“Mistakes will be made” [Friday Flow #7]

Moments, magic, masterclass, making threats

Hey.

Is it just me or does it feel weird that we’re already in August? I mean, this year feels like it’s been so long, yet somehow it feels odd that we’re in the last month of Q3. Just three-and-a-half more months and 2020 is over. It’s been a hard year in many ways, but in some ways it’s had a lot to offer too—for me at least. Has that been your experience, or it’s different for you?

One thing I’ll always remember about 2020: it’s the year I really connected with fellow writers—and I never even got to work from home! 😂 But I think it was easier to connect with so many people because they were. What’s been your highlight of 2020?

On the menu for today’s Friday Flow:

📸 Moments and momentum
🧙🏾‍♀️ A magical movie
🍎 On the fly empathy (feat. Steve Jobs)
😡 Public threats [Nigerian proverb]

Share Being Human with Doc Ayomide


📸 Moments and momentum

This week’s essay was the result of my first time collaborating on a piece of writing, and it was fun! We enjoyed what came of it, and if you didn’t catch it, you should check it out. One of the most fun things was figuring out how work it into a conversation to capture the way it originally began, and use the essay itself as an example of what it’s saying. Here’s an excerpt:

Adam: But the proliferation of cell phone cameras has flipped the idea of capturing a moment on its head. People now create moments in order to capture them—literally doing it for the ’gram. The present is viewed through the lens of a manufactured future—what can I create now so that I can share with others later—which defeats the purpose of the present! You can’t be present if you’re always in the future.

Ayomide: Exactly, and some would suggest what appears the obvious solution: that we should simply be in the moment, instead of trying to capture it. But why choose? Why not, as I like to ask with questions like this, try for both? From that angle, one way to get around the synchronicity issue would be to have someone else capture the moment while we experience it. Let’s call this person a Designated Capturer: just like having a designated driver means you can drink without having to worry about driving, a designated capturer would let you both experience the moment and faithfully capture it. Basically you’re shifting the asynchronicity to another person rather than another time.

Check the whole thing out here: What’s in a moment?

🧙🏾‍♀️ A magical movie

I saw Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige this week, and man! I hadn’t seen it since it came out in 2006—a film about two rival stage magicians didn’t sound like my jam. But it’s Nolan, which meant I was mistaken: the man is a master of using unlikely stories to deeply explore universal themes.

It’s a great film on many levels. I love art that raises great questions, which makes me a sucker for thematically strong stories. And Prestige has a lot to ask, because it’s not merely about magic.

  • It’s about love and obsession and lifelong rivalry.

  • It’s about who gets to be called the best? Is it the person with the most technical ability, or the best at showmanship?

  • It’s about how good is good enough? And is it enough to know you’re good at what you do, or do you have to be publicly acknowledged?

  • It’s about how much do you sacrifice for your art—and when is that too much? And at what point does it become about you—no more the art?

  • It’s a metaphor for filmmaking itself, or art in general.

And it has this great line from when one of the magicians engages a boy who’s interested in performing:

Are you watching closely? Look closer. Never show anyone. They’ll beg you, and they’ll flatter you, for the secret, but as soon as you give it up—you’ll be nothing to 'em. You understand? Nothing. The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything.— Alfred Borden (played by Christian Bale)

This itself raises the question of the tension between profiting from what your knowledge versus passing it on, and who deserves to receive it, and where do you draw the line?

How would you answer any of these?

(One more thing: the film is structured to match its theme—its three acts are framed to match the three stages of a magic trick. That’s the kind of idea that inspired how Adam and I chose to structure our essay.)

🍎 On the fly empathy (feat. Steve Jobs)

I recently found—and have repeatedly watched—this great Steve Jobs video that’s a masterclass in skilfully resolving tension. It’s from a 1997 Apple conference, right after his return from being kicked out a decade earlier.

It begins with a hostile audience member question: “It’s sad and clear that on several counts, you don’t know what you’re talking about”. And then the questioner throws a direct challenge which includes a personal jab at Jobs having been thrown out of Apple years previously. (Someone in the crowd says “Ouch!”)

Jobs takes it like a pro, with such a degree of emotional intelligence someone in the YouTube comments actually says it’s almost like it was set up for him to shine. (He wasn’t.)

He…

  • instantly recognises the opening compliment as a setup but then validates the questioner without dishonesty (“people like this gentleman are right—in some areas”)

  • injects humour to defuse tension before it even builds up but becomes very serious when responding—despite two jokey references to “not knowing what I’m talking about”

  • takes a full TEN seconds to respond (including using the take-a-drink trick to buy time to think)

  • focuses on the issue raised while completely ignoring the personal jab

  • goes beyond the issue to validate the questioner’s underlying desire (as he understand it) and states categorically that isn’t what they’re trying to build

  • and then the masterstroke: he redirects the issue by reframing it in terms of how they at Apple think about building, referencing both his experiential knowledge in this and the expertise of the team he’s working with.

Simply put, Jobs demonstrates understanding of the person’s experience, and then invites them to share in his. All on the fly. It’s worthy of study.

One of the best parts is this line:

One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re gonna try to sell it.… And I think that’s the right path to take. And some mistakes will be made…along the way. That’s good—because at least some decisions are being made along the way. And we’ll find the mistakes—we’ll fix them.

I love that last bit: making mistakes is an inevitable by-product of making decisions.

Don’t fall for the false perfection of indecision.

😡 Public threats [Nigerian proverb]

And speaking of insults…

If you casually make threats in public, you’ll be held responsible for another’s action.

I didn’t realise this was a proverb until my adulthood, but I picked up the principle of it growing up, and I’ve seen people fall afoul of it.

Know anyone this has happened to? Tell me about it.

That’s it for this week.

Thank you, as always, for reading my words, and sharing them. And as always I love hearing back from you. Hit me up.

And stay safe,

Doc Ayomide