30 August 2017

At second glance

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Subway. Eat Fresh. 

I wonder how many people get tricked by this slogan. 

"Fresh" sounds innocuous enough, until you realise they're trying to trick you. What they really want to say is "healthy", but of course they can't because most subs simply aren't healthy. 

Just think of the things that can be fresh: a dog shit, a wound, a war.

They only get away with abusing our trust for as long as we let them. 

by Nino Rosella
29 August 2017

The problem with hipsters

Think of all the subcultures of the past fifty years. Rock ’n’ Roll went hand-in-hand the Teddy Boys. Soul, Ska, tailored suits and Italian scooters with the Mods. Punk rock and Punks with their brightly festooned mohicans, and anti-establishment sentiments. 

Hipsters on the other hand have done nothing but take. Rather than building on and evolving ideas they’re content with simply taking and not giving back. 

They’re a subculture of pirates; raiding the success of others. Actually, that’s not fair on pirates; at least they gave us the skull and crossbones, and enough stories and legends to last hundreds of years. 

Seriously, what have hipsters ever given us other than a damned good laugh? 

by Nino Rosella
28 August 2017

Dancing with fear

I did something mildly terrifying today: I danced in public.  

Not a proper dance, just a little jig at the bus stop. Enough movement for someone to recognise that I wasn’t having an epileptic fit, but not a full-on jive. 

What makes performance strike fear into the hearts of all but the most seasoned professionals? It’s the fact that we know people might be judging us, that they have what scientists call “Theory of Mind”. 

Yet, I realised something particularly interesting today at the bus stop. Nobody cared what I was doing. This is significant. Sure, there was one guy who thought it was mildly amusing - he shot me a quick grin then went back to staring into the depths of his smartphone.  

When was the last time you saw someone behave slightly nutty, had a laugh about it, and then instantly forgot about it? All the time, I’d wager. 

What will you do now knowing that you care about looking stupid way, way more than what others care? 

I’m sure that dancing with fear gets easier. We just have to practice. 

by Nino Rosella
27 August 2017

Really good isn't good enough

Can you remember the last thing that you recommended to a friend? Coincidentally, mine was Dunkirk. But before that I really can’t remember. Why is this? 

The simple fact is that we rarely talk about things that are really good. I don’t think I’ve ever recommended anything Tesco or Sainsbury’s sells, yet I shop at these places all the time. The price is fair (to me) and they keep their promise. As Seth Godin points out; if I were to talk about these things I’d be a very boring person. 

So, how do not come across as boring? By only talking about the things that are truly spectacular. World-changing, genre-defining, trend-setting things. Whether that’s a film, an app or a piece of architecture. 

When we recommend something to a friend (or our tribe) we’re laying so much on the line, so we’d better be right. 

Why are people going to talk about what you do? 

by Nino Rosella
26 August 2017

World's most expensive light

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Is there anything that fills you with dread more than knowing you have to call your internet provider’s tech helpline? 

“Can you tell me the colour of the light on the router, sir?” asked a heavily-accented call centre worker. 

“Sure, it’s yellow,” I replied. 

“Sorry sir, our routers don’t have yellow lights. We only have green and white.” 

“Well, this router does. Okay, well, it’s more of a pale yellow light now I really look at it.” 

“It’s definitely not green, sir?” 

“I know what green looks like.” 

“Okay, then it must be a white light that you’re talking about, as I can see here on my system that your model of router doesn’t have a yellow light." 

“If you say so,” I said through gritted teeth, eyes closed. 

How many people have phoned this company’s off-shored team and had a similar conversation about the colour of that light? With millions of customers it’s not hard to see how much time, and hence, money, this must cost the company in call centre charges. It also goes without saying that pissing off your customers is not a great business strategy. 

Executives are quick to take shortcuts and make the easy decisions.  

It’s so easy to skimp and save by off-shoring an entire team and have them read from a script. Easy and cheaper to skimp on design and produce products with a lack of empathy. 

But the joke is on them. How much money would they save if the colour of the light wasn’t open to interpretation? How much money would they save if their service didn’t malfunction in the first place? Certainly enough to keep the call centre here. Enough to impress their customers to such an extent that they would feel obliged to tell all their friends about it. 

As ever, the long way round is usually the shortcut. 

by Nino Rosella
25 August 2017

Hyundai shoots for the (wrong) stars

Will Beaumont (writing in evo magazine) is right when he describes Hyundai’s decision to enter the performance hot hatch market as “bold”. Yet, the car they’re developing to do so is anything but. They have a real chance of putting themselves on the hot hatch map and to let the world know exactly what a South Korean performance car stands for, but they’re squandering it by trying to be German.

First, there’s the looks. The i30 N looks like a German hatch. Then we find out it’s being benchmarked against the Germans, and is being developed by a German on a mountainous German road. There’s nothing wrong with being influenced and inspired by the people at the top of their game, but you know who’s best at doing ‘the Germans’? The Germans

It’s not like Hyundai don’t have the technical capabilities to make a great car, because it’s clear they do. They also have mountains, and lots of them. South Korea has a deeply rich and unique culture, and where other manufacturers infuse their cars with this identity, there seems to be nothing of the sort from Hyundai, and I think the motoring world is worse off because of it. 

It’s great that they’re shooting for the stars - they just need to shoot for the right ones.

by Nino Rosella
24 August 2017

Pushing my buttons

I just came across yet another 1,000+ word blog post by a "growth hacker" detailing the minute optimisations made to a buy button that resulted in ~10% more visitors clicking it. 

Imagine instead if he spent all that time and effort improving the product he's trying sell. 

Rather than coercing me into clicking the button how about you work on maximising trust and make me desperately seek the button out?

by Nino Rosella
23 August 2017

A London Stoic: Missing the bus

“Check out the arse on that!” he shouted. 

“Oi, oi!” shouted the other in quick succession.

Being the red-blooded male that I am - and not wanting to succumb to FOMO - I turned around as I was approaching the end of Old Compton Street in the hope of catching a glimpse of her. Hopefully a mediterranean beauty, long dark hair flowing down her back, tight jeans.

I clocked the guys to see which direction they were looking so I, too, could claim my dopamine shot. Wait, that’s confusing; why are they looking at me? 

“Hey don't walk away, come back, sweetie.”

Oh god, they're talking to me. The absolute last thing I want at 10pm on a packed Soho street is to be the centre of a 'scene'. Too late. There's plenty of people that just saw what happened and they're chuckling, which is fair enough because it was funny. I'd have smiled more if I wasn't blushing so hard. 

So I turn back around, crimson-faced, only to see the 24 bus - the one I desperately need to catch - drive past on the way to the bus stop that I should already have been at. So I start to jog after it. 

“It runs like Wonder Woman!” I hear the arse-fanatic shout. More laughter. 

Now, though, I have to run faster if I'm going to catch this bus. Run faster and not look like Wonder Woman, which is harder than it sounds. 

"Oh crap I'm not going to make it," I think, running full-pelt down Charing Cross Road dodging tourists. I see the doors close. But then I'm thrown a lifeline. I make eye contact with the driver in the door mirror. Result, I made it. 

Wait, why is he smiling? I found out a millisecond later: the fucker pulls off. 

What I wanted to do
I wanted to keep running and catch him at the traffic lights. I would've kicked the front doors in, smashing the glass. 

Then, reaching into my backpack for my claw hammer, I'd have made light work of breaking into the driver's compartment. By this point he's screaming as I drag him by the hair out the broken front doors and punch him in the face, knocking him out. 

Now with a large ear-to-ear grin I'd lay him down under one of the front wheels, get behind the wheel and practice driving forwards and backwards by three feet, all the while basking in applause from the other passengers on the bus, most of whom have probably missed the bus like this, too, at some point. 

What I did
Stopped bloody running for one. Then a couple of seconds after having the above fantasy I just started laughing, which if you think about it is the only decent reaction to the silly events that just took place. 

The bonus of laughing is that it instantly changes your state. It would've been so easy to work myself into a rage and actually want to follow through with my wretched plan. 

I also reminded myself that the 24 bus is one of the most frequent busses in the whole of London and that another would be along in less than five minutes. So I get home a tiny bit later. So what?

One of the things stoicism teaches us is that we choose how we react to situations. Is it really worth letting someone else decide how the rest of my day is going to go? Absolutely not. And neither should you. 

by Nino Rosella
22 August 2017

Catch it if you can

Our minds default to fear. Understandable, when you consider that this one emotion has kept us alive for a hundred or so thousand years. See a lion and our instinct was to run. Ditto for snakes. It's what makes us choose the long way home rather than a quick stroll down a dark alley.  

But why do we experience fear before giving a speech or hitting publish on a blog post? As far as I know neither of those things have ever killed anyone. We suffer from an evolutionary fear hangover. It's done so well in the past keeping us alive that we get an extra shot when we're deep in the unknown. 

So, our brains are tricking us. Even though fear is generated in one of the oldest and most instinctual part of our brains - the amygdala - we can actually override it. The trick, as I confirmed whilst walking down my street this morning, is to catch yourself in this fearful state - to be conscious of it. Then you need to ask yourself if the thing you're scared of is going to kill you. For real. And unless you’re in debt to the Mafia I very much doubt it will. 

Do you see what I’m getting at here? You need to realise that your fear is largely unfounded, that your amygdala has highjacked your consciousness and you need to wrestle it back. Realise there’s nothing to be truly fearful about and change your state. Notice that emotions happen to us and we are not our emotions. “I’m having fearful thoughts” replaces “I am scared”. “I’m an idiot” turns into “I made a stupid decision on this occasion”. 

The hardest part is noticing when you’re in a negative state, but I've found the more I practice the easier it gets (what doesn't?) 

This, I believe, is how we overcome the lizard brain. 

by Nino Rosella
21 August 2017

Admitting I was wrong is good for me

I fucked up at work today. Granted, it was nothing particularly bad, but I made a mistake nonetheless.  

I don’t know about you, but the smaller the mistake the more likely I am to make up some kind of excuse, to cover it up, or even to ignore it entirely and hope it goes away. I find it harder to do this with bigger mistakes, as the evidence of my guilt becomes harder and harder to refute. 

However, I’ve recently been training myself to take more ownership of my decisions and actions. As soon as I made the cock-up I put my hand up and admitted my wrongdoing. I explained clearly what had gone wrong and how and - crucially - what I was going to do to fix it. 

Management didn’t bat an eyelid. “Okay, not a problem. Let’s move on.” 

If I think bad to the hundreds of times I’ve taken the opposite approach it’s easy to see the occasions where a small lie or cover up has soon spiralled into something much bigger than it needed to be. Or the times when I shifted blame and done lasting damage to relationships. 

But thinking of all the times where I took ownership, I can honestly say that nothing bad has ever come of it. In fact, I’ve always grown, making sure to learn from my mistake. And if I think of all the times when someone has taken ownership of a mistake that affected me, it’s always given me a new-found respect for them and put points in the trust jar. 

Thanks to Jocko and Leif for pointing me in the right direction. 

by Nino Rosella