What does blue smell like? In my mind, the ocean. And red? I think of roses, of love. International researchers have been exploring the link between our senses to see how we interpret smell into color. Their results reported in The Atlantic are interesting mostly for the differences that cropped up between cultures.
It’s logical, as where we live gives us different environmental and cultural associations. Some scents have obvious links to colors. Hazelnut, wood, vegetables. But then if you were to get the scent of soap, or plastic, the color you associate with it is more individual. It would be dependent on the color of the soap you use, or how you use plastic. Germans and the Dutch go for brighter colors for plastic, Americans tend to go for grey, white or black mostly.
What the study doesn’t explore is whether these scents and the colors selected by participants are triggered by nostalgia, particularly around generic smells like plastic. I wouldn’t be surprised if the colors I chose came from my childhood. The first immersion if you like. Smell is probably the best memory trigger we have.
In an interesting prologue from The Living Company run on Businessweek, there are some insightful musings on why most companies fail prematurely. The author cites research covering Japan and Europe that shows the average age of any business is 12.5 years. For Fortune 500 companies, it’s 40-50 years. People live comfortably longer lives than companies. And we are flesh and bone. I think there’s some truth in this observation:
“Companies die because their managers focus on the economic activity of producing goods and services, and they forget that their organizations’ true nature is that of a community of humans. The legal establishment, business educators, and the financial community all join them in this mistake.”
Business Insider picked up on this theme recently by creating a list of the world’s oldest companies. Working through it the themes for success aren’t surprising. Aside from the most basic of business principles – offering quality goods and services people want – for many it’s a commitment to a legacy that pushes them to consistently deliver.
The first, and oldest, company on this list sums up how the drive to ensure a legacy leads to longevity. Japan’s Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan opened in 705. It’s the oldest running hotel in the world, operated by the same family for 52 generations, with staff whose families have held the same posts for generations. Remarkable. Success takes hard work. Longevity requires management to dream of a legacy that every employee wants to be a part of.
Take a look at Yoko Ono. You wouldn’t think from her creative output that she’s 81. Picasso died at 91 still peaking. Cézanne considered himself a better artist in his 60s. Darwin published The Origin of Species at 50. Pete Seeger, before he passed this year, was still performing at 93. Willie Nelson is 81. Warren Buffett is almost 84. Frank Gehry is 85 and had just unveiled one of the most desired buildings in Paris in the last century. My old friend Robin Dyke published his first book of poems in his 70s.
What does creativity have to do with health and longevity? A study “Openness to Experience and Mortality in Men: Analysis of Trait and Facets” by Nicholas Turiano, Avron Spiro and Daniel Mroczek found that creativity might delay cognitive and physical decline. The study, however, can’t pin the exact reason for this. One of the reasonings is that “creative people find better ways of coping with their diminishing capabilities than their less resourceful counterparts.”
Everyone can adopt the facets of creativity that can help ward of the signs of aging. Experimentation, openness to new ideas, and flexibility in dealing with changes are three such creative cornerstones. These don’t seem restrictive to just the artists amongst us. The point is not to get stuck in sticking to the same and safe, but to stay mentally and physically active and challenged. I have said this before – take risks! Who knows? You might want to take up painting when you’re 65. The benefits are sure to outweigh the nonsense you might produce. Ask G.W. Bush (68).
Forget the plane, skip the car, and don’t even think about the bus. Trains are the most romantic way to travel. According to research from East Coast Trains, one in 10 people admit to falling in love on the train. Over a third of those surveyed said rail travel is synonymous with finding love. This gem of an insight is something the rail industry should embrace wholeheartedly.
What makes trains so much more romantic than other modes of transport? One could say that buses are cheaper, but they have the long-held reputation as being unfriendly, uncomfortable and unhygienic. Air travel offers convenience and speed, but hardly offers a glimpse of what’s in between. A train ride, however, can be a destination in itself. The Orient Express, the Ghan, Seven Stars, The Danube Express. My local steam engines on the Windermere Lakeside and Haverthwaite run, and the magical Ravenglass and Eskdale run also offer a very enjoyable journey. Train journeys now offer a modernized take on old-fashioned charm. Japan has some of the most luxurious trains in the world, with upcoming models even being designed by the likes of Ferrari.
When it comes down to it, what I think trains offer are the luxury of time and space for intimate conversation. The Glacier Express in Switzerland is one of the most famous train journeys in Europe, with a leisurely 7-hour ride taking travellers through stunning alpine views. Although it has the reputation of being the “slowest express train in the world”, their tagline shows they know what people want: “A train to fall in love with”.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently opined on the state of America and the disparity between generations. You have older people who grieve the alleged demise of the US as a global superpower, while youth seem unfazed. Young people see themselves as global citizens. Patriotism doesn’t set them alight so easily.
As an explanation to why this is happening, Maureen quotes BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith: “They’re more interested in this moment of crazy opportunity, with the massive economic and cultural transformation driven by Silicon Valley. And kids feel capable of seizing it. Technology isn’t a section in the newspaper any more. It’s the culture.”
He’s right. The technological transformation has been swift, even more so over the past five years. Youth feel empowered. Powerful. They have a voice; tools; distribution. They’re globally connected and media savvy. Unbridled. Nothing is impossible. Culture is by technology.
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