Why We Have Fireworks

and The Idea Enthusiast Weekly, July 3 2019

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Why we have fireworks

In advance of the 4th of July, I’ve been reading up on the origin of fireworks. You’d think it would be an American story, seeing as how we love our rockets and bombs (as George Carlin used to say, we have the only national anthem that mentions them). However, not the case!

The earliest documentation of these “recreational explosives” dates back to the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty in China. That discovery owes it’s history to the development of gunpowder, from experimentation in Chinese alchemy by Taoists in the pursuit of immortality. Gunpowder is regarded as one of the “Four Great Inventions” of China. All great ideas come something else, it seems.

Along the way, they evolved. In the 1700s, the Italians figured out how to add color to exploding fireworks by tinkering with some of the chemical combinations. Blue is the hardest color to make, by the way. At the same time, the Germans focused on technological advancement, helping to introduce different shapes or pyrotechnic effects. All this was done for different reason in different societies throughout history. Originally, the Chinese thought fireworks helped scare off evil spirits from family events. The English used them to precede Royal appearances. In America, they’re most associated with their first appearance stateside, Independence Day, or that time we set off to be our own thing.

We go on the same journey in our lives. We set off to be our own thing. Why we do it (and how we do it) is constantly changing and evolving. When we think of fireworks, we usually focus on the overall spectacle: big, colorful, loud, up high. But just as important is what fireworks signify: every once in a while, remember to stop, watch, and celebrate.

Happy 4th.

The Challenge Mindset

The incredible creative power of the index card. Author Ryan Holiday has used over 10,000 4x6in white notecards as the backbone of 10 books and a million words of published prose.

The accidental invention of the Super Soaker. A story that I relate in all my workshops, Lonnie Johnson was a NASA scientist working on an experiment for the Air Force when he discovered his $80 Million idea.

Blowing up the “Fail Fast” manifesto. Evernote (the program this newsletter is assembled in), burst onto the smartphone scene in 2004. But since then, it has entered a prolonged “death spiral”, a cautionary tail against the old “move fast and break things” mantra of Silicon Valley.

Beating the traffic. Ultrarunner Michael Wardian takes on all 89.9 miles of the DC Beltway, on the hottest day of the year. Only took 17 hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds.

When the surgeon becomes the patient. Mehra Golshan is a surgical oncologist at Harvard Medical School. After 16 years of practicing medicine, he received a colon cancer diagnosis and realized he knew very little about being on the receiving end of news he’s delivered to thousands of patients.

How to stop measuring yourself against others. 5 behaviors to elevate the the comparison game to a useful artform.


The 5 habits of design thinking. (Not to be confused with the 5 Ds).

Your team sprint is done, what comes next?

Discovery. It’s more art than science. Or is it? A CFA’s perspective.

Diverge. A one-hour content idea generation process.

Debate. How to critique what you see, lessons from street photography.

Develop. A “pretty shite” prototype of a fitness app (and that’s the point)

Demo. Two pitchdeck outlines, one for customers, one for donors.

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