Strands of Genius Throwback: Travel Ache, Productivity Isn't Working, Mental Health & Media

plus details on Social Fresh Conference 2020

Rosie and Faris are on holiday this week, Ashley, writing to you from Atlanta, is sharing some of her favorite links from Strands throughout the year!


So this isn’t necessarily new new as much as it’s been a recent reminder…

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been quarantining with my family and a few close friends this pandemic, but this week marks the first time in over 10 months that I have had a place entirely to myself, so it feels new-ish.

In a matter of only 24 hours, I’ve already come to realize how much I value my “me” time. The whole being able to walk around naked thing is just a bonus ;)

I love being around people and learning from people, but having time to myself to really reflect on the things I’ve heard and learned is just as important. Giving myself the space and grace to be with my thoughts allows me to be more comfortable with myself. It allows me to really explore more of what I like versus what other people think I should like, if that makes sense.

At the moment, “me” time has mostly included some solo walks at my preferred pace (when walking with others, you don’t always get to choose), making meals with a bunch of random sauces and spices (that others don’t always care for), and catching up on The Voice and Ted Lasso, finally!

For some of us, pandemic life has maybe been too much “me” time and for others, not enough. All that to say, I do hope you find time each day to focus on one thing for you!

This week, I’m especially thankful for:

Social distanced park hangs with friends, a UGA win, a delicious Greek turkey burger recipe, and celebrating a friend’s 30th (we’ve known each other 25 of those 30 years).


Social Fresh is where the world’s top social media marketers go to get inspired.

Inspiration is essential to education. It is the sunlight that drives our branches to reach out further than we thought possible. It drives us to grow. To do something new.

Join virtually for Social Fresh Conference 2020 December 8-10!

Tuesday opens the conference with a live Workshop with Founder and CEO Jason Keath. Wednesday kicks off with presentations, panel discussions, and live networking sessions. Thursday continues with presentations, panel discussions, and networking.



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One of the paradoxes we’ve been mulling over of late is spun out from our thoughts on motivation a few weeks ago. In essence, motivational theory suggests that we experience a delta between our own lived experience and how we think we could and should be, and that gap creates motivation. However, that if that gap seems insurmountable, it can demotivate people. This is why the same situation can be motivating and demotivating [humans are complex] and the difference rests on something entirely made up, which is to say the imagined delta. It was never real, it isn’t real, and it definitely doesn’t become more real depending on how we are feeling… but how we think about it certainly does.

Humans use memory to imagine futures and we use this unique ability to learn and to scenario plan. That’s extremely useful. This ability has inevitable side effects in that memories also create regrets and imagined futures also create anxieties, and sometimes those side effects interfere with the day to day executions of plans, creating more regrets and anxieties.

In mindfulness practices, one looks to focus intently on the present moment to reclaim it from a mind that naturally lives in the past and the future. There are lots of aspects of this work and we make no claim to expertise here — but one thought that comes through, in various traditions, is acceptance. Meditation is often misunderstood as eliminating worries, or even thoughts, from the mind, which is impossible. Rather, when thoughts arise, as they naturally do, the guidance is to register them without attaching to them, and let them pass. It’s much easier said than done. Other aspects of acceptance consider accepting the self - here’s a yoga example:

“Set an intention that focuses on loving the self and accepting all that arises in the present moment such as: I willingly accept what I see, think or feel. I am not my thoughts or feelings. I practice my yoga without attaching to the outcomes.”

And ultimately, the task is to accept the world. You can route this back to the second noble truth of the buddha - desire is the root of all suffering. Or rather attachment to it is:

the attachment to the desire to have (craving), the attachment to the desire not to have (aversion) and the attachment to ignorant views“.

So, being attached to what you want, don’t want, and untrue beliefs is the cause of all suffering. It sets you up to be constantly out of sync with reality, forever, which creates frustration and fear. By creating fictions in our minds that reality stubbornly refuses to conform to, we suffer.

Where I (Faris) get stuck is in between the acceptance that work is necessary and improvement, and the idea that ‘acceptance of what is’ is the only route to peace of mind. If “all progress depends on the unreasonable man,” adapting the world to his or herself, how can that be reconciled with acceptance? Indeed, how can any progress be made at all?

So, the first thing to remember, is that all plans are fiction, and any assessment of their difficulty are also fictions. Just because they are all fiction doesn’t make them all equally likely, but it doesn’t make them reality either. Your plans, for lunch, your career, your vacation, your weekend, your brand, your campaign, your start-up, and your marriage are all fictions.

These particular fictions are not usually understood as such, although the clue is there when we call them hopes and fears, because they have a unique property. Whether or not they happen, those fictions still interact with our reality, creating anticipation, hope, anxiety, fear, pride, momentum, social cohesion and pretty much everything else in the qualitative human experience of living through time.

At its heart, the paradox I’m wrestling with is how to act in a world with acceptance. And I’ve found some shred of an answer in Taoism and Emergent Strategy.

“The Tao never acts but nothing remains undone” seems to us to be a statement about action and acceptance, because taoism emphasizes living in harmony with The Tao [The Way]. In some ways that is reducing the difference between the fictions we create and WHAT IS, and in some ways it is recognizing that whatever we do is also WHAT IS, and that actions are always occurring in an unfolding WHAT IS.

Which is also a premise of emergent strategy, which is to assume change — and therefore that our plans will inevitably have to adapt as well. So, perhaps the key here is that acceptance has to be ongoing. It’s not a steady state, it is constant and endless, the work of constantly letting fictions die, of killing our darlings. That’s why strategy is a constant process and meditation is the work of a lifetime.

Managing paradoxes is an inherent task of being human because the real world doesn’t resolve itself in simple binaries. This one, if it is one, depends on it. If we believe that acceptance is a key to wellbeing, then people who desire to create change have to achieve acceptance first, even if that is accepting that things aren’t the way we wish them to be. Recent research from the World Economic Forum supports this:

“There is increasing evidence that effective change can only be achieved if the wellbeing of the change-maker is secure. It can be cultivated in the first instance through greater awareness and a better understanding of self. This in-turn can have a positive ripple affect across organizations, improving innovation, collaboration and creativity.”


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.

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