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⦁ Culture [the stories we share]
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One short thought a day

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Far from "didactic", this blog started as a private notebook, a sort of daily meditative writing. if you wrestle with some of the same questions as I do, then this could be for you.

distract me less

Season 2 of the Podcast is here. I ask a lot of questions. Like:
– Can Ai replace Artists?
– Can Ai replace photographers?
– What does it mean to be an Artist?

If nothing else, the rise of AI applications should be a wake-up call to Artists that, while we can and should acquire the skills, what the world really needs is our Vision. Can we stop seeing ourselves as walking tripods? Can we look deeply into ourselves and wonder… how can we use all this power we possess as creators in order to bring the Future, better lives, and turn on a light switch for everyone to see better.

Listen on the website here, or on Apple or Spotify or your favorite platform

January 3, 2023

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I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions.

Because they are grand. Because they are overcommitting. And because they put the emphasis on change. They are usually radical. They are after all, “a new beginning”.

But a new beginning may not be what we need. Maybe starting from zero every year may be a waste of momentum. Maybe all we need is shift our mentality from “needing to achieve”, to simply committing. Committing to a route and taking just a small step. Every. Single. Day.

I feel that for most of us some sort of a route is already there, either in a defined manner, or simply lingering in the back of our heads. It’s something that makes us curious, passionate, keeps us up at night.

So, here is a New Year’s resolution worth making: that we relieve ourselves from the “need to” mentality and simply commit to exploring the route. Not because we need to show something for the year that passed – but because committing to walking the route – one small step every day – shines a beam of hope and joy in us. And I can only guess that in a Year’s time from now we might find ourselves surprised by how possibilities have shifted in ways we couldn’t even fathom in the wildest of New Year’s resolutions.

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2022

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Every eligible person in the kingdom hoped to be picked by Prince Charming. No one knew what Prince Charming’s selection criteria were as he went from door to door. The criterion was arbitrary – shoe size. And, somehow, Prince Charming managed to skip all those hundreds of houses where he could have found several perfectly eligible matches.

Because this is how real life works.

From the playground to corporate HR, our cultural impulse is to want to be picked. From reality talent shows, to being the teacher’s pet. We are waiting for someone – anyone – to hold us by the hand and say “you are the one, you have my permission to succeed”. We don’t care so much about what their criteria are – all we care about is that “we deserve to be picked”.

The life of an entrepreneur or freelancer is rarely like this. If you are either, you can safely assume that Prince Charming has already moved on.

Not because you aren’t special enough. But, because, as it turns out humans are terrible at reading each other’s minds. If you’ve ever felt undervalued and invisible, if you’ve ever thought “it’s not fair!” you’d be right: people’s perceptions of us (and our perceptions of others) are biased and incomplete. Your resume, portfolio, email pitch, book, or idea will not be chosen from the pile. If it is, it will most likely not be for the reasons you think. You never know what the rest of the pile had to offer or what the picker had in mind. Chance is a poor growth strategy.

No, you do not want to submit yourself to the reign of terror of waiting to be picked and the emotional hatchet of being rejected (or picked) for all the wrong reasons. Instead, you can put all that valuable energy and time into creating something. If you truly believe that you deserve a chance to play, then, your best – your only – strategy is to create the game.

December 13, 2022

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Exclusivity: The bravery to choose to speak to the sensibilities of only a few instead of all.

We live in the world of niche. There is a magazine dedicated to water! A blog dedicated to growing succulents! A magazine on raising… emus! And one about miniature donkeys.

Something exclusive is not exclusionary. It is razor-sharp inclusive.

But a word of caution: the line between exclusive and exclusionary is very fine, and it comes down to choice and enrolment. Exclusionary means YOU make the choice of who you include and who you leave out. But, exclusive gives THEM the choice whether they wish to enrol or not. And how do they make this choice? It comes down to their own definition of luxury.

December 3, 2022

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Let’s attempt a working definition for “luxury”.
Luxury is something inconveniently valuable.
Inconveniently because you ‘d have to be willing to give up something important to you.
AND valuable, because you ‘d stand to benefit more than what you had given up.

Listening to vinyl records is luxury because a. you are willing to give up music portability for it, and despite this, b. you stand to benefit even more: the priceless experience of collecting, preserving, and interacting with the closest physical thing to the artist herself.

When corsets first came out, women refused to give them up despite doctors warnings that they might deform the ribs. Corsets was luxury. Because, for those who valued the contemporary norm of beauty, an hourglass shape far outweighed the long-term health risks.

So, even if your business is not a white-glove type of brand, you still need to define what makes your brand “Luxury”. Because, someone always has to give up something for your service, even if it is not large amounts of money. Your important job is making sure what they get in return is worth more to them than what they had to give up.

So, what makes your brand “luxury”?

December 2, 2022

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In 1948 John Cage conceived a composition that consisted of nothing else but 4’ and 33” of silence, or more precisely, the absence of intended sounds, and only ambient sound. 

Execution-wise, it could have been performed by untrained musicians. Innovation-wise, silence is hardly new. There is silence before every concert – all that Cage did – technically speaking – was prolong it for 4’33” seconds.

What can adequately explain an idea’s success if neither innovation or execution can?

The fact is, there is something much deeper going on. Let’s visualise the world as a web of invisible threads that connect a creator’s vision with some peoples’ needs, and your mission is to pull one thread. It is not that hard to trace tens if not hundreds of possible invisible threads between you and the people around you that could lead to an idea that is successful. After all, there are as many unresolved problems as there are people.

As trivial as this notion may sound in theory, too many creators tend to pursue innovation and perfect execution. But once you start with a belief that you have something to contribute, when you are building something for someone, someone specific, then an idea’s success is defined as finding that invisible thread and tracing it to another human being: does it solve that their problem, does it teach them something, does it better their life?

So, let’s go on and replace:
“Is it innovative?” with “Is it useful?”
“Is it original?” with “Has it been done for my people?”
“Will it be successful?” with “Will it change their life to the better?”

Let’s go back to Cage: Soon after 4’33” was performed, it became obvious to a small discerning part of the audience that the work was intended to help them discover the impossibility of actual silence in life. Coughs, squeaking seats, even departing footsteps of discontent audience members became part of the unusual composition. It wasn’t for everyone. It was for very few special people. For them it made an impact – it changed something in their lives – no matter how small that change may have been.

It’s not the idea we must fall in love with, but with the audience.

November 30, 2022

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Industry means depersonalising and replacing human agency with processes, policies, efficiency and replication. This is the definition of industry. 

The wedding “industry” occasionally focuses more on the industry part, not the wedding part. I have been lucky this year to have worked only with creatives who focus on the wedding part. This is the people who see far beyond their official job description. They see beyond the contracts, the standard floral arch, the mere logistics, the video of the “normal type”. Instead, they invent a whole new paradigm. The paradigm that does not see processes but people. These are the role models that have noticed the opportunity to enable human connection, validate human dignity and further our understand of individualism and culture.

The wedding “industry” is at a crossroad. It has to decide whether it will focus on the wedding part or on the industry part. Industry seeks standardisation with the least amount of effort. But art seeks an opportunity to create something we get to do – not have to do.

And it all goes back to a basic question: what do we even need weddings for? Weddings do not belong in the basic needs of humans. It is quite possible to get married at the municipality without guests. Most marriages in medieval times were formalised only by a public announcement and a kiss over a local blacksmith’s anvil. It wasn’t until the 19th century that people began to hire vendors to assist. And a primary reason for this (beyond the fact that women started having jobs and less time to plan their own weddings) was… personalisation.

Personalisation and industry do not belong in the same sentence. Industry seeks to depersonalise in pursue of efficiency.

Weddings are an opportunity  for people to be seen, to be part of something, to feel connected to each other and to the broader culture. If we are to create weddings that embrace this opportunity, then we need to stop for a minute and think: As photographers, planners, HMUAs etc, are we creating art, or are we replicating a recipe? Are we treating people with dignity or are we providing pretty flowers? Are we enabling the gift of human connection, or are we snapping away pretty pictures? Are we allowing people to be seen for who they seek to become, or are we simply planning logistics? Are we applying a primer on someone’s face, or are we making that person feel that she matters?

So back to the idea: can we hold a couple by the hand and ask them “where is it that you want to go”, vs taking them where it is easier for us?

If we can do that, then, in the spirit of generosity, we can be the pioneers who create a paradigm shift: Because couples nowadays are clever enough to know that it doesn’t take much to click the button of a camera and take a decent picture. It is more effort to engage with their emotional needs, their need to belong, to be respected. If couples are going to pay good money to us, then what they should be getting is not a wedding of the standard kind – but humanity. The humanity of dignity; feeling and becoming remarkable, even if for a single day. And this is priceless.

None of all this is about… “industry”!

November 27, 2022

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Our ethical responsibility is to recognise we have a light to bring into the world and that if we choose not to, the world will be dimmer because of it.

Our greatest adventure in life is to lift the maximum load of responsibility we can conceivably bear in order to make the world a brighter place.

November 24, 2022

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Would you tip the same if the tip-jar was hidden from anyone’s view?
Maybe you would. But most people wouldn’t.

Because, like walkathons, bikeathons, or fun runs, tipping is not just about the money, but about how it makes us feel. It is about the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. And it all comes down to reinforcing a sense of belonging: do my actions resonate with the person I believe I am? And, where does this position me within society?

A few days ago my family participated in a charity walkathon. All we had to do was “buy” our ticket in the run, which came with a t-shirt, and walk 1 km. Why did we not just buy our ticket, skip the walk and save ourselves from the sweat? A. Because walkathons are fun, and B. because belonging in a group of people who share the same set of values is powerful. A short way of saying this is through the words of Seth Godin: “people like us, do things like this”. There is something powerful in being able to say “I belong among the charitable/ fair/ kind crowd”.

Sophisticated charities have become successful at the fundraising end because they have figured out how to become part of the culture. If culture is the stories we share, then connecting people who can say together “of course I support this, we all do!” is more powerful than simply giving money.

As for that tip jar? It is an act of generosity that goes both ways: it is generous in that it gives a hard-working person some well-deserved extra money to support their family, but it is also generous in that it gives us, the customer, a priceless story to tell ourselves (and to those who observe us) about ourselves.

Every time someone puts 1 dollar in that tip-jar, they are doing it because it gives them 2 dollars worth of value back in the currency of identity. When you start thinking in terms of internal narratives, then your product/ service/ not-for-profit can show up and offer people an opportunity to feel good about themselves and at the same time serve the world, and you begin to realise that generosity is not giving things for free or discounts. Generosity is offering something that’s worth much more than what you pay for. That Luis Vuitton bag? It might be 2000 dollars, but its value is priceless. Those matching walkathon t-shirts my kids and I wore? Priceless. That 10 million someone paid to have their name on the new hospital? Priceless. Generosity has never been about discounts and BOGOs!

The gist of the story? That there is power in giving people a place to belong. That when people reach in their wallets for any reason, they are not buying specs, but stories. These stories are not the one you (the marketer) say, but the ones they say to themselves about themselves. It’s these internal narratives that align their identity, orient their value systems, form tribes, and finally, shape the culture.

November 22, 2022

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Self-esteem is a myth.

Don’t overestimate yourself but don’t underestimate who you can be.

So, the question is:
If you could be anyone, how would that person be like?

November 19, 2022

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Define love:
Love is hoping for the best of things despite their inadequacy or even malevolence.

“Hoping”…”despite”:

Hoping: Because if we are able to adopt a courageous attitude in a way that expects the best for all life, then we are enabling a collective metamorphosis towards betterment.

Despite: Because everything and everyone will inevitably somehow fall short (and that’s ok).

November 18, 2022

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The answer has little to do with whether people are paying you for what you do.

I think the most appreciable distinction between a true professional and an amateur is this:
A professional is presenting a self (consistently and deliberately), while an amateur is revealing the self they feel like being in the moment.

Imagine the waiter/waitress that served your last coffee. If you have been as lucky as me, then s/he was accommodating, pleasant, and even went the extra mile to pull the chair for you. Now, suppose s/he has had a horrible morning. Perhaps s/he had to deal with less than well-mannered patrons. What, then, explains her kindness? Even more importantly, is her kindness “authentic”?

Of course it is not authentic.

Because s/he knows that when she on her mission as a true professional, s/he does not reveal her authentic self. S/he merely presents a self – the self that you expect to see. If one single phrase could sum up professionalism, then this would be:

Your mission is greater than your feelings.

November 16, 2022

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Who is to blame? Your value system? Your time-management skills? The system (“I am in wrong field/ country/ team”)?

You will never know the answer with certainty. You can guess, but the true answer will always remain outside anyone’s conceptual structure.

The easiest thing to do would be to blame the system.

Once you go down that path, then you are left with two dark choices: A. To become resentful of the world (the route that racists or misogynists take). B. To give up. Mistreat your body, neglect your mind, quit on your dreams.

So, what would you choose? A or B?

Thankfully, there is a third choice. To accept. To accept that you failed and there isn’t more to it. It’s hard to do, because it is easier to act shuttered, ashamed, or bitter – as if failing was inconceivable in the first place. It’s not: if you dared to dream of 6 impossible things before breakfast, then there is good chance 5 or more will likely fail. Failure is the twin of creativity.

To fail is almost never fatal. Unless we make it so.

November 15, 2022

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Tragedy is not the same as hell.

Tragedy is in the core of life itself (by design of the cycle of life).

Hell, though, is misunderstanding this very reality of life as the world being against us. Self-imposed misery is what hell is.

The world is not against us. The world is chaos.

Let’s accept that the world may be tragic, but not necessarily self-imposed misery. The distinction between tragedy and hell is a personal choice.

(P.S. the same distinction applies for failure and catastrophe)

November 14, 2022

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Being “safe” (in business, art, life) is an illusion.

One cannot possibly expect to be safe. The only thing one can expect from oneselves is to be metasafe. Metasafe: to be able to cope with danger/ failure/ death/ _________ (all the nasty stuff the world will inevitably throw). 

Once metasafe, it no longer makes sense saying “I am failing because of the world“.

Instead, the encouraging conclusion is this:

I can succeed despite the world.

November 14, 2022

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– Copy someone you admire.
– But won’t this make me inauthentic?


Before you can compose/draw/photograph a masterpiece, something that is beyond any previous memory, you have to first instil skill. Skill comes from grinding repetition and copying (or, better, imitation of) the masters until your brain forms new pathways.

Why can’t we accept that Life, being the greatest work of art of all, requires methodical practice too? That, for us in order to create a life that’s a masterpiece, we need to: Copy. Fail. Repeat.

Until we become someone that someone else admires. And so the circle goes.

Authenticity (“I will be who I am“) is the perfect place to hide.

November 13, 2022

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Let people outshine you. Even better, enable them.

Because then, you can observe and improve yourself.

Let’s forgo the pleasure of complaining how stupid/ uncultivated/ unprofessional everybody else is. Whether this be true or not, aside from the temporary gratification of feeling the smartest person in the room, the reality is this:

Being the “smartest person in the room” is a sad place to be.

November 12, 2022

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I believe responsibility starts with taking care of ourselves.

In a nutshell: “taking care of ourselves today, in a way that will allow us to take care for ourselves in the future too.”
(Such as, if I were to betray my friends today, it ‘d be left lonely tomorrow.)

Yet, it’s not about consequences. It’s about growth: to take care of ourselves, means to realise that “being”, and “becoming” are two entirely different states of possibility.

November 11, 2022

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