The thing about magic

It only works once.

No amount of money can buy back that moment of awe and inspiration. That same book, song, painting [fill in the blank] will never be the same again.

It changes you. For that very first time. It is the dish at that restaurant, tears rolling as you watched that film and arriving at that special city. You can’t un-see, what you’ve seen.

The magic is the connection between the art and the viewer, seeing it for the very first time.

That how the Mona Lisa ended up selling for $100 million.

The alternative is expert craftsmen in the village of Dafen, China painting replicas. Their paintings are priced by size. Day in, day out, doing what’ve done before, no emotional labour involved. You can’t fail.

If you are one of the lucky ones to be peddling in magic, the work is to lean in, do things that might not work, make a statement and connect the dots. And once you found the thing that resonates with the culture, show it to the world, and pen your style.

And perhaps after the glitz and the glamour, it’s time to get back to the work. To try and to fail. To try and try again. Until the next magic comes about. The work of an artist.

In defence of junk dating

Most couples in a happy relationship have a secret. They date a lot, a lot more than their fingers and toes combined. Similarly, people who love their work, tried many jobs.

It’s super rare to find a happy old couple who marry their first love. Yet, they are ones who get on the covers of the magazines, the ones that we use to write movie scripts and also the ones we’re all talking about.

That is the challenges in today’s culture, we are surrounded by Survivorship Bias. The ones who hit the jackpot, the couples in perfect matrimony.

It’s no surprise that we are hurt. We believe and put all our trust in our first love, being the last. And when that is gone, we are left with scars and vow never to love again.

The thing is most dating advice are bad, not because they are inherently so, but because there are no glib answers. There are no answers that apply to everybody.

Perhaps dating is a process. It is a process of self-discovery, testing your boundaries, feeling for your emotions, connecting with another person, being open to be vulnerable, compromising for each other, and above all, knowing that you are capable to love and to be loved.

(As you go about learning this for yourself, it’s important that you need to be upfront and state your intention. There is a human being on the other side. Don’t break their hearts.)

Go ahead and junk date. You owe it to yourself and the ones you love.


(26/12/19 Update: None of my past dates is junk. Junk dating is merely a process of finding how what I want, and what works for me.)

Permission to be in-sync

We dislike being told how bad we are (especially when we didn’t ask for it). Worse, to correct us in the midst of our happy doing and demand that their way is better.

They might have a better way. But by interrupting our attention with non-solicited advice, goodwill is diminished, the relationship is stressed and a learning opportunity is squandered.

(The exception: if there is any life-threatening danger, then yes, step in and take over.)

The simple solution: “Would you like some feedback on that?”

An invitation to suggest a better way, gaining permission to be in sync and enrolment for an opportunity to teach.

The posture of asking permission is how we interact with each other. Extending our hand for a handshake, opening our arm for a hug and leaning in for a kiss. We are asking for permission.

Yes, we might be rejected. But (I argue) it’s perhaps better than losing the precious relationship and permission you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Permission before advice. Because no one wants to hear how right you are and how bad they suck.

Compromising or compromise

Compromising is a great idea, until generosity leads to grievance between those who give and those who take.

We enjoy working with people who are willing to accommodate, shift their posture to our needs. However, we would be a fool if we expect them to compromise endlessly.

Long-term relationships are built on alignment. It is when the thing that matters most to you is the same thing that matters the most to them.

Here’s an example: Mercedes make prestige cars that is unattainable to many and people want to send a message that they can pay a lot.

Mercedes doesn’t pretend to be the fastest, safest or coolest. They work hard to be reliably expensive.

Compare to the tense relationships which goals don’t align. These relationships are connected on a small opening but the deal was never fully understood or communicated.

The young chef exploring the culinary edges and the hungry diners that wants the same winning dish.

The venture capitalist plotting a hockey stick trajectory and the entrepreneur that wants to grow sustainably.

The architect graduate yearning to paint the skyline and the client wants a functional building.

This is no one’s fault but a lesson to learn about the edges, your edges. And perhaps to be compromising, it starts what you won’t compromise on.

Ideas for a better memo

A call came in at lunch, I had to get out of my co-working space ASAP. An event was happening, things needed to get done, and my stuff was getting in the way.

It turns out that the organiser had anticipated and prepared for it. An email memo was sent and alternative solutions were offered.

The problem is – I did not remember receiving the memo.

Wait… except actually, I did receive it. However, I heard something totally different. “Hey, there’s an event. Come join us”.

The difficult parts:
a. no one is waiting to hear from you.
b. you need to know who it’s for, what’s it for and precisely what you want them to do.
c. you have to have the guts to leave out everything that isn’t part of (b).

Consider a memo that was emailed to everyone in the office. The management sent it to 100 people, some got dropped into spam, and perhaps ten people read it and took action.

Here are some ideas that could level up the memo:

1. Pattern interrupt. When was the last time you listened to the seat belt announcement on an airplane? We ignore it because we’ve been trained to ignore it. Choose a different place, at different time, a different format.

2. Ten words per page. That how many words get read in the first pass. Which ten do you want someone to scan so they’re intrigued enough to slow down and read the rest? Help me scan instead of study.

3. Frame the message. Make it about me, my status, my needs. Create urgency.

4. Choose one intention. How many things are you trying to say? Should I attend the event or get out of the way. (Hint: two might be too many).

Take a look at the 2 different memos that were left outside every room of Hyatt hotel. Which is better?

If you’re committed for people to get the message, I think to you’ll find delivering it person, human to human, is a proven practice. And perhaps, the next best thing is a carefully crafted memo.

(h/t to Seth Godin)

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