Discover more from Strands of Genius
Strands of Genius: Toxic Nostalgia, America & Freedom, Getting Lucky, Stone Junction + Live&In-Person in London Tmrw!
plus, our thoughts on: working with your spouse, and birthday wishes for Faris!
WRITING FROM | Worcester Park, UK
WORKING ON | final thoughts for ProQuo tomorrow, and revisions for our session with Diageo’s team in Nairobi this Friday
May 1-31 | London, UK
May 31-June 6 | Portugal (Birthday celebrations!)
June 6-24 | London, UK
June 9-16 | Italy (Rosie Only)
June 24-27 | New York, NY (Cristina & Ryan tie the knot!!)
June 27-July 12 | Wingdale, NY
:: WHAT’S NEW & WEEKLY GRATITUDE ::
Sunday we celebrated the life of Faris’ mom, Pam. And as we write this on Monday we’re celebrating Faris’ birthday. It feels weird to commemorate a death and a birthday so close together, but life is filled with crazy juxtapositions to navigate. While Faris’ mom passed away in December, this was the first time that we were all able to be together as a family. And some extended relatives we hadn’t seen since our wedding back in 2014! Despite the reason for our gathering, we had a genuinely lovely time. The English weather was spectacular and we managed to go through approximately 20 pitchers of Pimm’s Cups ;) while telling stories and visiting with each other.
This week, we’re especially thankful for:
Faris, Abdullah and all the extended Yakob fam, especially Berna and her delicious cooking, Morgan&Colin for all of the (w)home goods, Alex and her emotional support, our kindles, fantastic English weather, Pimm’s Cups, Pished Fish, Anto&Ro, & YOU.
LIVE & IN PERSON ;) This Wednesday, May 25th in London
We are thrilled to announce that we will be speaking at ProQuo's first in-person event, Challenger '22 - The Brand Marketing Forum. Come join us and hear from some of the hottest brands in the UK right now! It will be night filled with knowledge sharing, networking, snacks and of course...a few drinks.
Event Name: Challenger '22 - The Brand Marketing Forum
Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Time: 4pm-7pm UK
Where: In-person @ The Loading Bay, 25 Luke Street, London, EC2A 4DS
:: THE LINKS ::
AMERICA, FREEDOM & THE HIGH COST OF HEALTHCARE
While Faris frequently writes about the advertising and communications world, occasionally he takes fingers to keyboard about other important topics. This is one of my favorite pieces he's ever written, and so I’m resurfacing it for you today :) (Medium)
Back in 2016, Faris wrote about nostalgia, prompted by South Park’s Member Berries. “These magical sentient fruits let you enjoy and re-enjoy the [warm, glowing] culture of your youth,” wrote Faris. But, “As always, South Park is on both sides of the culture war- the over aggressive policing by PC Principal is one of the factors that leads to the Member Berries.” He wrote this piece when Donald Trump had just been elected into office but so much of what he writes about here is still true today. (Medium)
HOW TO GET LUCKY
Do you feel lucky? Do we ‘make our own luck’? I’m obsessed with luck and love that I finally got Faris looking into it, too. This column from Faris looks at the role of luck in business and brand successes and then steals from Andy Nairn’s lovely book Go Luck Yourself to explore how we can get lucky. (WARC)
I forever judged this book by its cover despite the fact that Faris told me it was his all time favorite book. As soon as I read it, it quickly became one of my favorites too. If you’re looking to read something that Faris loves, that’s not written by him… this is the book for you :) "A post-psychedelic coming-of-age fable that's part Thomas Pynchon, part Tolkien, part Richard Brautigan, a story that owes as much to The Once and Future King as it does to Huckleberry Finn. Stone Junction is a rollicking, frequently surprising adventure-cum-fairy tale. It also has a sweetness about it and an indigenous American optimism, as if somewhere out there, beyond the shopping malls, Oz is waiting."-The New York Times Book Review (Amazon)
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:: WHAT WE’RE THINKING ABOUT: WORKING WITH SPOUSES ::
When Faris and I meet strangers and tell them that we are indeed married, and also yes, business partners, people are usually surprised but more often shocked. They pepper us with questions about our relationship inside and outside of work, and almost always embedded within is a comment along the lines of “I could never work with my spouse! How do you do it??” The truth is, it’s not always easy… but it’s easier more often than it is hard. Here are some of the reasons it works for us:
Faris is the right person for the job. If I had to write a job description for the partnership I’m looking for on the work front, I couldn’t find a better fit than Faris. I’m not training him to fit into our business; His expertise is already a fit. He’ll tell you the same thing about me — Our skills are complimentary.
We trust each other. It’s about a mutual understanding that we have each others backs — and that ultimately we want what is best for each other. In some ways, this is where being married comes in especially handy. Working in the big agency world there were plenty of people I trusted, but there were many I didn’t trust either. I know that when Faris presents a differing perspective, it’s not to spite me or stand out in front of a leader, it’s because he truly believes this is what is best for us, team awesome. (And team awesome will always take precedent over Genius Steals.)
We lead using our own strengths, and play to each other’s strengths. There are areas where he excels and areas where I excel, and (ahem, for the most part) we are pretty good at letting the other lead when it’s their area of expertise. There’s a danger zone here because it can be patronizing or condescending when you are the expert in an area and you want your spouse on your side, or to share the same perspective. We’ve found that approaching it from this way doesn't really help us — Often with different strengths come different perspectives. That’s kinda the whole point in a way. We accept that we won’t always agree on the specifics (and we certainly go to bed disagreeing on plenty of things) but again… we trust each other. And in some ways, it’s like a game of improv: We’re constantly looking for ways that we can lift each other up. (Faris is really, particularly good at this.)
Sequential collaboration works best for us. There are few times when we sit down at a table and brainstorm together. More often than not, we decide on the approach for any given project and then divide and tackle. I’ll start, and hand it off to Faris who will pick up the next piece. He’ll hand it back to me, and so on and so forth. Sometimes the lines are clear and we know who will do what when we begin, but more often than not we find it helpful to check-in with each stage and reiterate what it is we’re going to tackle. It also gives us time to talk through the output before it’s in a final stage.
We try not to give feedback unless it’s been specifically requested. This has gotten easier for me as I’ve gotten older — but at the ripe “old” age of 27 (ha) when we started this endeavor, I was keen to feedback on anything and everything. These days I really think about my desired outcome, and whether my feedback will help us get there. When I request feedback from Faris, I’m specific. Like, super-specific. “I don’t need you to weigh in on pricing/structure, but I’m sending this to a European client and feel like I might be coming on too strong in my email… Can you read this email and tell me what the tone sounds like to you?” Or “I’m struggling with slide design… Can you tell me your favorite of these three options rather than giving specific input on colors/design?” Requesting feedback is just as much of a skill as giving feedback! We’re constantly working on and nurturing these skills.
We make sure communication is at the forefront of all that we do, whether we’re navigating a difficult work challenge or a difficult life challenge. Our therapist once told us he’s never met another couple that talks about what’s going on inside our heads with each other as much as we do, and we both beamed with pride when he said this. (To be fair, I’m not sure it was meant as a compliment lol.) We talk about long term goals, short term goals, clients that we liked, clients that we felt like weren’t the best fit. We talk about what we’re thankful for and what we’re annoyed with. We talk about what we’ve learned from our families and friends, and what we’d do differently. From all this communication, we have a deep understanding of each other’s desires and fears and everything in between.
We know that partnerships are not tit for tat. There are some weeks when I have a heavier work load. There are others when Faris does. Sometimes Faris writes this newsletter three weeks in a row, and other times it’s me that’s tackling it. (Most times, one of us starts and the other finishes. Sequential Collaboration FTW, again!) We’ve found that it’s not about dividing up the work to be a 50-50 split (this just isn’t really possible in our world), but instead about supporting your partner when they’ve got more on their plate… This could mean making dinner, responding to the family text thread, or just reminding them how awesome (and ridiculously attractive) they are :)
We set boundaries. I’m thinking of one time when I had something I needed to finish up by the end of the day and Faris was trying to talk to me about minting an NFT. I could tell he was getting increasingly frustrated but it was also 8p at night and I wasn’t close to finishing what I was working on. I told him I really wanted to hear more about the NFT, but it was going to have to wait until tomorrow, when I finished this client deliverable. And then I reiterated it a few minutes later when he started talking about the dang NFT again ;) As for Faris, he really likes his evenings free and my brain runs 100mph all times of the day. Plus, work is exciting! But when I bring something up that’s work-related at 8p, it doesn’t feel exciting to Faris. It feels stressful. These days, we have a rule that we don’t talk about work after 5p. This is helpful especially helpful because it means we tackle any important conversations during the morning/midday when we both have more energy. But, we’re also flexible. We give each other as much of a heads up as possible when the rule isn’t going to work. (ie: “I know it’s important to you that we wrap up by 5, but unfortunately I’m not going to have this finished until 8p tonight and I’m going to need a second pair of eyes on it before we send it.”)
We take breaks. People assume that since we’re always traveling, we’re always working. (Or since we’re always traveling, we’re never working.) Whether we’re working 20 hour weeks or 50 hour weeks, we still need some time away from work entirely. Even though we’re always out of office, we still take vacations and set up auto responders letting people know when we’ll be offline. But beyond that, we carve out time for our relationship day-to-day. We read books and go for walks and cook together and visit art galleries and focus on all of our other shared interests.
We support each other in individual endeavors. This has been something we’ve really been working on over the past few years, and it’s tough! So much of our lives are wrapped up in each other. But it’s so so so important to retain your own identity and your sense of individuality. This means that sometimes Faris will do a podcast on his own, or I’ll tackle an interview on my own. And outside of work, you’ll find him playing video games and me doing handstands. Sometimes I’ll join him gaming, and sometimes he’ll join me on the yoga mat, but even when we’re not side by side, we’re supporting each other and our individual pursuits.
:: AND FINALLY… NOT BEING PROFESSIONAL ::
We try to be professional but we’re also just humans, too. Here’s a picture of us entirely removed from work. Just Faris having not shaved in a while, next to me with all my flyaways and pink hair that’s desperately in need of a touch up, on a river in the middle of freakin’ nowhere. I love what we do, but my favorite version of us is when we’re not behind computers or on our phones.
Happy birthday, Faris! What I’m most thankful for is the opportunity to building a life with you! Here’s to your next trip around the sun, and many, many more together :)
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faris & rosie & ashley | your friends over at geniussteals.co
@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 nothing. But 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 :)