Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happiness is Love

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Like wine, longitudinal studies improve with age. So says Dr George Vaillant, chief curator/analyst/investigator of sorts for the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Better known as the Grant Study, Dr Vaillant and his colleagues followed the lives of 268 healthy, well-adjusted male sophomores for over 70 years, starting in the late 1930s.

If it was wine, it would have made a fine wine indeed, infused with the very real, and often very hard, facts of life. The men were followed through war, careers, marriage, divorce, parenthood, grandparenthood, and old age. It’s no wonder that Dr Vaillant called the key to his study cabinets ‘the key to Fort Knox’.

Early on in the study, Dr Arlie Bock, the original co-creator of the project with the sponsorship of W T Grant, noted that the study was pitched at easing the world’s disharmony. As one of the most comprehensive studies into the human condition, it certainly offered some profound insights. NewsOK recently published an article which summarized the recipe for success for adult development in a few simple words by Dr Vaillant: “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

Dr Vaillant’s study looked at his subjects from every conceivable angle, but focused on the healthy ones – how they fared in the face of adversity and what gave them the edge. In a nutshell, it was love. Healthy, loving relationships with friends and family. Being productive in something they liked doing, no matter how mundane. Overcoming regrets. Getting on with life and enjoying it.

The pursuit of an explanation for happiness didn’t come without self-reflection. Speaking to The Atlantic’s Joshua Wolf Shenk in 2009, Dr Vaillant confessed that he certainly wasn’t a model of adult development, a statement on which Shenk gracefully reflects, “Only with patience and tenderness might a person surrender his barbed armor for a softer shield. Perhaps in this, I thought, lies the key to the good life—not rules to follow, nor problems to avoid, but an engaged humility, an earnest acceptance of life’s pains and promises.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Creativity Illuminated

Image Source / Artist: / Merijn Hos

I’ve said it before (or rather, I have quoted Tom Peters often). Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Fix Fast. A newly launched website, Recently Rejected pays homage to the creative process and the inevitability of rejection, shining a spotlight on unpublished, rejected or unfinished design work.

It supports the notion that rejection isn’t necessarily negative – quite the contrary, in fact. It just is what it is. There are reasons why things don’t make the final cut, reasons you simply don’t see or spare a thought for in a finished product. Artist and art director Mario Hugo, creator of the site, is expectedly philosophical in an interview with Fast Company: “A lot of very interesting, artful creative stuff just isn’t right for the brief…the site is like the death rattle of an old file that would otherwise remain tucked in an older folder.”

The site offers a special insight into the blood, sweat and tears that might go into a piece of work, reminding us of the drive, determination and the steps in between that deliver a final perfect product. Research has even shown that doodling helps with creativity, generating bursts of insight or new ideas. The journey might come with a dose of rejection, but it certainly sets you up for the destination.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Goudy Old Style

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March 8th 2015 marked the 150th birthday of Frederic W. Goudy from Bloomington IL, a legendary typeface designer and the man behind more than 115 typefaces that have been described as ‘dignified, sturdy, honest and strong.’ Hard to argue with that. Goudy brought a realization to type design – not just as a rendering of individual letters, but the creation of the most versatile communication.

Goudy had drive and ambition, cutting out a career of ‘change and caprice’ right from the start. He had a keen interest in typography and its principles at an early age, but success did not come easy, as outlined in an article on the man himself published in the August 1984 volume of Upper and Lower Case – The International Journal of Typographics.

The article aptly uses the word ‘undaunted’ to describe Goudy. He was dogged by misfortune, twice having his life work – matrices, master drawings and sketches – destroyed by fire. But he bounced back, and in many ways, those early endeavors and misfortunes set him up for the later pursuits in life which made him so much of a success. He was self-taught, only producing his first designs at the age of 30 and manufacturing his own type at the age of 62, when he secured the necessary equipment and learned the difficult art of engraving. He got stuck-in.

The care Goudy showed to his work was obvious. He truly found his niche upon being asked to design a volume of short stories and deciding that existing typefaces were not to his liking – they had a feeling of openness that disturbed him, and were either ‘too formal or too refined, or too free and undignified.’ He had the courage to do precisely what he wanted, in the way he wanted, and went on to produce Kennerley Old Style, a turning point in his career.

Testament to Goudy’s ability and influence is the fact that many of his typeface designs are still actively used today, literally illustrating the mark of his genius. Goudy Old Style has been Saatchi & Saatchi’s logo typeface for the last 45 years. It’s never gone out of fashion.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Curated Hotels for the Creative Cognoscenti

Hotels are hiring curators, following prominent artists and decorating their spaces with expansive art collections. They’re getting serious about art, and it’s not just art for art’s sake. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal looks at why, but as a hotel connoisseur I can tell you that it boils down to emotions.

Art elicits emotion and hotels want to sell an emotional experience. It’s only natural the two have come together. If you’ve been on the road all day in meetings and are 10,000 miles away from your family, you want a place that could feel like home. If you’re on holiday, you’re looking for adventure, discovery and escape. Sometimes people want to be comforted. Sometimes people want to be spoilt.

It’s admirable to see hotels masquerading as art museums and galleries (and vice versa). Accessible art, too – if you’re staying at the hotel, you can consume at your leisure. You can check out The Telegraph’s stunning round-up of masterpieces on show in hotels aiming for the creative cognoscenti here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


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Ugh. My beloved Manchester City just got dumped out of the Champions League after a 0-1 loss to Barcelona. The result would have been a lot worse were it not from a bravura performance from Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart who made 10 saves. But the genius on the park was without question Lionel Messi, who singlehandedly destroyed us.

BBC Sports’ Alistair Magowan called Messi’s performance “a masterclass…after a wonderful exhibition of cute passing and mesmerising dribbling from Messi, there was little either Pellegrini or his team could do to stop the 27-year-old. From the beginning, he was a menace, whether exchanging one-twos with Andres Iniesta or curling free-kicks with the type of spin a baseball pitcher would have been proud of.”

The Daily Mail revived ‘the greatest player ever’ debate, with Gary Lineker leading off with the statement that Messi is “indisputably the greatest player ever to don a pair of football boots.” Six of the 12 Daily Mail writers had Messi at #1, four had Cristiano Ronaldo at #1.

To quote Bob Taylor, a ‘father of the internet’ and recruiter of the genius people at Xerox Parc who ushered in the modern computer interface, “You can’t pile together enough good people to make a great one.”

Take a bow, Mr Messi.

In With My Food Bag

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Last week I jumped on board as Chairman of fast-growing home delivery service My Food Bag.

My Food Bag takes the chore out of weeknight cooking by delivering nutritious, seasonal recipes and quality, pre-measured, free-range ingredients to people’s homes each week.

As a customer-first model that delivers taste, health, inspiration, value and convenience, My Food Bag is the full package. Home-delivered grocery services such as My Food Bag will eventually become as mainstream as Amazon and iTunes because they appeal to time-poor professionals and busy families. It’s part of the rapidly-growing global just-in-time food delivery service sector, and of a wider transformational movement occurring around how food is produced and distributed that is attracting significant global investment.

My Food Bag hits the sweet spot because it recognizes people like to cook – without the hassle of assembling for all the ingredients. The company has 15,000 customers already and is expanding beyond New Zealand into Sydney and Melbourne and beyond.

I first experienced My Food Bag as a customer, ordering one if its gourmet grocery boxes during a trip to New Zealand. Then I found out one of its founders is an old mate, Theresa Gattung who was CEO of Telecom NZ and a brilliant marketer and business leader.

I know a thing or two about marketing too, and food, and I’ve led a few teams, so it’s this experience and expertise that I’ll be bringing to My Food Bag. I’m thinking more magic, more creativity and more fun to kitchens and dinner tables around New Zealand and beyond.

Part of the earthy charm of being part of the My Food Bag team is that you have to adopt middle names pertaining to a food you identify with and starting with one of your own initials. Head Chef & Dietitian is Nadia Lemongrass Lim. Group CEO is Cecilia Couscous Robinson. Theresa is Theresa Turmeric Gattung. And I am, er, Kevin Rhubarb Roberts.

It has huge potential and I’m stoked to be part of the My Food Bag crew. Check it out at