Strands of Genius: Help People Hustle Less, Travel Transforms You, Bob's Long Goodbye

plus our thoughts on: freedom!

WORKING ON | Proposals for two projects (one this year, one bigger one next year), catching up with friends
LOOKING AHEAD | United Kingdom :: Oct 6-Nov 2 | Miami, FL :: Nov 2-4 | Isla Mujeres, Mexico :: Nov 4-9 | Tulum, Mexico :: Nov 9-17 | Isla Mujeres, Mexico :: Nov 17-22 | Nashville, TN :: Nov 22-Dec 2 | Beersheba Springs, TN :: Dec 2-18 | Atlanta, GA :: Dec 18-20 | Nashville, TN :: Dec 20-30


We made it to the UK for the first time since before and it’s a bit chilly but wonderful to see people again. We’ve gotten to see family, friends, meet with our Twinings clients in Andover, have a few pub lunches, and because we were coming from Europe it wasn’t such a brutal trip as the red eye from NYC. We’re excited to be here and catch up with as many people as we can in between work sessions, whilst also hopefully doing some culture. Anyone seen any good shows? We’re open to suggestions. We are very hopeful we will be able to be back here in March thanks to a client engagement and then catch the new Punchdrunk show The Burnt City.

This week, we’re especially thankful for:

Pam&Abdullah, Laith&Rebecca&Zak&Ariana, Dave&Frances&Willow&Elliot, Sam&Lizzie&Mia&Florrie, BarnesBakehouse Bread especially the Marmite&Cheese loaf, Catherine&Jules&Sophie&Alison, Antonia&Ronan&Leo, Free Guy (Disney+), The Greyhound, pubs in general, trains, no rain, central heating, Middle England (Jonathon Coe, thanks Paul) & YOU.

S C H O O L O F S T O L E N G E N I U S >> H I G H L I G H T S
// SOSG x Scott Sparks | Community Meet Up
Starts Wednesday, October 20, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT // 5:00 PM GMT

Harnessing the Power of Integration

The world of freelance and strategy consulting is full of unknowns. One of the biggest is how to integrate into agency and/or brand teams to best produce great work. In this session, we’ll keep it pretty casual as Scott shares his experience in this independent consulting world as well as two unique & highly integrated projects it led him to -- In his words, “one a huge success, the other not so much…”

Whether you’re a freelance strategist looking to understand how to better integrate into an existing team, or within the agency world, hoping to learn how to work better with independent strategists, Scott’s session will get you thinking about best practices of integration. Be prepared for a short talk & plenty of Q&A hangs.  

Scott Sparks is an independent strategy consultant with a varied background spanning multiple disciplines ranging from brand design to social impact consulting to communications planning. He started his career at Translation and 360i, alongside Rosie for many of those years. He now does a mix of freelance and consulting projects for both agencies & brands, such as Mammut, Curaleaf and the Aspen Club. 

We have 5 tickets available for Strands readers who aren’t part of SOSG (and haven’t previously received an invite to a SoSG event) - send an email if you are interested!

Enroll at


  • Rosie was a guest on the Anti Hustle Hustle Club podcast about hustle culture (ugh), work success and happines. She waxes rhapsodic on working to life not living to work, making non-traditional choices, where ideas come from and how to create an environment of trust. (Listen on Spotify / Apple)


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The topic of freedom has been considered from many, many angles by many, many philosophers and I doubt I’m going to exhaustively cover the idea or add much to the body of thinking here but that rarely stops me. It’s something that keeps coming up, something that has become recently so important and polarizing, triggering divisions and protests around the world - as we mentioned, there were protests every weekend in France for Liberte!

It occurs to me, as it often does, that these huge very big concept abstract words are endlessly argued over because they mean such different things to different people and in different contexts, especially with regards the freedom to not do things versus the freedom to do things.

I’ve written a bit about this before, in a piece called America, Freedom and the High Cost of Healthcare, which sets up my thoughts on the core issue well enough that I don’t feel too self aggrandizing quoting it here.

<_begin quote_>

Freedom is good.

No problem with that, you might think. Freedom is, we all pretty much agree, a good thing. Yes indeed. Not being free is bad, as we once and for all sorted out when slavery was abolished. But freedom is often conflated with choice in America.

Freedom is equated to the freedom to choose: more choices = more freedom. But at some point there are too many choices…and it makes life worse, not better.

Barry Schwarz’s excellent book The Paradox of Choice makes the case for this better than I ever could.

(Not everyone agrees, but hey, that’s freedom for you.)

The freedom paradox is at the heart of many modern civil issues.

There is a famous expressions of this:

“Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins,”

which is attributed to Lincoln and loads of people, but, like so many famous expressions of this nature, is what I call a fauxation. These fake quotes bubble up in culture and then get appended to famous people they seems to suit. Fauxtations have no textual referent that can be verified.

The point being, if everyone is free to act as they choose, everything gets messy really quickly, because your absolute freedom curtails mine — and vice becomes verses.

The essential basic social contract, all the way back to Hobbes and his Leviathan, is that in order to live in a civilized society we must agree to give up some freedoms, otherwise anarchy prevails and we live lives that are ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.

<_end quote_>

In the USA (and increasingly in the UK) there is a great deal of importance put on and pride in the idea of personal liberties but there is a confusing lack of consistency. People there have a right to have guns, but not the right to get an abortion in Texas, for example.

Now, the obvious problem with the right to own guns, considering there has been a mass shooting in America every single day for some years now, is that it directly impacts the rights of other people to not get shot. As explained in the freedom paradox above, some freedoms when taken to logical extremes directly curtail lots of other freedoms.

Thanks to manipulation by various politicians in the trenches of the culture war, this paradox has become especially salient and visibly obvious in the argument about masks, and vaccines and so on.

Fortunately, we caught up with our friend Steve today for lunch and he pointed me in the direction of another key text, which turns out to be the source for the framing I was gasping for. Ah the serendipity of interesting friends.

In Escape from Freedom (published as Fear of Freedom in USA), the philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm suggests that freedom works in two ways. We are drive to escape to it - positive freedom - and we are driven to escape from it - negative freedom - because freedom comes with responsibilities we can’t handle.

“Freedom, though it has brought him independence and rationality, has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless. This isolation is unbearable and the alternatives he is confronted with are either to escape from the burden of his freedom into new dependencies and submission, or to advance to the full realization of positive freedom which is based upon the uniqueness and individuality of man.”

I can feel echoes of existentialism here and Fromm writes in a later forward how we are driven into the arms of authority by the alienation of freedom:

Modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.

There is this inevitable double edge, we are driven to seek freedom but also we want to be told what to do…which seems to be very relevant to the current moment.

Because, less philosophically, it’s impossible not to notice how wearing masks has been handled differently by different cultures with different senses of either individual or collective freedoms, positive and negative.

In USA mask wearing has become tribal, in the UK following the aptly named “Freedom Day” it seems most people have stopped wearing masks at all, whereas in Portugal, Spain and France everyone wears masks everywhere, even outside, and you need proof of vaccines to get into restaurants and so on. The various statistics for the consequences of this are now all too well known, showing the unmasking and vaccines hesitant localities continue to be ravaged by Covid cases.

Less freedom for me, more freedom for us, or vice versa, seems like a choice we will all increasingly have to make, at a societal level.


From the excellent Kyle Theory by Lily O’Farrell @vulgadrawings

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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 :)