Growth through Learning

The Future Does Not Fit in the Containers of the Past. Edition 15.

Three months ago, in the very first post of this weekly thought letter, entitled “Loss, Love and Learning” I shared a perspective that most meaningful parts of Life could be distilled down to these three L’s. As Humans we all suffer loss, grasp for and often find love ( of and from other people, from our passions, and from our work) and if we are lucky we grow not just from the lessons of loss and love but from the joy of learning.

I have long believed that if there is a competition it is not with other people but to get better every day and to get closer to what you believe or your ideals.

To Learn is to Grow.

And today we have more ways to inform, educate and illuminate ourselves.

1.The World is at our Fingertips

On the biggest computer screen (but mobile is fine too) type in or click this link…https://artsandculture.google.com/ and prepare to have your breath taken away as you scroll down. From history of places to the geography of place. From museums great and small to people and major events in history. Deep dive into a single painting or get the grand scope in sound, picture and word of global events. A panorama unveils itself. You can listen to the grandest music or take an augmented reality trip or enjoy a street or earth view perspective of almost any place. Here is what a single screen shot of an endless scroll of adventure looks like…

What you see will make every Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram stream pale in comparison.

Let us say you are interested in something like Indian Miniature Painting. Well how about this..https://artsandculture.google.com/project/life-in-miniature (and if you have no clue or interest in the topic of Indian Miniature Painting do click on it to see how deep one can go down the rabbit hole and then search for what you would like to learn about…)

Google Arts and Culture is just one address on the Internet that proves that with a Broadband connection and computing device the world of learning is at our finger tips.

2.Time as a Curator

What is impactful about Google Arts and Culture is how they have curated, collected and presented knowledge so the chaos and jungle of too much of everything is distilled into simple bouquets that are accessible and approachable.

Every year at this time, I use time as a curator by leveraging “best of year” lists and end of year awards and anthologies that collect the very best. This past week the National Book Awards and the Booker Prizes were announced the winners are on their way to me.

If I were to recommend five books every year, I would suggest the four pictured above which are The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Travel Writing, The Best American Essays and The Best American Science and Nature Writing and the annual Pushcart Prizes which collect the best writing from small presses. This year if you want to buy one single book get Best American Essays edited by Andre Aciman. It is the very best collection in 20 plus years I have read the series. You will hear the voices of two dozen men and women on everything from loss to love to racism to memory to what it is to be alive.

Obviously, you can use best of the year lists in a number of areas besides writing. When the same movie, music, book or whatever is your passion shows up again and again you may want to turn your attention to it.

Using time as a curator can help you get ahead by looking backward.

3.Engage with the Best Minds

Today we can spend hours with the most amazing people listening to them in conversation with us. I have been a long time fan of podcasts being first introduced to their power years ago by Jacob Weisberg, who at that time was at Slate, and today with Malcolm Gladwell his co-founder, is the CEO of Pushkin Industries which produces some amazing podcasts which you can find here at https://www.pushkin.fm/show/

My favorites among the dozen plus Pushkin shows are Revisionist History and Against the Rules. All of these are free and available via most podcast players.

I continuously sample about 20 different podcasts including the very popular ones like Joe Rogan ( increasingly a train wreck with the worst insight for time spent) or The Daily (by the New York Times which is duplicative if you read the publication) or ones built around the tech industry like Recode Media (absolute must if you are in the Media business) or Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway ( which is very good but in my opinion they are even better individually in their newer shows which are Sway for Kara and Prof G show for Scott) or the Geeky ones from the University of Chicago ( Big Brains, Capitalisn’t, Pandemic Economics) but the one I would say is hands down the absolute best and if there is a single podcast I would recommend it is the The Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with and then a few weeks later watch Shane in action when he participated in a Publicis Groupe Executive Training Program which I have the privilege to be emcee of. Shane worked for the Canadian Intelligence Services with a focus on cyber security but he became interested in decision making and launched Farnham Street ( the newsletter is at fs.blog). His podcast is so good that his fans included many of the most amazing people who come on his show for an hour or two of conversation. These include…Esther Perel on Cultivating Desire, Jim Collins the author of Good to Great and much more, Dr Atul Gawande , Tobi Lutke the CEO of Shopify, the behavioral psychologist Daniel Ariely, Susan Cain on Introverts and the power of Quiet, Adam Grant on Givers, Takers and Resilient Mind, Rory Sutherland on Advertising, Veronique Rivest on Wine Lessons, Annie Duke on the Getting Better by Being Wrong and and and….96 of the most amazing people all of whom you can learn and listen and grow with….here is number 96 as a sample where Randall Stutman speaks on what is an admired leader and how to become one….( you can subscribe on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, Overcast …..just click here…https://fs.blog/knowledge-project/4.

4. Find someone/something to Admire

Time is short and we can spend our time complaining, tearing down, bitching and swimming in a pool of purposeless and pointless piss filled puss. It is human to do so and we all enjoy a spot of gossip and schadenfreude (especially when some one hoity-toity, high and mighty gets what is due) but today’s algorithmic forged media landscape can lead us to dwelling too much in an angry, hate filled, doom scrolling sewer of emptiness.

So find someone or something to admire and study them and learn from them.

Every few weeks I do a deep dive on an individual who I find impressive. This past week I have been learning about Chamath Palihapitiya. (I have never met Chamath though I spoke to him over the phone for half an hour in 2005 when he was at Mayfield Fund and about to leave for Facebook. Some folks I know him are close to him)

Chamath is controversial and can make some people wonder. Many people focus on what irritates them and they use that filter to dismiss what I have come to believe is a someone we can all learn from.

I always paid some attention to him but when he ended up in almost the same week being a guest on two of my favorite podcasts ( Sway and The Knowledge Project) and the clarity of his thinking and feeling ( yes thinking and feeling) was so intense and in many ways agreed with my own thinking and in other ways made me wonder if I was thinking right or had me wonder whether he was a bit too high on himself, I began to read and listen and watch and research.

The guy is a genius and the best i can tell a good human.

He has got many things right and not just being at AOL and Facebook long before anyone knew about them but going all in on Amazon in 2014, Tesla in 2015, Bitcoin earlier. But it is not just his financial astuteness but the way he looks at politics, society, the future of architecture and many many other things ( And he is a world class poker player to moot)

Basically there is so much to admire all around us and if we focus there we will learn and know. If we look to see how we are better than others or how people are worse than us we will fail to grow.

5. “We can do better”

One of the best ways of learning is getting feedback. However getting negative feedback always stings. In the podcast on Admired Leaders (these are unique folks who deliver both results and enjoy followership), Randall Stutman explains how constructive feedback is balanced and is best delivered and easier to take if you know the boss is a fan.

For two decades I worked for two towering individuals who I looked up to (not just because they were over 6 feet tall) in Maurice Levy and Jack Klues. And in the years we worked together they made me better not just by example and experience but an interesting way of feedback.

Only now is it clear what they did.

They never used these words but the underlying sense was “we could do better couldn’t we ?”

It was not “you and/or your team sucked and messed up” ( which happened more than I care to admit or most people know) but rather don’t you think we could have done better?

Again neither specifically used those words but that is the essence of what they communicated

“We” versus “you” ( and the we could be them and me or my team or the company..usually it was "me” who needed to better but they elegantly projected “we”)

Better ( high standards and expectations were not met…not just theirs and the company but what they believed and knew were mine)

Improve ( how can we do better?)

Today in the polarized world we live in maybe one way to talk to people who we disagree with is to maybe ask “don’t you think we can do better?”

Like “don’t you think we can do better as a country?” or “don’t you think we can do better for our children/next generation?”

Rishad Tobaccowala (@rishad) is the author of the bestselling “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” published by HarperCollins globally in January 2020. It has been described as an “operating manual” for managing people, teams and careers in the age we live in and The Economist Magazine called it perhaps the best recent book on Stakeholder Capitalism. Business and Strategy named it among the best business books of the year and the best book on Marketing in 2020. Rishad is a sought after speaker, teacher and advisor who helps people think, feel and see differently about how to grow their companies, their teams and themselves. More at https://rishadtobaccowala.com/