Strands of Genius: Can You Be Addicted To Travel, Being Yourself is not Always Ideal for Creativity, The Vanishing of Harry Pace

Plus, our thoughts on: the power of play

WRITING FROM | Porto, Portugal
WORKING ON | Finalizing the run of show for our first in-person workshop since March 2020 - The Power of Play

July 21-August 16 | Porto, Portugal
August 15-August 29 | Lisbon, Portugal
Aug 29-Sept 7 | Orlando, FL
Sept 8-Oct 3 | South of France


Are you self-motivated and proactive when it comes to helping with organization? A strong communicator with an inherent curiosity? Interested in learning what it’s like to build and run a nomadic creative consultancy? We’re looking for a remote assistant to help our team. You’ll be responsible for helping to implement and maintain administrative systems for the company, finding AirBnbs and booking travel, helping us to coordinate meetups for The School of Stolen Genius, and more. You’ll determine your own schedule, and be supported by an enthusiastic team of fringe-dwelling freedom seekers. Learn more about the role and apply here.

(If this doesn’t sound like you, but you know someone who could be a good fit — please pass this along! We’ll donate $100 to the charity of your choice if you send us the right candidate!)


We’ve been making the most of our Summer Fridays, and last week managed an aerial yoga class, followed by a lunch out on the town, and then a visit to the modern art museum, and then a bar crawl that began with drinking inside a church, right around the corner from our Porto apartment.

But, this time next week we’ll be checking out and heading down south to Lisbon. We’re only in Portugal until the end of August, before we pop back to the USA for our first in-person gig in ages, y’all. Very exciting, indeed!

This week, we’re especially thankful for:

Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor, aerial yoga, Melissa, Neil, Jean&Luz, Antonio, the funicular, Rua Tapas Bar, francesinhas, garlic shrimp pasta, our fake fresh herb garden which lives in a casserole dish, Airbnb, guitars, Super Bock, & YOU.


  • A delicious new(-ish) mini-series from Radiolab. In their own words: “It was Motown before Motown, FUBU before FUBU: Black Swan Records. The label founded 100 years ago by Harry Pace. Pace launched the career of Ethel Waters, inadvertently invented the term rock n roll, played an important role in W.C. Handy becoming "Father of the Blues," inspired Ebony and Jet magazines, and helped desegregate the South Side of Chicago in an epic Supreme Court battle. Then, he disappeared. The Vanishing of Harry Pace is a series about the phenomenal but forgotten man who changed America. It's a story about betrayal, family, hidden identities, and a time like no other.

    From the team who brought you Dolly Parton’s America, Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee, this series was based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. (Radiolab)

Strands of Genius is currently read by 12,000 subscribers. Support us by sponsoring an issue, becoming a member of The School of Stolen Genius, or encouraging friends or colleagues to subscribe.


In a mere 20 days, we fly to Orlando, FL for our first in-person gig since before COVID was something we’d heard of. We’ll be kicking off the conference with a keynote on a topic close to our heart: collaboration. It’s called Scenius & The Myth of the Lone Genius: The Conditions that Allow for Collaboration. And we’re also going to host a workshop, one that I’m especially excited about.

The workshop is called The Power of Play, and it feels like a dream come true to be paid to get to remind people about the importance of play. During the pandemic, so many of us were focused on surviving. And when survival is our main focus, it’s hard to prioritize play. Those muscles atrophy when we don’t put them to use. But as some of us celebrate going back into the office, and others celebrate another month of remote working, it’s time to start to re-incorporate play into our lives.

While play is crucial for a child’s development, it’s also incredibly beneficial for adults as it helps not only relieve stress, but supercharge learning. When was the last time you played for the sake of it? Was it over a board game with friends? Because a child gave you no other choice? ;)

“In his book Playauthor and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, compares play to oxygen. He writes, “…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.” 

It seems that our lives are scheduled to the minute, and leisure time is de-stressing (aka zoning out) in front of one screen or another. Yet it wasn’t always this way. In the 15th century, there were courtyards that hosted a mixture of 124 different kinds of play — it wasn’t just for kids, this was for all ages. There was rough and tumble play, there was imaginative play, there was spectator play.

“Neoteny means the retention of immature qualities into adulthood. And we are, by physical anthropologists, by many, many studies, the most neotenous, the most youthful, the most flexible, the most plastic of all creatures. And therefore, the most playful. And this gives us a leg up on adaptability.” - Stuart Brown, in his TED Talk, Play is More Than Just Fun

Play looks different to all of us — it could be climbing a mountain, knitting, playing a made up game, flirting, even daydreaming - but at it’s core, it is self-chosen and self-directed. It’s something we want to do rather than something we have to do. (In fact the most basic freedom in play is the freedom to quit.) Play is also imaginative. It involves a degree of being willing to step outside our real world.

“The mental state of play is what Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (1990) has called flow. Attention is attuned to the activity itself, and there is reduced consciousness of self and time. The mind is wrapped up in the ideas, rules, and actions of the game and relatively impervious to outside distractions. This state of mind has been shown, in many psychological research studies, to be ideal for creativity and the learning of new skills (see Gray, 2013).”

It’s also intrinsically motivated: Most researchers agree that it’s the act itself of playing that’s more important than the outcome of your play. Play may be a freely chosen activity, but it’s not necessarily a freeform activity. “Play always has structure, and that structure derives from rules in the players mind. In social ply, the rules must be shared, or at least partially shared, by all of the players.” (Gray 2013)

“Nothing lights up the brain like play.”
- Stuart Brown

Goofing off, putting ourselves in situations where we might look silly, or look like we don’t know what we’re doing helps us build tolerance and resilience. Cultivating a playful disposition in these situations can help us cope in the working world, when we’re faced with tasks we don’t completely understand or aren’t immediately good at.

Playing also helps us connect with others, maintain social well-being, and keeps both partnerships and familial relationships healthy. When we share playful experiences with others, we’re more likely to regard them in a positive light. In part, this is because play can help us build trust with others, but it’s also because when we laugh together we release oxytocin — that delicious brain chemical that’s released at weddings, and makes us feel connected to each other.

Of course, play also can release endorphins, those feel good chemicals in our brains that help to counteract the effects of cortisol. These feelings don’t just come from winning a game, but can even come from being silly for no reason. (Though succeeding at a game gives us a boost of confidence — so don’t be afraid to play something easy if you’re in need of a quick win.)

For those of us in creative fields, play is crucial to curiosity, discovery, and our understanding of the world around us. Through play, we’re exposed to new experiences, new ideas, and even new individuals. We may not get along with everyone, but we learn to roll with the punches in a less serious setting. It’s a tool for collaboration. In fact, that’s probably where play evolved from. It helped us teach children all kinds of skills, but the extension into our adult lives meant that it helped us work together — something critical for survival.

In the animal world, play can be life or death. There’s a study that shows the effect on play deprivation on rats. In their early life, they play through wrestling and squeaking. If you stop the play behavior associated in one group, keep allowing it in others, and then present those rats with a collar from a cat that smells as such, you’ll find that both groups run and hide. Which, you know, makes sense. But the group of rats that weren’t allowed to play? They literally die by hiding out and just never coming out. The rats that were exposed to play, they start to slowly peek out and exploring the world, testing out what the danger actually is.

It’s not enough to play once a year. Instead, we should be trying to incorporate play into our daily lives. Adults that identify as ‘open to clowning around’ report less stress in their lives, and tend to have better coping skills. When we remove play from our lives, play deprivation can come up through certain patterns of behavior like: feeling cranky, rigid thinking, feeling stuck in a rut, feeling victimized by life.

“A less playful person can learn to be more playful, much like an introvert can learn to be a better speaker by observing the techniques extroverts use,” said René Proyer, a professor of psychology at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany.

So where to start? Experts suggest thinking back to the play that you enjoyed when you were growing up, and trying to figure out how to build some type of connection into your life now. Were you on a sports team? Did you love art? Roller blading? Playing music? Consider what used to bring you joy, and try to incorporate 15 minutes of play into your day!

How do you incorporate play into your life? How does it impact your life?


Speaking of play, we’re a big fan of board games. You can find our faves listed on an Amazon storefront, here. Bonus: This is an affiliate store, so by buying something here, you’ll be contributing to drinks to young people in our industry. (All proceeds from affiliate earnings go back to our community!)

If we can ever be of help to you, even outside of a formal engagement, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

faris & rosie & ashley | your friends over at

@faris is always tweeting
@rosieyakob hangs out on instagram
@ashley also writes for deaf, tattooed & employed

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It's called Genius Steals because we believe ideas are new combinations and that nothing can come from nothingBut copying is lazy. We believe the best way to innovate is to look at the best of that which came before and combine those elements into new solutions.

Co-Founders Faris & Rosie are award-winning strategists and creative directors, writers, consultants and public speakers who have been living on the road/runway since March 2013, working with companies all over the world. Our Director of Operations is nomadic like us, our accounting team is based out of Washington, our company is registered in Tennessee, and our collaborators are all over the world. Being nomadic allows us to go wherever clients need us to be, and to be inspired by the world in between.

Hit reply and let’s talk about how we might be able to work together :)