Lessons from David Foster Wallace on constructing meaning from experience

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Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

This has been a year of reflection. Rarely have we had so much time on our hands, yet so few actions to put to it. The upshot is that, now more than ever, we simply have the time to think.

From ruminations on mortality and human fallibility, to learning how to embrace boredom by letting our thoughts wander freely, to simply putting our minds to work and never giving up — we have all found ourselves immersed in some serious contemplation of late.

For many of us, this unexpected surplus of thinking time will prove a boon in the long run. However, we must not underestimate its potential drawbacks. …


An analysis of the politics and compromises required in shaping the human rights passages of the UN Charter.

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Representatives of the countries of the United Nations prepare to sign the UN Charter in San Francisco: Chicago University MUN.

Upon its signing in San Francisco on 26 June 1945, the United Nations Charter gave prominence and consideration to human rights as no treaty ever had before. It laid out in the public domain and in international law that its members supported the respect and observance of human rights “for all”.

However, despite its importance as a milestone in the development and advancement of international human rights, the myriad political maneuverings and compromise required in securing its drafting left many pertinent passages vague and ill-defined. …


Before brands start tweeting about social change, first they must address the lack of racial diversity within their own boardrooms and management teams.

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It was the campaign that stopped Wall Street’s bull in its tracks.

On International Women’s Day in 2017, the world awoke to a defiant new addition to New York’s macho financial district — a four-foot-high bronze statue of a girl resolutely staring down Arturo Di Modica’s famous ‘Charging Bull’ sculpture.

Dubbed ‘Fearless Girl’ by its creator Kristen Verbal, the statue was commissioned on behalf of State Street Global Advisors and unveiled to mark the launch of a campaign squared at increasing diversity on corporate boards and in leadership positions.

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Image: Steven Gomez by Pexels

The campaign called out 3,500 of the world’s largest companies that together comprised some $30 trillion in market capitalization — yet one in four of which hadn’t a single female director on their boards. …


Can startup culture save us?

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

For most of the past eight years, I have worked for large multinational corporations. ‘Big Business’ with the capital-Bs. You just know they’ve got a lobbying arm — or two — and are more than a little flimsy on the ethics of paying taxes. And, for most of those eight years, I’ve been content to play my role as a tiny cog within the great wheelhouse of corporate machinery.

Like most professional employees of large corporations, I have been paid well enough. I have always been offered opportunities for career progression and development. I have even genuinely liked the majority of the people I have worked with. …


#2 — “Racism is costing us billions”

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In hindsight, the writing was already on the wall.

As we stumbled headlong towards the end of 2019 — a raucous decade of free-flowing capital, messianic founders, and billion-dollar valuations — the inherent flaws in the startup and VC landscape were beginning to be exposed.

Between 2009 and 2019, the volume of VC deals being inked more than doubled, and the total valuation of those deals increased five-fold to $140billion.

Yet over the course of that decadent decade, a strange phenomenon took hold — profitability was eschewed for growth as the fundamental tenet underwriting a business’s value.

With this new “growth at all costs” mantra of corporate America, by 2019, the default startup was default dead. Huge sums of investment were required — and regularly at that — just to keep the hungriest startups afloat as they burned through cash at astonishing rates in the single-minded pursuit of expansion and conquest. …


200 years ago, one newspaper changed the world of media forever

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Image by L.M. Glackens from Wikimedia Commons

Most of us probably imagine that clickbait, sensationalism, and voyeuristic media coverage are thoroughly modern phenomenons — spawned from a rapid-fire, digitized world in which outrage, scandal, and melodrama form the bedrock of the attention-based media economy.

Because the truth is, for every click, scroll, or video view that any website or piece of content gets — someone, somewhere in the world, is making money.

So it is hardly a surprise, then, to note that one of 2019’s most widely shared posts on Facebook was the viciously attention-grabbing and geographically ambiguous: SUSPECTED HUMAN TRAFFICKER, CHILD PREDATOR MAY BE IN OUR AREA.”


#1 — 50% of startups have less than 6 months to live

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Right now, startups and investors around the world are at panic stations trying to figure out how to survive this unprecedented situation and unfolding financial catastrophe.

Of course, startups and investors in some sectors are enjoying an unprecedented and unexpected boom time. As I have previously noted, tech ventures exploring alternative cleaning products, remote collaboration, and low-cost trading platforms are all seeing stratospheric year and year growth and appearing to have little but bright futures ahead.

Yet these success stories are ultimately few and far between. For most startups and early-stage ventures, the high-risk nature of short runways and rapid funding cycles makes them particularly vulnerable to bear markets and prolonged periods of economic uncertainty. …


The golden rule of marketing explained in one easy to understand chart

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I can’t tell you how many planning sessions I’ve sat through over the past few years — be it with tiny operations with thousand dollar budgets all the way through to multi-billion-dollar brands — which have been derailed by a version of one of the following comments:

  • Yeah, but no-one actually watches TV anymore. I mean, in our household we haven’t watched anything that’s not Netflix in months.
  • So, what’s our LinkedIn strategy?
  • But what about podcasts? Everyone listens to podcasts now. I’m listening to a great one at the moment…

Now, I’m all for a robust debate on the efficacy of LinkedIn marketing. I‘ll spar back and forth on the educational value of podcasts and the channel’s amazing growth over the past couple of years. …


Voice assistants like Alexa and Siri are changing the way people search for, and interact with, your business.

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Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash

In recent years, we’ve all seen articles spouting lofty predictions claiming that this year (insert any of 2017, 2018, 2019…) will be the year of voice. Now, I’m not suggesting that 2020 will finally be ‘the year’, far from it. Nevertheless, we have found ourselves in circumstances that can only accelerate uptake in the use of voice assistants, particularly within our homes.

Since April, more than one-half of the world’s population has been living under some form of lockdown or government restriction. …


The quest to re-discover what makes Snickers “Snickers”

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Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Over the past 90 years, Snickers has cemented itself as one of the world’s most recognizable brands and most-loved chocolate bars. No matter where you are on the planet, you are almost sure to find a Snickers bar in your nearest supermarket, grocery, or corner store.

However, 15 years ago, Snickers was going through a crisis of branding. The company’s ads, which for decades had been the bedrock of the brand's success, were an ill-defined, shambolic mess, and had lost much of their impact.

Snickers’ infamous “Manly” Superbowl ad from 2007 paints a perfect picture of a once-powerhouse marketing department that had sadly lost its way. …

About

James Nicol

London-based writer, researcher, media professional

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