#62 Perhaps “great’, is just “good”, but repeatable
Learning from Seth Godin, David Brooks, Nabeel Qureshi and more
Daniel Jeffries makes a very compelling argument in “The magic of being alive today” - the world around us is infused with an everyday magic that's often invisible to us but that's right there if we want to open our eyes and see it.
The following snippet captures it in more details:
We live in a world where people before us solved countless problems so that we don't have to solve them. Every teapot is a solved problem. So is every window, every smartphone, every car, every wooden floor, every steel and cement skyscraper, every refrigerator, every toaster, all those keys and locks, those closets you keep things in, the air conditioner keeping you cool, all those and a million more little things are solved problems. The people before us live on, infused into the very soul of the objects we touch and taste and walk on every second of our lives.
He goes on to share many examples from stainless steel to windows to make his point. You’re up for many aha moments. Check it out yourself.
And for now, let’s see what magic we discover today.
1. Seth’s magic
Seth Godin’s two kinds of good cooks is a beautiful articulation of how to think of skills & expertise. I am taking the liberty (as usual) to put his short post verbatim below:
One is very skilled at following the recipe. Quality control, consistency and diligence.
The other understands how the recipe works, sees patterns and opportunities and changes the recipe to fit the problem to be solved. It’s about metaphor in addition to process.
Both are useful.
If you think this is a post about cooking, you might be the first kind of cook.
It’s about building the right foundation of curiosity, intentional practice and application. Tough one to build, but also the most difficult to beat.
2. The power of consistency
Seth’s post above somehow reminded me of the scene from Karate Kid (2010) where Mr. Han starts Dre’s training. It was a phase of learning the basics. It did not have any cool moves to show off. Moreover the tasks involved were really boring and repetitive. But it built discipline and focus. Those were the real ingredients for the subsequent lessons. Those were the building blocks to learning & becoming better. They don’t give any immediate outcomes, moreover the impact is difficult to imagine. But once you keep at it, you will see the game improve continuously. It could make you the second kind of cook.
Steph Smith’s “How to be great? Just be good, repeatably” is a good read on the topic, in case you want to explore more.
3. Humility and the art of humblebragging
“The first rule is that you must never tweet about any event that could actually lead to humility” - proclaims David Brooks in his Atlantic piece “Truly humbled to be the author of this article”.
And that's just the first rule. There are two more that are equally fun & thought provoking. It's a short read, enjoyed better when read more than once.
And if you liked this, Atlantic does a fab job recommending two more posts on similar themes. Use 12ft.io if you are not able to access them.
Playing the workaholic on social media. It covers two very novel & interesting concepts - FML and PDW.
How to brag. A short note on the fine art of humblebragging.
4. Zero Knowledge Proof
Every once in a while, I come across some explainers and training sessions that leave me amazed. They do two things well - 1) Explain the topic in a simple way (content). 2) Make the experience of learning memorable with the way they do it (delivery).
This makes them not just good at explaining things, but in making them memorable.
If you’ve been nerding around in the crypto space, you would have heard a lot of super scary technical terms. Zero Knowledge Proof (ZKP) is one of those. This concept is not novel. In fact, it belongs to the field of cryptography and has been in use long before the BitCoin & web3 movement started. I was trying to learn more about them and came across two pieces of content that fit the explainers that I was talking about above. Experience them yourself and you will know what I am talking about.
Demo in the session by Zooko Wilcox (a16z) on ZKPs (Check from 5 minutes mark, till about 8:20 mark)
How to explain Zero-Knowledge Protocols to your children (this is just brilliant, I highly recommend checking this. Thanks Keerthi for sharing this with me.)
I may forget the concept after a point, but I’m confident the amazing storytelling will linger much longer. And that will easily lead me back to these posts whenever I need to understand it again.
5. Debating with yourself
Nabeel Qureshi says - I’m a big fan of “advice posts” and productivity guides. A small, but meaningful, upgrade to your daily routine is worth a lot in the long run.
I have to agree, "advice posts" has been one of the most recurring features of this newsletter.
Here’s a snapshot from Nabeel's advice post that makes it worthy read:
6. Packaging design lessons from Fireworks
“There's a clever strategy behind the flash of Fireworks Packaging” not just evokes nostalgia but gives some good insights on packaging design.
The packaging strategy for fireworks is not unlike that of, say, drugstore mascara. Both use names and design to create a palpable feeling for a product that a customer can’t really experience before they own it. It’s as much about selling a future experience as it is about selling a material object.
We’ve seen these designs over the last decades in India as well. The most obvious of those changes have been younger & more ‘popular’ faces replacing the yesteryear’s heroes (and heroines). But then the changes go more deep and thoughtful. I remember the pop-culture references from my last visit to the fireworks shop. I will be more observant this time.
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
Follow: Indian Memory Project (@indianmemoryproject) is an archive tracing a personal past of the Indian Subcontinent via photographs. I found this in the RestOfWorld post titled “Diaspora communities reframe history, one Instagram post at a time.” They call it information activism and knowledge activism. For once, some really good use of social media.
Watch: Second To None by Vincent Gallagher is a stop motion comedy about ambition, where second best is never enough. A short yet touching story.
Read: Weird wrong-number texts (Jamtara level stuff in the world of SMS texts and crypto currencies) Real trick behind the mall car giveaway (I have been too lenient giving away my mobile number as well; not anymore), Lifestyles (Morgan Housel on internal & external benchmarks)
Interact: Absurd trolley problem from Neal.
Before we sign off, here’s a beautiful message from @mansijikadarab
That's all for this week, folks!
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