It's All Cyclical : The Delights of Distraction No.90

In business, as in life, there are very few sure things. Plans can go poof, sales projections can be wrong, circumstances can change and that rainy day fund you collected at the back of your safe can evaporate. 

However, according to Howard Marks in his book, “The most important Thing”, there are two concepts we can hold to with confidence: 

Rule number one: most things will prove to be cyclical. 

Rule number two: some of the greatest opportunities for gain and loss come when other people forget rule number one. 

Unlike projections on a spreadsheet, few things move in a straight line. There’s progress and then there’s deterioration. Things wax and wane, grow and decline. The same is true for economies, markets and companies: they rise and fall. Wherever humans are involved, things get variable and cyclical, as we tend to be capricious, irrational and emotional creatures - not mechanical and clinical.  

“Cycles are self-correcting, and their reversal is not necessarily dependent on exogenous events. They reverse (rather than going on forever) because trends create the reasons for their own reversal. Thus, I like to say success carries within itself the seeds of failure, and failure the seeds of success.”  

Our last few weeks have been a little derailing, but we believe in the cyclical nature of the world. When COVID hit in 2020, we thought we were in a head-on collision with failure. Instead, after the 3-month shock period and shuttering of 2 stores, we grew our online business many times over, cut our costs and found more meaningful ways to engage with our customer (like this newsletter.)  

And so, while we won’t get every win, we’re hunkering down and preparing ourselves for the upswing. 

"Not every problem needs to be overcome, just the ones stopping you from getting where you want to be." - Ann Hill 

And here are some of our favourite ideas, links and visuals that we saw over the last week:

To joy scroll: A silly, fun, and weirdly mesmerizing Twitter feed. People Selling Mirrors collects the images that people post while selling their old mirror. The photos inevitably include them, so these snapshots become unintended selfies. They are amusing because they are the opposite of posed portraits — they are the anti-selfie! 

Thandie Muriu’s work is colourful, vibrant and hypnotic. She’s a self taught photographer from Nigeria, and her feed celebrates African heritage and issues such as identity and self-perception while retaining a distinctive sense of wonder and playfulness. It’s a feast for the eyes.  

To read: In a piercing essay by Simon Evans about watching his daughter become an adult, and also about the death of a close friend, and how painful it is to experience the speed at which something as seemingly substantial as a childhood or a friendship is over and gone for good. Toward the end, he offers a few thoughts on how to make sure you're truly present for life – ways to "drive a stake into the shining moment." 

To ponder: According to Rene Girard, the originator of the Mimetic Theory, 'Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.' While there are many implications of this theory, one of the them is related to Success. Since most of us don't know what we want, we cannot define success by our own measures. We then look to the crowd to tell us if we have succeeded or not. This outward looking creates an undue pressure on us. Morgan Housel narrates two stories from the same event in history to highlight such pressure, and to contrast external vs internal impulses. 

“I have no idea how to find the perfect balance between internal and external benchmarks. But I know there’s a strong social pull toward external measures – chasing a path someone else set, whether you enjoy it or not. Social media makes it ten times more powerful. But I also know there’s a strong natural desire for internal measures – being independent, following your quirky habits, and doing what you want, when you want, with whom you want. That’s what people actually want.” 

To quote: “Money buys happiness in the same way drugs bring pleasure: Incredible if done right, dangerous if used to mask a weakness, and disastrous when no amount is ever enough.” - Morgan Housel 

"You look in the mirror and sometimes see a mess of a human being. But you don't see the lives you've touched, or the people you've saved. You don't see all the love you've given freely, or the extraordinary memories you've made. You are a book of beautiful moments and feelings." - Tiny Buddha 

To make better decisions: A 2 minute video that helps you figure out the simple framework for the choices you can make today that minimize the regret you'll feel like an 80-year-old looking back on your life? When you minimize future regret, you sleep well knowing you're maximizing fulfillment. 

To better mental health: We all have at least one worrier in our life – perhaps we even are one: the kind of person that needs something to worry about or else life seems unbalanced. We certainly have a few of those in the family and therefore have inherited similar tendencies. It’s nice to have the source of this behaviour acknowledged: “Our feeling of dread is a symptom of an ancient sorrow that hasn’t found its target in the here and now; and our ongoingquest and alarm is a sign that we keep not finding anything in the outer world that answers to the horror of the inner one.” 

To skill up: It was a bright cold day in April. Improve your typing speed by 'typing along' with your favourite classic literature. An absolutely brilliant way of building your keyboard skills

To cook: We’re now in a position where every conceivable sort of delicacy is literally available at our fingertips - from 30 minute restaurant deliveries to 10-min groceries to our doorstep. So it’s no wonder that the more humble childhood foods that our mothers used to whip up in our youth, have fallen out of fashion. Our palates have become too evolved to appreciate the usually over-sweet sort of treats of yore, though the memories of them marinate at the back of our minds. To satisfy that nostalgic longing, here’s a ridiculously simple no-churn dulce de leche ice cream recipe; all you need is milk, custard powder, and condensed milk. 

To life hack: Voice your praise. Scott Adams, the famous creator of Dilbert offers some incisive truth in this simple habit you can build into your day: “Children are accustomed to a continual stream of criticisms and praise, but adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word. When you understand the power of honest praise (as opposed to bullshitting, flattery, and sucking up), you realize that withholding it borders on immoral. If you see something that impresses you, a decent respect to humanity insists you voice your praise.” 

To end: 

To Be Held 
By Linda Hogan 
To be held 
by the light 
was what I wanted, 
to be a tree drinking the rain, 
no longer parched in this hot land. 
To be roots in a tunnel growing 
but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves 
and the green slide of mineral 
down the immense distances 
into infinite comfort 
and the land here, only clay, 
still contains and consumes 
the thirsty need 
the way a tree always shelters the unborn life 
waiting for the healing 
after the storm 
which has been our life. 

This week, may you weather your storms, sail with the wind and bask in the gleaming of sun on your face,

Viv and Ami

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