Ever since that day I never take my ability to create freely for granted.
|Apr 22||Public post|| 2|
“History shapes our identity; and people, organizations, and nations act according to the identity they adopt…everything we do stems at least in part from our understanding of the past. A past that can be infinitely rewritten.”
— Hector Macdonald, Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality
Hello Beautiful People —
It was 2009. I was day-dreaming on the balcony of a high-rise complex in Southern China. I encountered Murakami for the very first time, and that was the moment I felt like I had a hero for the very first time. It wasn’t one of his bestselling novels, and back then not so many people knew about him, I happened to stumble upon his speech published on a literary magazine when he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society.
His speech was translated into Chinese when the pages reached me, but he delivered the speech in English to the people of Israel and writers around the world. I’m not sure what language he used to write his speech. I may have assumed he wrote it in Japanese, in his study, in the morning, but it almost doesn’t matter at all. The connection between him and me at that moment was intimate, agnostic of nationality, borders, language, age, and how much we know.
“Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others - coldly, efficiently, systematically.
I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories - stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.”
It was the first time that this chaotic and at times nonsensical structures of the world transfigured themselves into something as clear as “the wall” and “the eggs,” and I believed that there’s something heroic about siding with the “egg.” That humid summer awakened within me a stranger who’s new to me. Someone once wrote that to live is to be slowly born. Just like Murakami who decided to become a novelist when he saw Dave Hilton belted that beautiful, ringing double at Jingu Stadium, I may have recognized at that moment what I was meant to do. I didn’t know exactly what, but I knew why.
I was a part of an education system that unwelcomes and at times even punishes creativity and independent thinking; groupthink, conformity, and winning the race are considered exemplary. Writing stories was a luxury. I remembered countless times at the principals’ office being told that my writing was “pushing the edge” and “asking too many questions.” I was 14, and I knew little about America, but I’ve always heard about the libertarian values, the freedom of speech, the freedom to create. I decided to go to the country by myself, and I read another Murakami on the plane.
All the major life decisions stem from this distant and elusive awakening inspired by that speech, and ever since that day I never take my ability to create freely for granted.
The more people I encounter, the more I’m convinced that the ability to construct a story from the painful reality is highly scarce and valuable. I’ve found that the most persistent, gritty, and passionate individuals I know can easily tell a vivid personal story that has shaped their past and will direct their future.
When people approach me for career or startup advice, a question that I like to ask is “what moment inspires you to want to make this happen?” It forces the person to think about the particular moment with all its sensations and details. Machines will get better and better at re-enacting events, but moments can only be captured with your heart. Moments are made of feelings from that split of a second that could light up a forest. People argue that truth is what matters the most in our time, but I’d say that it is the narrative that comes from the truth that inspires actions.
As founders, technologists, creators, we want to side with the eggs not by smashing against the wall like a fool, but by slowly deconstruct the wall and reconstruct more territories tolerant of differences. Throughout history, the wall has been built by the narratives drafted by the powerful few. I want to believe that our time is a bit different.
It’s becoming evident that the next generation of ventures needs to be responsible for story-telling in a way that shapes a new set of values in the commercial world. Building companies will become more and more like writing for a film or novel. The founder wants to consider what it is the unite people, alienate them, put them into conflicts and unity. The voices, characters, tensions, motifs of the company guide people who have long been forgotten by mainstream narrative how to live and how to work.
So take some time and reflect on what is your moment that inspires your actions right now? What kind of narrative do you want to create in the next five years? What are the things that are stopping you now? I would love to hear about them.
Faire: The future of retail is going to be local 🌿
I recently listened to a YC podcast with Max Rhodes, the founder of Faire. In the podcast, they chatted about how Faire was founded and how the future of retail is going to be local.
According to Rhodes, Local retailers have spent the past 50 years figuring out how to compete with larger competitors that have larger assortments, lower prices. The ones that survived were the ones who evolved and figured out how to offer more curated assortments and better experiences.
The technology industry's basically ignored this whole space, assuming Amazon's coming. Faire is leveling the playing field for these small retailers to with technology by leveraging AI and predictive analytics to forecast which products will fly off its virtual shelves in order to to source and manage inventory as efficiently as possible.
“Our mission at Faire is to empower entrepreneurs to chase their dreams,” Max Rhodes, the founder of Faire wrote in his blog post “We believe entrepreneurship is a calling. Starting a business provides a level of autonomy and fulfillment that’s become difficult to find for many elsewhere in the economy. With this in mind, we built Faire to help entrepreneurs on both sides of our marketplace succeed.”
Faire is an amazing case study of the role of story-telling in new ventures and the role new ventures play in enabling underrepresented individuals in the economy.
Image source: HERMES
Shopping as meditation
As we continue to demand to be more in touch moods and emotions in the world of commodities, stores will be designed around how they make us feel. Store designs aim to provide meditative and reflective spaces.
Growing interest in connectivity and spirituality inspires a design aesthetic deeply rooted in nature. Feelings and emotions triggered by spaces are explored, including contemplation, isolation and reflection.
The future of stores will celebrate simplicity and embrace emptiness for a less-is-more approach to stress-free, slower-paced shopping. Remove distractions, eliminate visual noise and give product room to breathe
Shopping may really become a therapy.
Image source: coelux
I came across this graph, and it instantly shifted my perspective.
Although self-reflection is a helpful exercise, an over-emphasis on the self without being present in our environment can distort our perspectives.
An important reminder.
Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality” by Hector Macdonald
This is a very practical book for me to think about how my writing will be perceived through different lens. I tried many exercises inspired by the book like jotting down what each party would say about a certain argument that I make. I recommend anyone who’s trying to get better at writing, strategic communication, and marketing.
The book identifies three styles of communication that use the concept of truth in different ways:
Advocates: people who select competing truths to create a reasonable impression of reality, with the purpose of achieving a goal
Misinformers: people who innocently share competing truths that distort reality (a common complaint with social media, with people reposting content without checking sources)
Misleaders: people who deliberately deploy competing truths to create an impression of reality that they know is not true (e.g. Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum, which highlighted money going out to the EU but not what came back in return)
What he has actually provided are practical tips to communicate more truthfully and things to look out for that show that truth is being distorted or buried, as well as instructions for manipulating others. His intention is that if his readers learn how to manipulate others for virtuous ends, things will somehow work out… but does the end truly justify the means?
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