Strands of Genius: Silence of the Laughs, Future-Proofing with Stories Past, Unwilling Stars of the Modern World

Guest Curated by Asad Shaykh

This year we’re aiming to highlight 50 creative thinkers that have inspired us, by giving them the opportunity to guest curate this newsletter, Strands of Genius. This week, we’ve got Asad, who is almost certainly the secret love child of Tan France and Jonathan Van Ness.



Faris and I met through our mutual love for AI, after I got his unpaid attention by sending him cover of “Don’t You Forget About Me”, sung by robots, of course! Rosie and I call ourselves ‘Curry-Hunters of the World’. After sampling London’s best curries together, we immediately knew we’d be the best of friends, forever.

Professionally, I’m a Strategy Director at Grey London, with a passion for digital brand creation and promotion. On the side, I consult on diversity in society with The Unmistakables, and head strategy for Pride in London.

Personally, I’m a culture collector. After having lived and loved through Asia, America and Europe, I developed a deep understanding for global culture and a passion for reading it as the story of mankind. Not only does culture define geographies or mindsets, it also defines eras.

Collectively, we’re going through an unprecedented cultural shift right now. Will today be the defining story of our life? I do not know know. But here are a few stories that might help us write entirely new ones for tomorrow.

Editor’s Note (Rosie): If Jonathan Van Ness and Tan France had a love child, it would be Asad. A face for TV, a voice for radio, and enough positivity & high flying style that you might float off without a few weights hidden in your shoes before you hang out. I first got to know Asad when he replied to our newsletter after having been in Ethiopia. I was struggling with how to stand up for rights for my friends, how to be a good partner and advocate in somewhere that seemed so frighteningly behind, and he wrote us with great suggestions. When we met in London, we had a great discussion around challenging conventions and how that impacts creativity, and we’re so looking forward to further introducing y’all to him and his beautiful mind!

Editor’s Note (Faris): Asad is awesome, smart, kind and wise. We’ve known each other online for more than a decade but only ended up meeting IRL for an incredible lunch and love fest on July 5th last year. We were both smitten I was left with such lovely, joyous feeling that upon leaving, I got my first tattoo straight after.

This Friday, join us for our first-ever, experimental Out-Of-Office Hours! You’re welcome to join with a notebook, a cocktail, or both. We have Asad as our guest, and we’ll be talking about challenging conventions. While we’ll kick things off, we look forward to questions from and discussion with anyone else who decides to tune in.

Join the waiting room | Request a calendar invite:
this Friday, most likely tomorrow (if you’re reading this today)
>>> April 17 | 9a PT / 12p ET / 5p GMT <<<

:: THE LINKS :: 

  • All of us are, inherently storytellers. Creatives or Planners. Actors or Directors. Either you’re a storyteller or a story seller.

    But suddenly, social isolation put our audience on mute. We’ve all felt it. Deathly silent Zoom presentations that feel like SETI signals, lost in space.

    Yet nobody has felt this more than comedians. Helen Lewis writes her mixed experience of being a panelist on ‘Have I Got News For You’, a British comedy-tinged news-focused panel show.

    “As you perform, you begin to understand the underlying grammar of comedy—the order in which to reveal information, for example, or the shameful ease of getting a cheap laugh by swearing, or by mentioning someone’s appearance. God, I’m nostalgic for a time when hundreds of people didn’t laugh at my jokes.” (The Atlantic)

  • Ever wonder why it's so hard to ignore a child in a room full of adults? Because they do… exactly what they want. So do stars. From James Dean to Lizzo, our love for chaotic characters bigger than us is infinite. Think Fleabag, Mr. Robot, God of War.

    “We may be be using their stories as an escape hatch from the existential ennui of our own lives.” Stories of these characters will be the ones told and remembered for days to come. (Inverse)


:: Game :: Horizon New Dawn / Only after talking to Faris we realised that both of us were playing ‘Open World’ games right now - to subconsciously escape Covid-19 related confinement. The other reason I love this game is its exploration of how human culture might evolve, worshipping nature, beyond a technology induced apocalypse.

:: City :: London / There is no bigger cauldron of culture than this city. Others might be like salads, but London is truly the soup of the world.

:: Book :: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie / Fantastical humans and their stories born at midnight, when the culture of the subcontinent was torn into two to make Pakistan and India.

:: Podcast :: 'Getting Curious with JVN' / For its juxtaposition of inquisitiveness with expertise and a lack of personal agenda. It invokes a childlike curiosity that we’re all too keen to hide in our adult years.

:: Album :: Madonna - Ray of Light / Electronic music wasn’t supposed to have soul, but her work with William Orbit proved everyone wrong. As always, many follow culture but only a few define it.


“You can’t be what you can’t see” - Marian Wright Edelman

#PassionPursuit I volunteer as the Creative Strategist for Pride in London. It was in London 2005 when I experienced my first Pride, and a culture of togetherness and visiblity that welcomes, not divides - something absolutely unfamiliar to a gay Pakistani immigrant.

This culture is what helped us define the theme of #YouMeUsWe, for Pride in London 2020. Here’s the story: Building Pride in London

Rosie, Faris and Not Tan France in London, Summer 2019

Asad Shaykh
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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 :)