Contextualise


Knowing what to read is half the battle. Too much of what we consume is the mental equivalent of junk food.

We generally consume the lessons other people have learnt in the form of a list and are void of the context in which this information was thought of. We are not getting the experience or the reflection that person had.

We are getting an illusion of the knowledge but not the depth and meaning behind it. One way in which to develop a depth of knowledge in a subject is to research and read various texts on the subject, offering a multitude of perspectives. In today’s world of social media addiction, too much of the information consumed is in the form of short messages/ captions/ images or twitter feeds; which offer us the highlights of information but not insight or context to appreciate the real meaning or depth of the subject.


Pondering...

The Diderot effect is a social phenomenon related to consumer goods. It is based on two ideas. The first idea is that goods purchased by consumers will be cohesive to their sense of identity, and as a result, will be complementary to one another. The second idea states that the introduction of a new possession that is deviant from the consumer's current complementary goods can result in a process of spiraling consumption.

The term was coined by anthropologist and scholar of consumption patterns Grant McCracken in 1988, and is named after the French philosopher Denis Diderot (1713–1784), who first described the effect in an essay. Diderot was 52 years old and his daughter was about to be married, but he could not afford to provide a dowry. Despite his lack of wealth, Diderot’s name was well-known because he was the co-founder and writer of Encyclopédie, one of the most comprehensive encyclopedias of the time.

When Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia, heard of Diderot’s financial troubles she offered to buy his library from him for £1000 GBP, which is approximately $50,000 USD in 2015 dollars.

Suddenly, Diderot had money to spare.

Shortly after this lucky sale, Diderot acquired a new scarlet robe. That's when everything went wrong

Diderot’s scarlet robe was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that he immediately noticed how out of place it seemed when surrounded by the rest of his common possessions. In his words, there was “no more coordination, no more unity, no more beauty” between his robe and the rest of his items. The philosopher soon felt the urge to buy some new things to match the beauty of his robe.

He replaced his old rug with a new one from Damascus. He decorated his home with beautiful sculptures and a better kitchen table. He bought a new mirror to place above the mantle and his “straw chair was relegated to the antechamber by a leather chair.”

These reactive purchases have become known as the Diderot Effect.

The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption which leads you to acquire more new things. As a result, we end up buying things that our previous selves never needed to feel happy or fulfilled.

Can you think of an occasion whereby you were satisfied with a possession, but when you replaced it with a new one, it led to multiple other purchases?

Life has a natural tendency to become filled with more. We are rarely looking to downgrade, to simplify, to eliminate, to reduce. Our natural inclination is always to accumulate, to add, to upgrade, and to build upon.

One of the simplest ways to counter the Diderot effect is to eliminate the cues

that leads us to acquire more.

Live a carefully constrained life by creating limitations for you to operate within.


Thought-provoking...

The world will do a lot of the work for us if we only align with how it works and stop fighting it. Most of the time we want the world to work differently so we work against it. What Tussman really does is identify a leverage point.

Leverage amplifies an input to provide greater output.

To make ourselves more effective we need to understand the models in which a particular process works and work with those models.

Reduce friction, find the tailwinds of life to make the journey a little easier.

Working hard and being busy is not enough. Most people are taking two steps forward and one step back. They’re busy, but they haven’t moved anywhere.

When we don’t understand the way the world intends the process to work we end up doing half the job in twice the time.

We need to work smarter not harder.


Wisdom/ What I'm Reading...

What the dog saw And Other Adventures - Malcolm Gladwell

A collection of many of his published New Yorker articles, all in one book. The book discussed psychology, children, war, politics, dogs (of course), and many other subjects and subcultures.

All articles clearly demonstrate the inquisitive mind and quick wit of Gladwell.

In 1971, a sociologist named Murray Davis published a classic paper that opened with these two lines:

"It has long been thought that a theorist is considered great because his theories are true, but this is false. A theorist is considered great, not because his theories are true, but because they are interesting."


Davis argued that the difference between the dull and the interesting lies in the element of surprise. When an idea affirms what we already believe, we're bored -- we call it obvious. But when an idea is counterintuitive, we're intrigued. Our curiosity is piqued, and we're motivated to ask questions: how could this be? Is it really true? What else might this explain?


Challenging our assumptions is what Malcolm Gladwell does best.

Malcolm Gladwell is one of the few authors in the business literature domain who has truly mastered the art of storytelling. His dexterity in taking the veil off the underlying truths while capturing the imagination of the reader is commendable.

‘What the Dog Saw’ is a compilation of his favorite essays he has contributed to The New Yorker over the years.

My favorite one of these is:

The Ketchup Conundrum

The Story. “Mustard now comes in dozens of varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same?”


The context:

Grey Poupon claimed a sizable share of the mustard market from French only through clever market segmentation and advertising.


A ketchup entrepreneur Jim Wigon, who (we’re told) “wanted to create the Grey Poupon of ketchup”, with his aptly named, World’s Best Ketchup.

The story of World’s Best Ketchup cannot properly be told without a man from White Plains, New York, named Howard Moskowitz, A food-tester and market-researcher who created campaigns for Pepsi and Prego.

Here’s the titular ketchup conundrum, in a nutshell. Mustard, soda, pasta sauce all benefit from something that’s now intuitive, which Moskowitz helped re-formalize for the industrial food business: to each his own taste. Consequently, in food, it is better to be a pluralist than a Platonist. As Gladwell writes, “There was no such thing as the perfect Diet Pepsi. They should have been looking for the perfect Diet Pepsis.”

Most foods benefit from a variety of tastes and types, simply because we have varied tastes.

Ketchup is the exception that proves, tests, strains, and finally appears to break the rule. There is a perfect ketchup, and it appears to be Heinz.

Ketchup perfectly balances “the five fundamental tastes in the human palate: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.”

most people began talking about umami because of Malcolm Gladwell.

The world only knows one Ketchup. In a world of infinite options and varieties it seems, Ketchup has stood the test of unique singularity, maybe because sometimes humans prefer the tried and tested as opposed to variety.

Once you start looking for the sources of human variability, though, the old orthodoxy goes out the window.

Read the essay here

Read the book here


About Malcolm

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers — The Tipping Point, Blink,Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.


Widget Of The Week...

Documentary Film’s FREE SOLO, a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock.

The 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope.

Celebrated as one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, Honnold’s climb set the ultimate standard: perfection or death. Succeeding in this challenge, Honnold enters his story in the annals of human achievement. FREE SOLO is both an edge-of-your seat thriller and an inspiring portrait of an athlete who exceeded our current understanding of human physical and mental potential. The result is a triumph of the human spirit.

Watch the incredible feat here.

Before he accomplished the feat on June 3, 2017, Honnold spent nearly a decade thinking about the climb and more than a year and a half planning and training for it.

The most amazing piece of this story is the dedication, grit and commitment that Alex Honnold has during the lead up to the incredible climb.

He lives in a camper bus (all the time) has no distraction and is Vegan with a very controlled diet.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JIMMY CHIN

Explore more here


Honnold peers over the edge of Taft Point, across the Yosemite Valley from the granite escarpment known as El Capitan. Each year Honnold devotes several months to climbing the park’s iconic walls and boulders. “Yosemite,” he says, “is my favorite place in the whole world.”


Step outside your fear...