🌈 🌹 vol. 33 / emotional capitalism and its discontents / future peeking thru a bot / 1k pushups a day / happiest job / ++
Just like the re-emergence of “renaissance man,” there’s more “renaissance companies” that transcend the value they initially offer and attend to the emotional needs of their customers.
|Tina He||Jul 22, 2019|| 1|
Human beings should be treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to something else.
— Emmanuel Kant
The man wiggled peace signs into air quotes. The man who sat across from him nervously scribed everything he heard on the Notes App on his iPhone.
“Buddhism believes that the suffering, YOUR suffering, is the difference between your expectations and reality. Let me repeat that.”
He repeated, enunciating each syllable. Everyone sitting in three feet radius became the beneficiaries of his blessing. We were all silent and listening and eating our lunch, and we all shared the moment. We will then go on with our days to find more blessings in the dimly lit spinning room, in the inspirational quote filled co-working space, and in the salad bowl infused with antioxidants and purpose.
What was the man going through? We will never know, but it doesn’t matter, because for a moment we all empathized with him. We are all aching. The next corner we turn, we will discover something new to make us feel good. Just like how I chose to dine at this Paleo-only cruelty-free gluten-free cafe, I may have expected this kind of ceremonial experience.
We often hear that a business idea is at heart an as-yet-explored need. It’s to provide people what they want but don’t know they want yet. Yet as the commercial narratives become ever more powerful and pervasive, it starts to define our wants for us, and our neglected real needs that are not represented in the ads feel illegitimate. Among them are our obligations to feel loved, to feel valuable, to feel safe, to care for and be cared for by our friends, to grow, to learn, to be a part of a community. Yet recently, we start to find bits of spirituality scattered everywhere we go. It’s a collective outcry that seeks for a coherent expression to address these long-neglected needs.
One of the reasons why I’m feeling optimistic about the world of new ventures is that we might have arrived at a point where Emotional Capitalism is becoming a reality. I’m inspired every day looking at companies started by community leaders from all corners. These companies, are now armed with better infrastructure— data analytics tools, market and user research tools, niche use of AI — to understand the needs of the people they serve.
I first came across the term “Emotional Capitalism” reading social scientist Eva Illouz’s “Cold Intimacies.” She claims that “the making of capitalism went hand in hand with the making of an intensely specialized emotional culture.” Emotional Capitalism is believed to be an ideal state of an economic system that serves to empower individuals to fulfill needs higher up in Marlow’s pyramid.
For the past decades, Capitalism has been portrayed as constructing an a-emotional world dominated by ruthless rationality that conflicts with intimate, authentic relationships. Illouz rejects these conventional ideas and argues that “never has the private self been so publicly performed and harnessed to the discourses and values of the economic and political spheres.”
Illouz arguments resonate strongly with the recent wave of wellness products as well as Jerry Colonna’s book “Reboot” that I’ve been raving about to all my friends. In one of the interviews, he shared that a shift of perspective can make us all more compassionate at work. To understand humans is to know that we are all driven by our shared needs to feel loved, safe, and a sense of belonging.
If someone is kind of an a**hole, instead of instantly prescribe some character flaws, we can instead ask ourselves: “is this person lacking love, safety, and a sense of belonging? Is there anything I can do to provide that?”
Although Colonna introduced this framework in the context of leadership and building company culture, I found it extremely applicable in crafting products as well. I’m such a fan of this framework that I made a graph mapping some of the most successful breakouts recently and how they provide these feelings at scale.
What’s encouraging to see is that high-quality content, seamless UX design, and an actively engaged community are becoming the strategic prerequisite for companies to ensure differentiation, lower cost, and define segmentation. What would be perceived as companies in extremely different sectors are adopting similar product design and development processes. Just like the re-emergence of “renaissance man,” there’s more “renaissance companies” that transcend the value they initially offer and attend to the emotional needs of their customers.
I finished my last bite of Buddha bowl as the guy finished his preaching. In a sense, we are all becoming priests of our own secular faith, and brands are arming us with the diction for our own beliefs. What we demand will become what we buy and what we preach.
I read somewhere that humanity is not evil because the economic system is; the economic system is evil because humanity is. We sometimes forget that we are the atoms of economics, and it’s through our own creation can only mediate the agony of reality.
Of course, this is not to dismiss the fact that this path evokes just as much discontent. For instance, if I cannot afford the experience, do I deserve less to feel love, safety, belong? How do we ensure that the humanist approach to company building is not made at the expense of our environment? These are the questions that still await better answers. But that’s the topic of another time.
Stay real & eat well,
Another interesting challenge of a humanist approach is that some of us don’t really want to become human no more. Some of us wanna become superhuman, and some might wanna become AI.
Here’s another fitness startup PIVOT. The business model is one that’s similar to its peers like Peloton and MIRROR, but what’s interesting to me is that it has a strong emphasis on AI.
The startup taps a combination of sensors and machine learning to count reps and track form in real time.
I wonder what kind of data that these at home fitness equipment collect can actually generate insights into creating a better workout routine. One of the investors made the claim that propriety data can actually provide an edge for the product.
DCM partner Kyle Lui assert that Pivot’s proprietary software and machine learning technology will give it a leg up on the competition. To this end, the aforementioned B2B system — SmartSpot — leverages a depth-sensing camera that records workouts and points out when users’ angles are off or their postures are misaligned. It’s able to recognize bicep curls, seated shoulder presses, lunges, front squats, bent over rows, hammer curls, and other exercises, and it collates data to show users how recent performances compared with past performances (!!!) .
The problem is, is having propriety data in this space really an edge? (Let me know your thoughts!) In my opinion, there won’t be a clear winner in the space just because the preference for workout style varies. Not everyone is so outcome driven, and there’s still opportunities for fitness companies that focus on delivering an empowering experience. One of my favorite sites Active Spaces is a curation site for people who want to work out without feeling like they are working out. I thought it’s brilliant.
Tarotobot: predict the future for me!
I got kind of lazy, so I hired something to predict the future for me. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Found this super fun toy on the web that shuffles Tarot card to look into random future. They are great for writing prompts, a spicy debate with friends, or a weekend Hackathon project.
Most of the “future” generated are design oriented. I wish there’s a version that’s more comprehensive.
Here are a few for your amusement —
Whenever I need some motivation for my workout routine, I go back to this article that I discovered earlier this year.
This incredible woman applies neuropsychology and positive psychology to design a system that works. My favorite part is when she used the “if/then” method:
I worked through a series of “if/then” scenarios to handle situations that I knew would threaten my sense of competence in order to make sure I would achieve something.
What if I’m feeling a little sick, but not “down for the count”? I could set a minimum to do that day. In my case, it was 25 push-ups. “If I’m feeling a little sick, then I’ll just do my minimum of 25 for that day.”
What if I’m feeling really sick, perhaps with a stomach bug? On that day, I resolved to do my absolute minimum of one push-up. “If I’m feeling really sick, then I’ll just do one push-up.”
What if the only time I can do push-ups is at work? I had breaks, so if I could find a discreet spot—the bathroom floor, the hallway, a classroom—I could get it done. Doing a set of 25 doesn’t take longer than about 30 seconds once you develop the strength for it. “If I don’t get my push-ups in at home in the morning, then I’ll do them at work during my break.”
What if I just can’t seem to squeeze in my minimum? I resolved to always do at least one. One push-up takes mere seconds to complete, and I might discover that I could do a few more. “If I can’t do my minimum, then I’ll do at least one push-up.”
And I told myself, “Remember: You get a check mark every time you complete your minimum, even if it’s just one!”
For some reason, every time I finish this piece, I just cannot find excuse anymore not to workout.
Bloomberg put out some interesting job satisfaction data, claiming that Firefighters Are the Happiest Workers in America.
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Thank you to those who have reached out wanting to chat. I’m taking the time to get to know each person better, and I believe in quality of relationship over quantity.
Reply if you want contribute to this or just want to be friends. I’m looking for individuals who are passionate about defining what the future of this community could look like.
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