Strands of Genius: Strategy Roundtable (Podcast), The Complicated Reality of Doing What You Love, & Creative Production

plus our thoughts on: outside living and what Central Park used to be

WRITING FROM | Aix En Provence
WORKING ON | Taking some time off this week to visit Chateau La Coste & the Mucem in Marseille
Sept 6-23 | Aix-en-Provence, France
Sept 24-30 | Toulouse, France
Sept 30-Oct 6 | Barcelona, Spain
Oct 6-Nov 2 | United Kingdom
Nov 2-4 | Miami, FL
Nov 4-30 | Mexico


As we start to plan our movements for the rest of the year we have encountered the uncertainty and confusion that characterizes the current state of travel.

Every country has different rules and traveling between them is even more fraught with complexity. Some countries recognize some vaccines and not others, so being vaccinated doesn’t mean you aren’t considered unvaccinated for travel purposes. Yeah, it’s confusing. The UK seems to have lumped together a huge part of the world in their unilateral rejection of vaccines from those countries…

Meanwhile, inhabitants of the Schengen Area of Europe - the worlds largest visa free zone covering more than 20 countries, named after a small town in Luxembourg where the treaty was signed, which is tradition or an old charter or something - is still banned from going to the USA, as is the UK.

This restriction has been in place since the early days of the pandemic and there is little sign it is being reconsidered in light of Delta (and then comes Mu, and then...) despite the fact that European countries opened back up to American tourist dollars more than two months ago and European countries have overtaken the USA in vaccinations. Additionally, with a lot of these national restrictions, you can circumvent them if you spend two weeks in another country that isn’t on the restricted list.

[UPDATE: That was this morning. This afternoon announcements were made to the effect that vaccinated travelers from said regions will be allowed into the USA from November.

Meanwhile, only 3.6% of the entire continent of Africa has been vaccinated, Australian cities have been back in lockdown for weeks or months, anti-lockdown, mask or vaccine mandates are springing up everywhere, even in the little French town we happen to be in.

We lived through a generation of remarkable globalization, that brought extremely significant changes, benefits and costs, creating ripples and ruptures through every society. As that pendulum swings back towards nationalism, ironically around the globe, we will inevitably overcompensate and diminish our ability to respond to the global challenges we all face, including the next pandemic.

There are significant regional variances in approaches to the current one, various complications that come from the essentially tit-for-tat visa system (known as visa reciprocity), plus of course the impact of health precautions on, and risks of, travel itself, all making it a much more difficult world to travel in than it was in the beforetimes.

The longer term impacts of this will be functionally like the longer term impacts of national lockdowns, which is to say unknown but economically challenging. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world, by some measures it is THE biggest industry in the world, and it apparently contributed 1 in every 4 new jobs created in the world before the pandemic, as well as employing 10% of ALL JOBS - about 300 million people.

Obviously as nomads who thrive spending time in different countries during the year, we are both privileged and overly aware of travel but as the numbers above suggest, if the richest countries don’t sort out travel between them while helping the poorest get their raging pandemics under control, it doesn’t just affect people like us.

Even if countries swing back towards nationalism, (except, of course, when it comes to the international flow of money for the wealthy see MoneyLand link below), we live in a closed system, environmentally and economically. Now and forever, we are all inextricably linked.

This week, we’re especially thankful for:

Louisa & Jimmy, Darien&Rocco& JJ, Jen & Brian, Leffe Blonde, Gina, 3 euro Merlot, 5 euro rose, the Cours Mirabeau, wonderful fountains, Jean-Claude, beautiful doors, an impromptu orchestral concert in the park, running in the morning, Lupin and Squid Game (Netflix), LuLaRich (Amazon), Moneyland by Oliver Bullough (an old friend of Faris’ at university) & 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 Rachel Coady | Community Meet Up
Starts Wednesday, September 22, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT // 5:00 PM GMT

The strategy of a new season: a SOSG Community meetup for Equinox

Transitions are usually at the heart of the problems we need to solve, and they offer us enormous wisdom if we pay attention. Right now, in the northern hemisphere, we’re transitioning from summer into fall. In the south, winter to spring. All of this happening while the continued pandemic often makes any movement or change in our lives seem improbable. During this community meet up you are invited to an hour of exploration, imagination, and self-reflection on where you’ve been and where you’re going (in work or life) during this season. Please come prepared with something to write with and an open heart and mind. My goal for our time together is that you leave this gathering with a vision of what you’re walking towards, tools to help you on your journey, and a powerful sense of self-renewal for the season ahead.

Rachel Coady built her first career as a brand strategist applying her passions for problem-solving, creative storytelling, and idea building with global clients including Starbucks, Microsoft, GM, and Facebook. Today, Rachel is a trained Co-Active Coach and strategy consultant on a mission to reconnect with the wild, thrive in well-being, and live in purpose while working with individuals, communities, and companies to do the same. You can learn more about her work at

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



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We spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons in two different parks in Aix. On Saturday when we arrived a small orchestra (can you have a small orchestra…maybe not) were playing bangers (movie soundtracks, a Coldplay medley and Africa by Toto) to a small crowd (I feel like you can have a small crowd) of older people and families.

They mostly cleared out afterwards and the park filled up with young people hanging out, playing instruments or music from wireless speakers. Various groups intermingled, people started chatting, a nice chap asked if he could play our guitar for a while. On Sunday various families with kids picnicked and played.

It was all very pleasant, a testament to how important parks are for individual health and community vibes in a city. When Faris moved to New York he really noticed the paucity of green spaces in that otherwise fantastically well equipped megacity.

Yes there is Central Park (shout out to the rather charming Central Park animated musical show on AppleTV, which inspired us to do some research) and it is amazing, a feat of landscaping and imagination. That said, it is way up Manhattan and not very convenient for the majority of New Yorkers. (You also can’t drink alcohol outside in the USA so picnics in the park are a bit different than they are in Europe. You’d think the anti-masknvaxxers would be up in arms about that infringement of their liberties but we digress.)

The very intention of Central Park was to create a place for people to mingle, a “public place” for everyone. In the 1840s New York was the most populous city in the Western Hemisphere and was experiencing a huge amount of immigration, especially from Ireland and Germany. The response from the wealthy was to retreat into private and gated communities, which didn’t sit well with some people.

“Many social reformers at the time felt that this was inconsistent with American values, and understood that a public park could reverse this alarming situation. When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were chosen to plan the new park, they set out to resolve this tear in the social fabric and create a space designed to bring all people together regardless of their backgrounds.”

Which is a wonderful ambition but, that said, well, nothing in history is simple. That’s why people will always argue about it.

When the New York State Legislature “set aside the land to create Central Park,” people were living on it. Seneca Village was a settlement of mostly Black landowners, founded in 1825 by free Black Americans, the first such community in the city. At its peak it had three churches, a school and two cemeteries. It existed until 1857 when, through the aforementioned legislation that invoked eminent domain, everyone was ordered to leave and their houses were torn down to create Central Park.

European cities are mostly constructed to be walkable, to use Jane Jacobs classic term, primarily because they predate motor vehicles. The centre of Aix is a pieton, a (mostly) pedestrian zone, which features a farmer’s market, or several, every day in the various squares. It is impossible to convey how much better produce is in Europe, when compared to what is available in American supermarkets, where tomatoes look amazing and taste of nothing.

The markets clear out around lunchtime, the squares are hosed down, and then the outdoor seating of the various bars and restaurants spring up in their place.

Apartments are small, as are the cars (which Americans always find hilarious), because the cities are small, the streets are small, and also because life is lived outside.

Obviously there are circumstantial elements that make this possible, the weather most obviously, but living outside makes a place feel alive, like a community, where people interact incidentally all the time, and all feel part of something bigger. Just as Jane Jacobs said.

And ok sure we were woken up at 6am by some VERY raucous young people who were still partying on the street outside our apartment, until the police pulled up. But even that was instructive. The police and the very drunk young people had a massive shouting match for a few minutes but there was never any threat of violence. In the end the young women gave up their bottles and went quietly on their way and we went back to sleep.


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 :)