaration and awe.

Mohr makes the important distinction between these two types of fear, pointing out that we often confuse the two and therefore fail to respond appropriately. “Pachad-type fears are irrational,” says Mohr, and we should remind ourselves that they are just imagined. Yirah-type fears, on the other hand, we should capture. “Lean into – and look for – the callings and leaps that bring yirah.” Her advice suggests applying a degree of reflection, but with a focus on action – facing the fear.

In this context, this quote by the late Dale Carnegie seems apt: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Image source: emergingwomen.com