#40 Brainstorming is a great way of raising questions and a terrible way of finding answers
Appreciating the beauty and learning that’s hiding in the plain sight
I’m starting with one more snippet from The Messy Middle. I promise this will be the last one of those for the foreseeable future.
The most humbling part of creation is that you're never truly done. A finish, it turns out, is an abstract mile marker that makes your long journey through life more digestible. Being aware of where you are in that cycle of creation and which way the wheel is turning is imperative to keeping the cogs turning. From every finish comes new possibility, so long as you lead it well and pass the baton on.
I found these thoughts very comforting as I planned my transition from Curefit. I spent the last 5 years building things that excited me every moment. I worked with some of the most talented and passionate coworkers & friends. And I dreamed and lived to build a product, experience and culture that I am extremely proud of.
And now, I've passed on the baton. I feel a void, but I know I've to go through this to be able to create something new. The 'new possibilities' are exciting & challenging. They will pave the way for the next phase of my learning journey.
Here's a toast to the new start!
And now, to the new lessons for this week and beyond.
PVR is as much in the movie business as it is in food retail. And this is true for not just them, but any multiplex or cinema-hall operation out there. This long essay “Making Concessions” is a good primer on how we reached there. It covers the history & trends from American theatres, but you will easily relate to most of it. It’s fascinating to see how our retail & public space norms evolved in this period.
So often, some ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’ services and revenue streams become the mainstays of many businesses. In our marketing textbooks, we read about razor & blade strategy. I wish they had covered this topic as well. It’s very important for the retail & service industry where every rupee of revenue extracted or cost saved counts.
Morgan Housel started this piece on big skills with the following premise:
Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator, says he doesn’t have any extraordinary skills. He’s a pretty good artist. He’s kind of funny, an OK writer, and decent at business.
But multiply those mediocre skills together and you get one of the most successful cartoonists of all time.
And it had my attention. We may not have a superpower, or it might take a lot of time to get there. But many simpler things can help us do better.
In his own words - “A few little things that are easy to ignore yet work wonders when combined together.” I’m listing my favourite five:
Curiosity across disciplines, most of which are outside your profession.
Low susceptibility to FOMO.
Valuing your independence over someone else’s priorities.
Thinking in probabilities vs. certainties, including the idea that a good decision can result in a bad outcome and vice versa.
Identifying what game you’re playing and not being persuaded by people playing different games.
“Pearls before breakfast” - is like a report submitted at the end of a giant social experiment.
What was the hypothesis?
In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?
Does not sound interesting right? Please bear with me for a few more seconds. Here’s what really happened:
On that Friday in January, a violinist stood near the entrance of L'Enfant Plaza station in federal Washington. He performed for 43 minutes in the middle of the morning rush hour. He performed 6 classical pieces, 1097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work. By the very nature of the average commuter in this location, they were mostly mid-level bureaucrats (read - fairly well to do).
Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?
No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made.
Now you see why is it interesting? Go on and read this one, in your free time. I highly recommend it. It’s a primer on multiple topics - human behaviour, the ecosystem of a train station, music, expensive violins and great artists.
I just could not stop once I started. It reminded me of “little moments of joy”. That was the blog that I wrote almost a decade ago. The premise was very simple - enjoying the simple pleasures that daily life is. I found myself happier in the simple things - tiny moments as they passed. They keep me going and yearn for more. Not bad for inexpensive fuel for an enjoyable life, isn’t it?
Katherin Hunt writes a daily newsletter titled “A moment of beauty.” Its format is very simple - one photo a day, a small story to go with it. She is living the ‘little moments of joy” for me. Give it a try - Pure joy in just 30 seconds, delivered fresh to your mailbox every day.
Finally, here’s another one on the same topic. This time by super talented David Zinn. He is a street artist specializing in small-scale, improvised and (mostly) light-hearted chalk. I love his feed for two reasons: 1. His work is super cute & catchy. 2. With his setting, style and storytelling, he is finding tiny little surprises where no one will expect them.
Credit: David Zinn's Instagram feed
The Oatmeal’s storytelling catches my attention easily. I had covered some of its work briefly in post #21. So when I saw this new post titled “Ten things I’ve learned about creativity in 10 years”, I had to read it. And I must say, it’s thoroughly enjoyable.
Here’s the quick snapshot, in case you are short of time. But as he always does it always, you won’t get the head or tail of it unless you spend a little more time.
Credit: The Oatmeal
Go ahead and click on the link and spend your 10 valuable minutes. You’re bound to learn things worth a lot more. And you know what’s the best part? You don’t even need to be the ‘creative’ type to enjoy these. Some learnings in the world are universal. And this bunch is surely picked from the best of that lot.
Some random goodness from the internet:
Web: The new normal gives some beautiful visuals on how COVID19 has shaped our shopping interests.
Graphic book: Have you seen Luca? If not, please go for it. You will enjoy this artbook “The art of Luca” much better once you’ve watched the movie. There’s so much detail that we miss. This book is going to be a reminder of all that. So much love the artists put in every frame!
Twitter thread: PJ alert, visit at your discretion - Crab superlatives
Long read: The secret MVP of sports? The port-a-potty (ganda hai par dhandha hai ye)
Before we sign off, here's a tweet snapshot with a friendly reminder ;)
That's all for this week, folks!
If you enjoyed this post, show your love by commenting and liking it. I write this newsletter to share what I learnt from others. If you learnt something from this today, why not share it with a couple of your friends to continue this chain?