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SYNG

How to Lead With Curiosity

All the major breakthroughs and inventions in the history of the world derive from one thing: curiosity. As defined by Mirriam-Webster, curiosity is the desire to know and I would add that it is inherently intrinsic to who we are as a species.

Curiosity is linked to all aspects of human development and it’s what allows us to acquire knowledge and skills so we can support our lives and have an impact on the world around us.

It inspires us to ask questions we want to understand something, create something original, or solve a difficult problem. This is why curiosity has led to so many wonderful breakthroughs because it’s not too far apart from creativity. In fact, it fuels it.

As humans, we have an instinctive desire to seek and explore. It’s a natural, insatiable drive that we should prioritize as much as any other drive because it can lead us to greatness in all aspects of life.

The question I want to work with today is this: if curiosity leads to breakthrough innovations, unbound creativity, and transformative ideas, why aren’t we all tapping into this powerful asset?

The Fear of Saying “I Don’t Know”

Saying “I don’t know” is something most people tend to avoid like the plague. But why is that? What is wrong with admitting that you don’t know everything? Absolutely nothing. Not knowing is a positive. In fact, it opens us up to possibilities.

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer.”

Richard Feynman

What happens when we ignore something? We take steps to seek the information we need and we end up learning a lot more than we originally intended to.

As Chamath Palihapitiya said, “It’s really powerful to be able to say ‘I don’t know’. American culture is this weird thing of know-it-alls. When is learning going to be valuable?”

What We Are Taught About Failure

If you remember what it was like to be a child or if you’ve had the chance to observe a child, then you already know how much curiosity we have in those early years.

Sir Ken Robinson has a great story about this, “A little 6-year-old girl was in a drawing lesson and she was in the back drawing. The teacher was fascinated by it because the little girl could never pay attention so she went over to ask what the girl was drawing. The girl answered, ‘I’m drawing a picture of God’. And the teacher said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like’, to which the girl said ‘Well, they will in a minute.’

When children don’t know something, they simply take a stab at it because they are not afraid of being wrong. That’s why they are so creative! If you are not prepared for failure, how can you expect to come up with anything original?

By the time we grow up and become adults, we become scared of being wrong, and that’s why there are so many leaders out there who stigmatize mistakes and failure.

This is how people are educated out of their creative potential because we are taught to stick to the left side of our brains, but in doing that, we stop questioning things.

The Work Culture Issue

Work culture often consists of an incentive structure that is set up to stifle and silence curiosity and creativity. However, as Elon Musk has said, “The massive thing that can be done is to make sure that your incentive structure is such that innovation is rewarded and not punished.”

When curiosity is incentivized, innovations occur left and right, so people rise through the ranks and meet their goals a lot faster. As a result, the organization thrives more than ever before.

So, you can see how our curiosity is silenced by external forces since we are children, but that changes today. From this moment on, you are going to turn things around.

Take the stigma and fear out of not knowing and turn it into a positive because that allows you to honor your curiosity by wondering, investigating, exploring, and learning.

What Does This Mean for Your Organization?

When you learn to say “I don’t know” you go from being the carrier of knowledge to being the person who asks interesting questions, and that is a lot more valuable than we’re taught to believe.

One of my favorite things to say in meetings or conversations is “I don’t know, what do you think?” This propels the conversation, leads to collaboration, and it allows you to empower people.

When you stop offering solutions, in the words of Michael Bungay Stanier, “You begin to empower people not by giving them the answer, but by helping them find their own answer. Not by holding onto control, but by giving up some of it and inviting others to sept in and step up.”

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SYNG

Forget the T-shaped skillset: Try being a comb instead!

Landing your first job might be tricky if you don’t have a specific skill set, but you know what? Getting hired with a plethora of skills is even more challenging contrary to what you might think. More means more chances of getting noticed by the hiring manager, right? No.  

Don’t sweat it; I’ve been there, done that. I’ve field-tested and learnt what works the hard way, so you don’t have to. And that’s what we will explore in this article. How to pass the recruitment process like a silk scarf through an engagement ring when you are a comb? It’s the Indian rope trick equivalent, except you get hired at the end, and no one disappears.

Here is what you will take away from this article:

  • What are the different types of skill sets, and which one is right for you?
  • How to show up in front of potential recruiters / hiring managers? 
  • What to put on your resume?
  • How to get work? The dos and don’ts of being a comb.

Before we dive into the differences, let’s clearly define each of these concepts. There are three commonly known skill sets T-shape, Pi shape and Comb shape. But, for this article, I’m going to make a case for the comb because I want you to aim higher than lower.

The short version goes like this. 

One area of expertise: You’re a T

Two areas of expertise: You’re a Pi

Multiple areas of expertise: You’re a champion (or a comb)

I would argue that a polymath is the embodiment of a comb. Did I lose you there? It’ll make sense in a minute. Hang tight. First, here’s a good definition of T-shape by Jason Yip:

Image source.

“A T-shaped person is capable in many things and expert in, at least, one.

As opposed to an expert in one thing (I-shaped) or a “jack of all trades, master of none” generalist, a “t-shaped person” is an expert in at least one thing but also somewhat capable in many other things. An alternate phrase for “t-shaped” is “generalizing specialist”.”

Jason Yip

Being a comb comes from combining several T’s, meaning you have expertise in multiple verticals and a multi-disciplinary approach. Full-stack, baby!

Cariel Cohen captures it quite well in his article here.

When you have a T-skillset, you become confined in a uni-dimensional box- a niche. You might know the whole ball of wax about it, but you are entirely clueless about other skills related to your career. And that’s where being a comb helps you bridge the gap. And that’s what we are doing here. 

Some areas where T-shaped works better than anything else include specialized doctors, lawyers, athletes and professors.

A T-shape skilled person is ideal for filling a role in a large company because all the skills are distributed, and you act as a cog in a piece of large machinery. 

On the other hand, Combs prefer to take on more responsibility and are usually leading companies or teams because they have a knack for understanding and solving complex situations and problems. 

Disclaimer: Agreed, this can sound a bit overwhelming to a few and being a comb can be challenging! It’s also not for everyone. There is no one right way. However, if there’s a spark, then I encourage you to read on.

You’ve probably heard the most famous and familiar quote used in arguments for specialist vs generalist: Jack of all trades master of none. Yep, that one! It’s factually incorrect. The complete sentiment goes as: 

A jack of all trades is a master of none but often better than a master of one.

To be a comb, you need to be hyper-curious, live in the nuance and the chaos. It would help if you got away from the mindset that you are only required to excel in one field and not know a dime about others. 

Elon Musk is a comb. He has disrupted banking, rockets, the auto industry, ai, and so on. 

The biggest challenge of getting hired is when you’re a comb, provided that is your predicament.

It is about time we address the disclaimer given earlier. While it gives you a competitive edge, the considerable skill knowledge can act against you too! 

Wonder how? Well, it’s from the hiring manager’s perspective. The wide range of skills leaves the potential employer baffled as to where to fit you. The only way out, according to them, is simply negating your application. 

And here is how you will play a different hand! Look, talk, behave like a T-shaped skill person when preparing your resumes and giving interviews. Acting like a T early in the conversation is to eliminate the decision-making fatigue for the recruiter. You’re thinking from the hiring manager’s perspective and making it easy for them to hire you. You’re giving them evidence to solve a problem they have. 

However, that doesn’t mean you will have to act like a T all the time. Once you have landed a job, start being a comb by taking an interest, being curious, and demonstrating your expertise in every facet of the role, team, and company you sit within.

How will the employer or the organization take it? If you’ve played your cards right, slowly but steadily, you’ll sit at the heart of several functions and projects, making you indispensable and the ideal candidate for a promotion.

There you have it! You’ve either come out wanting nothing to do with combs, or the torn voice inside your brain which desired more has finally discovered its path and place in the world.

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SYNG

The Art of Remote Storytelling

Virtually presenting your creative ideas and telling engaging stories can be limiting and challenging. Most people observe passively and multitask in the background adding to your frustration. Is there a way to get noticed and replicate the in-person experience remotely, influencing and winning the audience? Don’t sweat, I’ve done the leg work and have got you covered. 

Calling out the audience in the room.

The medium of communication may be different, but one element remains unchanged: people. And, since the dawn of time, people have loved telling and listening to stories. Ironically, filmmakers have mastered the art of telling people stories on a screen! Imagine if Hollywood directors and editors, the likes of Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrik, were guiding and helping you execute a virtual presentation. 

Park yourself in a comfortable chair, kick your feet up, make some popcorn. Let’s dive into the 3 acts of preparing, delivering and closing virtual presentations like a boss (cue drum roll).

Prepare.

Tell a story without slides.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s to stop prioritizing your PowerPoint slides and focus your efforts on content and storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, professionally designed slides are a great tool, but no one cares if you spent 3 hours selecting the perfect sans serif font and shade of incarnadine on the cover. How many big-budget production-heavy movies can you think of that tanked at the box office? My point precisely. Your audience will remember the story you told and how you made them feel. 

Begin by thinking like a movie director and an editor. You’re taking the audience on a journey from point A to B, so be surgical and omit the riff-raff. Zero in on what emotions you’d like people to experience during and after the meeting. Ever come out of a full-day session feeling charged up and ready to tackle the world or come out of a 30-minute rant and felt drained?

Apply the simple three-act story arc to your presentation with a beginning, middle and end. Open by drawing your audience into your big ideas. Think of this as your hook point. Next, why should they care, and what will be the reward at the end? Heck, spice it up and throw in a plot twist. Five-finger discounts, anyone? 

Get into your audience’s head.

We love talking about ourselves, our process, our charts, our projections, our slides and spraying the room with our industry lingo. I’ve been there, guilty as charged.

In your next meeting, flip the switch, think about your audience’s experience – their needs, fears, challenges and what drives and excites them. Use their words and lingo. Win them over emotionally, and they’ll rationalize analytically. 

For example, even before the meeting day, level-set your audience expectations by adding the high-level schedule in the calendar invite, just like a snappy movie trailer. 

Your first assistant director or moderator

If possible, get someone on your team to help moderate and scribe. From giving others screen sharing permissions, muting guests (we’ve all been there) to scribing and noting action items, a moderator can help keep the conversation on track. This way, you can remain focused on storytelling.

Deliver.

Warm up the crowd. Get ’em stretching, literally.

Empathy reels them in. Depending on the time of day, duration of your scheduled meeting and context, use the first few minutes to make small talk (ice breakers) get people out of their chairs to stretch, drink water, eat something or use the bathroom. You don’t know how their day has been leading up to your presentation—ever heard of Zoom fatigue? By having empathy for your audience, changing their physiological state, you’ll make them far more receptive to your ideas. 

Use these initial minutes to share your meeting structure and set some simple ground rules. A few examples include: 

  1. People should say their names before they speak. 
  2. Have attendees drop their questions in the chat window to be addressed at the allocated time of the session (your first assistant director can help prioritize them). 
  3. Set roundtable checkpoints with key decision-makers to ensure they get a chance to speak. 

By doing the above, you keep everyone engaged and add transparency to the conversation.

Help people imagine. Think like a sound designer.

You ranted for an hour, and towards the end, during QA, one could hear the crickets in the hollowing silence. Can everyone hear you, and are they listening? Someone famous once said, “people see with their ears.” To keep your audience engaged, speak in a clear and balanced voice. Limit talking to short bursts of one to two minutes. Pace yourself and take deliberate pauses to emphasize specific points. Ever heard Obama recite a speech? Sprinkle in anecdotes and experiences. Nostalgia can be even more powerful than memory.

Remove any audio distractions (do the best you can with your situation): mute cell phones and other electronics, schedule your child’s trombone practice in the next room before or after your meeting. Sound about right?

Technology is wallpaper. Ten tips, tricks and hacks!

Your tech and production should work comfortably in the background. Here are some simple tips in no specific order. 

1. Stick to the technology you know well or, better yet, learn what your audience uses.

2. Despite preparation, there could be unforeseen hiccups. So be prepared to go without your slides. 

3. If you’re using Zoom, when setting up your meeting, select the “Mute upon entry” option. This ensures you avoid disrupting the flow of your presentation.

4. Turn on your camera and frame yourself. Sit bang centre of the screen and have the camera be at eye level (throw some books under that laptop). Have the light source be in front of you, so your face is lit up properly. Occasionally look into the camera. 

5. Get that sweet podcast voice. Connect an external mic to improve the fundamentals in your voice and reduce the echoey sounds. 

6. Clean up your background. Get rid of laundry or any distracting elements. Zoom backgrounds are great, but keep it simple and avoid overdoing them. 

7. Connect and use a secondary monitor so you can have easy access to your notes, chat window and any additional presentation materials ready to go.

8. Practice and test before. You can also start the meeting early with your moderator to iron out any issues. 

9. Be mindful and keep meetings short. Schedule multiple if necessary. 

10. Consider the different time zones when scheduling and send passwords in advance.

Close.

Give people time back in the day. 

Take deep dives offline, being mindful of others. With the help of your first assistant director (moderator/scribe), share notes, action items, next steps, roles and responsibilities etc., immediately after the meeting while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. Then, schedule a follow-up (include movie trailer).

Remember, your story will make or break the presentation. Be ready to scrap your slides. Have empathy for your audience, keep it short and sweet – staying razor-sharp focused on their experience. And finally, no one can read 12 point font on your slides, bruh! 

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SYNG

Missed Connections — Short Film Series

Hello and welcome! Everyone is trying to cope with the current strange situation in their own way. I’m making a series of short films. Why am I making films? Have I made some already? Where am I posting them? Who watches them? Should you be watching them? Feeling anxious and excited? Don’t sweat or panic; I’ll explain everything.

The short version. Start watching.

The long version. You and I are going to be looking back at this blip and have worthy historical stories (hopefully nothing traumatic). I’m doing and making something positive we can look back at and be like, “remember how we made a cool short film during that time…”

Let’s dive right into it now. Are you familiar with Craigslist, Missed Connections? If not, check out this page. In a nutshell, these are stories people post anonymously. They missed an opportunity — stories of individuals who had a chance to make a connection with another human but lost it — ever swiped left to life? It’s not platonic if that’s what you were wondering.

I find them to be relatable and nothing short of a mental tickle. Last year, I turned these stories into graphics on my Instagram page.

Now, I’m making these anonymous posts into a series of short films. By short, I mean no more than 60 seconds. Did you watch them on Youtube yet?

Oh, Paul! This is SO cool! You’re so cool. How can I get involved? My voice is no David Attenborough, but I did make that speech at the park, by the sand pit, in the general direction of people. One kid was paying close attention only for me to realise later there was a butterfly in my hair.

Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested. You can read through some of these anonymous stories (they are from the Toronto area, but you can pick any city of your liking). If you want to tell your own story, heck, I’m open to that provided you can keep it under forty seconds.

If you choose to go the Craigslist route, we can shortlist 1–3 stories (or as many or little as you like). Friends who have recorded them say it took them roughly 2 minutes per account as they recorded each story a few times to get the rhythm right.

Rhythm? Turn off the mental alarm bells. All that means is you’re reading them as if you are the person writing it with natural pauses to sound like a human and not a digital assistant.

To record on your iPhone all you need is the default installed Voice memos app and a closet. Pretty sure Android phones have an equivalent.

Paul, I love what you’re doing and would prefer to enjoy it as an audience. That’s awesome! Subscribe to my Youtube channel, hit the bell notification and sit back in your easy chair and enjoy the series. No hard feelings, bruh!

And lastly, this is a not-for-profit side project. In other words, no money will be changing hands. I’m happy to share your social channel (of choice) in the video description.

Email me: paul@syng.cc if you’re interested ;–)

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SYNG

What’s in your pockets?

With only thirty minutes left to the day, exhausted, I’ve decided to write you a detailed description of the contents of my pockets.

In my left pant pocket, there are receipts from Starbucks; I drank Americano with honey and almond milk during the day. A Tall Blonde Latte made with almond milk in the evening. There was an egg and sausage wrap involved.

The shirt pocket has my lunch receipt from work. Fish, jerk chicken and daal, if you were curious. Can’t complain, right?

Back pants pockets are reserved for my phone and wallet — only while standing or on the move, never sitting down. On digging further I recovered lint, cat hair and a cineplex ticket.

The small pocket intended for watches has loose change comprising of 3 quarters, a loonie and a dime.

Bet you didn’t notice I went to the movie alone.

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SYNG

Why Designers Are Good Pickup Artists

nochance

The number one trait that makes designers and pick up artists siblings from different mothers is their ability to instigate, favourable behaviour, emotions in the end user (which can be a girl they just met or the end customer they want in their sales funnel). Wait, what? That’s possible? But Paul, not all designers are extroverted or have the necessary social calibration to approach girls on the street.

Designers do it through their work- an arresting poster, a book jacket cover, interactions embedded into an app on your phone, provocative evening dress made for the gala, a piece of furniture or architecture and so on. Pick up artists do it through sub communications, while opening and engaging with the opposite sex.

“Hey! You’re hot! But looks are commodity! I’m hoping there’s something more to you and you’re not boring?”

Translate to branding or the design industry at large, echoes of “lipstick on the gorilla” or “lipstick on a pig” reverberate when design has only cosmetic impact. The ensuing argument suggest that design be meaningful and built on true insights- which comes from research, fact-finding, discovery, interviews, user tests and so on.


While designers use typography, colours, images, materials and visuals to make even the most mundane subject exciting, pick up artists use voice modulation, body language and vibe to spike a conversation.


The next thing which good pickup artists and designers have in common is their ability to convey intent. Clarity in communication is key to a successful design work and pick up. Why you need this product or service? What do I want from you?

Guiding users through a complex task on a website with seamless interactions is good user experience design. Leading the conversation, passing shit tests and moving the girl one step closer towards a date or phone number close is good game.

Lastly, good pickup artists and design leaders are equipped with emotional intelligence. They are not only able to guide thinking by listening and being aware of their surroundings and constantly reading/catching a user/girl/customer’s true emotions but being self-aware and congruent in approach.

In conclusion, designers and pick up artists are designing and driving the human experience.


Written for Threadless

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SYNG

Five Life Lessons My Coach Taught Me

ALI

Last month I crossed 500 days of training milestone, while raising my one rep deadlift max to an all-new 300lb. To set the record straight and avoid the ire of fitness elite, I do Crossfit on alternate days of the week.

(Spoiler: Completing x-days has never been and never was the objective. It happens to be a point of reflection.)

Only on retrospection, I realised the life-changing impact my coach (personal trainer) had made, which got me typing up this essay in an effort to share my journey of messy to sassy.

By any stretch of imagination — if — in the process, this 1000 word circuit motivates one more person, triggering a domino effect, I would brandish it a victory.

With that said, I believe you can’t convince someone into habitual training and fitness. Motivation for choosing a healthier path has to come from a voice within. For others, like myself, who can’t take a hint, having one’s body punch them in the face is reason enough.

Black-eye later.

The calling card came early 2015 disguised in shoulder and neck pain. A consequence of long hours at my desk doing client work I no longer enjoyed and the lack of inertia-destabilising physical activity.

Sagar (My Coach/PT)

Knowing I had let the problem drift beyond my steering capacity, it was time to seek help.

The world conspired and I found myself standing face-to-face with Sagar (my Coach/PT).

At first, Sagar ignored my offer reading my laid-back disposition for lack of motivation.

Only after constant begging, pleading and requests did Sagar give me a chance, taking the helm of my wavering ship.

And you’ll see why this detail is relevant in lesson four.

What happened next can only be put in the realm of stratosphere shattering.

Except we’re talking about getting my ass handed to me and there’s no sign of stratosphere or an inspiring visual of SpaceX rocket levitating into space, only balls and their shattering.


</shatteredballs.jpg image url missing>


→1. Embrace Shortcomings Not Shortcuts

On day one, instead of lifting weights or having me crank into a Jean-Claud Van Damme epic splits (Watch clip), Sagar put me through his “try-out” routine.

By undergoing a series of tests aimed at understanding my physical limitations, strength, stamina, mobility, and pain points, Sagar, like a patient physics professor, calibrated to my state.

The trial reacquainted me with what being “normal” should feel like.

Post initial assessment, we talked fitness goals, objectives, and the bigger picture. Did I want to be a powerlifter, bodybuilder, athlete or just stay in shape?

With being fit and healthy on priority, in the absence of aesthetics, Sagar drew a roadmap for the year ahead geared towards my fitness goals. This programme entailed rebuilding from the ground up.

Little had I known what Sagar had in mind.

We spent the first six months in the studio without ever touching a machine, working only on technique, form, breathing, posture and strengthening the core. Correct walking and running movements using the body’s natural elastic were introduced. Who knew?

Throughout, there was focus on process and wellness as a way of life. And over time, conversations shifted from rehabilitation to how can this became a way of life?

We did it by reframing the role and place fitness should have in one’s life, banishing an afterthought approach.

I learned to look my weaknesses square in the eye and turn them into strengths. Pull-ups anyone?


→2. Show Up No Matter What

Each class would begin by Sagar conversing and gauging my mental state. Knowing my lack of discipline and inherit lazy nature, Sagar got inventive and reframed my goals.

“Just show up to the gym and leave the rest to me,” or being the reassuring voice over my shoulder, “do your-today’s-best”.

Not realising, at the time, Sagar had disciplined me by breaking down a fitness mountain into a habit-inducing five-pound dumbbell.

“80 percent of success is showing up”―Woody Allen

I wouldn’t be lying if I told you the first few months were tough and sometimes boring simply because I was performing repetitive movements, training muscle memory.

I learned, the hard way, fitness isn’t just lifting weights and sweating it out running aimlessly.

By putting in the work and showing up day by day I had not only inched my way physically but become mentally stronger and habitual to the newfangled practice.

In your face fight-or-flight response.


→3. Aim Higher But Celebrate Small Wins

Without sounding like a squat rack, six months in, biomechanics, kinesthetics, mobility, nutrition, hydration, cross-functional, mobility and grunts became familiar sounds. As a rule of thumb, I refrain from speaking in mind-numbing fitness code.

How would “Joey” say this?

Underpinned by wellness as the cause and effect we had gone from doing basic movements, correct warm up and cool down, single exercises to completing a circuit. Cardiovascular and overall muscular strength and stamina had seen tremendous progress. Insert Zen-master proportions of epic patience here.

Finishing a workout for the first time was a big deal.

On these rare occasions Sagar would pull out his notes and walk me through progress made, reaffirming my belief system by celebrating different stages on the progress bar.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once the belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen”―Muhammed Ali


→4. Respect People’s Time And Your Own

“I don’t get/have time to workout” or “Next week is when I start” or “I’m busy with work all day” or “I’m asexual” or “(insert reason for not taking action here)” and so on with the time excuse parade.

“Action expresses priorities.”―Mahatma Gandhi

If you don’t respect your own time no-one else will. Flake one too many times and find yourself chopped from Sagar’s training calendar. He’d do it without flinching irrespective of your bank balance, popularity or place in government.


Let’s take a moment and address the “busy” right now.

We’re often caught up doing things we don’t like, dropping a yes when it should be a steer-clear no or “busy” exercising people-pleasing. Of the finite time we all have on earth, every second, minute and hour spent doing shit you don’t want is a slice of what you could have been doing instead.

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”―John Wooden

Kissing that cute girl from yoga class at the party is what your night would have entailed had you not signed up for “How to Pet Your Lonely Cat” the previous evening to help save your friend’s depleting relationship with the cat lady. You don’t even have a cat.


→5. Magic Happens Past Your Comfort Zone

Christoph Niemann has the perfect analogy. You’re trainer is interpreting an effortless workout for lack of trying. That being said, as humans, we seek out paths of least resistance.

Watching obscure Eastern European television depicting cats in dresses on failing to fetch the remote at arm’s length ring a bell? Thinking too far ahead being the nagging cousin.

The world of Product Design thrives on lazy. Designers dumb down the steps taken by a user to get the job done. Effortlessly push a Facebook or Twitter button on signup (*seen next on SQUAD) or buy something using Apple Pay or a Paypal checkout on Pornhub.

Coming back now.

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried…” ―Theodore Roosevelt

Pushing past your comfort zone has to be the most important lesson to come out of training. The regret of not doing anything, for years, knowing my body craved the attention will always be motivation to keep pushing.

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SYNG

What’s the Indian rope trick have in common with picking up girls?

Senior Designer, Brand Designer, Experience Designer, Art Director, Creative Director, Branding, Brand Consultant, Brand Strategy, Brand Architecture, Brand Engagement, Brand Experience Design, Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Freelance Designer, Freelance Graphic Designer, Freelance Web Designer, Packaging Designer, Poster Design, Album Cover Design, Branded Environment Design, Environmental Graphics, Signage & Wayfinding, Logo Design, Brandmark, Brand Identity, Brand Driver, Brand Positioning, Naming, Verbal Branding, Visual Driver, Brand Guidelines, Book Cover Design, Editorial Design, Lookbook Design, Communication Design, Copywriter, Blogger, Brand Design Studio, Toronto, Downtown Toronto, New York, New York City, NYC, TDOT, GQ

For many years, people from across the world have travelled to Indian shores to witness a fakir climb miraculously his way up a rope that disappears into the thin sky above. Only to reappear minutes later from behind the crowd to everyone’s shock and loud applause.

Indian men, ever since, have developed a natural knack for a putting on a show. The only rational equivalent, for the sake of my argument, to the Indian rope trick is when an Indian man walks into a bar, approaches gorgeous women, walks out with a bunch of phone numbers and a girl in each arm.

The audience, including you, not only left shocked and amazed but also often left women-less. Don’t sweat, I’ve prepared a tandoori platter of dating tips that’ll have women eating from the palm of your hands. Couldn’t help the inane reference there.

Here’s what you need to know about an Indian man’s dating game.

First and foremost. Drop the plan. I’ve gone through my share of endless “game-plan” oriented dating websites, books and manuals. All those got me were nights alone at home with a beer and stale nachos from the night before.

Coming back home to an empty couch on several occasions, I can assure you that plans don’t work. Here’s why. You’ll have way too much noise bothering you throughout the encounter and have you waiting for the “supposedly” right signals.
And this is one of the major differences in an Indian man’s game. He has no plan. Don’t believe me, look at the Indian infrastructure. We do first, plan later. A famous quote from an Indian businessman, Ratan Tata will elucidate my argument-

“I don’t believe in taking the right decisions.. I take decisions and then try to make them right..” So always believe in your ability and efforts… ”

Here’s what you can learn from that old chestnut. Go out there without a plan, a clear head so to speak and just be yourself. If your funny, be that funny man. Oh, and by the way, women love a guy who can make them laugh their way into bed.

How would you do this? Simple. Think spontaneous, go-with-the-flow, making something absolutely boring exciting and paying close attention to her mood. Let’s say, you pick her up at 7:30 for a dinner and movie. Quite routine, ordinary or run of the mill. Right? Imagine, going bowling the same night (because you paid attention when her mood was clearly not in for Titanic 3D for the 5th time). Or ever seen stars in movies pull up at the airport and book tickets to the first plane that leaves. That!

If you’re not the adventurous sort, taking simpler steps will give you the confidence to do something novel later. To effectively pull of the (no-plan-plan) is to listen very carefully of all the things she has on the bucket list. Like, if she doesn’t like texting, drop in at her place, call her by the large mango tree (for the sake of argument, she has a large tree at the edge of her lawn) and hold her hand, look into her eyes (like a 5 year old boy who’s just discovered dad’s secret porn stash) evade being caught by her dad and maybe even sneak up to her bedroom.

One particular incident I can recollect from my past will elucidate this concept. So, there we were, a bunch of girls and boys, having a pizza and one of the girls started horsing around with me over a slice of pizza. To everyone’s shock and dismay, one thing led to another and we ended up bathing each other with soda that night in clear view of the staff, bystanders, other customers and our remainder friends at the pizza joint. We laughed and people raved about the incident for years. It was random, spontaneous and ballsy because even she didn’t expect anything non-gentlemen like (which men in her life had overdosed her on).

Secondly, women like a guy with balls, the sort who believes in something. It could be anything. As long as the conviction is there she’ll believe you. With our rich heritage and culture, Indian men have a lot going for themselves. Usually, if used in the right dose, it can win over the most difficult girls.

Further perpetuated and personified by our ancestors, grandparents and then the relatives. India, up till now, in large parts is still a land of big families. And a religious boy or the domesticated sort are a favourite with Indian girls (the next tip elaborates a bit on this). She sees you as rooted, God fearing and someone who can shift into several demanding gears that may require for you to juggle kids, her parents and then the household help while negotiating a a business deal with hard-nosed businessman over the phone.

For example. In order for me to explain this concept I will share the most common misbelief amongst men. The bigger his pocket (the more money) or the guy with the bigger car gets more girls. I say rubbish. I’d say most rich boys don’t try to hard because they let their money speak. This, after a couple of months, becomes mundane and boring. She prefers a guy who can speak his mind rather than his wallet. Look at all the artists, musicians, writers (awkward cough*) sporting girls in their arms. You’ll find these girls lost in the eyes of the dreamer.
Thirdly, master the art of perseverance. Most of us give up or retreat, in fear, at an early stage. Women, especially in India, play hard-to-get even if they’re not a 10 or 7.5. The other half fall under the conservative-conventional shell of the Indian society (I don’t speak with strangers or go out sort).

But, I believe (without dabbling into generalization) men are solely to blame for this radical behaviour (it’s the she smiled so I will take her to bed mentality). This not only inflated estrogen balloons but cemented the belief that all men want to get into some pants.

Cut long story short, you could be a player but chances are rejection is on the menu. You must learn to take it slowly and, dare I say this but it bloody well works out here, take the “friendship” route if all else fails. This way one can’t be intimidating the other and it opens up a door to know the person better. But be careful in how you tread on this double edged path (try only rimming the well without actually falling in if you know what I mean).

One tried and tested model that seems to work like a charm 99% of the time under the art of perseverance is flipping the ecosystem. It’s been mastered/perpetuated and thrown around year after year by Bollywood (the Indian Hollywood, duh!). Allow me to explain and break this mystical and magical model in easy, consumable and doable steps.

Let’s say you know a girl from school who also happens to live next door (sort of like an American Pie situation). Now, pay attention closely because it gets a bit tricky here. Get her parents, her friends, her dog, her relatives to fall in love with you. This will make the soil fertile and the ecosystem ripe for you to step in and make the move. In other words, all the “influencers” in her life will vouch for you. Play your cards right and she’ll be the one making the first move.

In conclusion, here’s where I can leave you with a quick recap. Remember to drop the plan and be spontaneous (the do first and make sense later approach), be the versatile social monkey abled to handle all flocks of society in one merry-go-round (without flinching) and mastering the art of perseverance and flipping her ecosystem in your favour should seal the deal (it sort of reminds of that movie “How to lose a guy in 10 days” when McConaughey takes Hudson home). Hmmm…

Published originally on GQ.

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SYNG

Trip to the dentist

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A few days ago I found myself lying down on a rather swanky chair in a dentist’s office. Nope, it wasn’t a root canal but a perspective client seeking some brand restructuring. In these, first-off meetings I like the getting-to-know-the-client-better by stepping into my nosey 12-year-old self with 21 questions routine. To your surprise, the clients quite fancy my enthusiasm.

Alright, an hour into this meeting, I have had my stats pulled up on 42’ LCD, had a sweet foot massage (by getting into one of those overtly priced sofas) and had my x-rays taken just for kicks.

Even though I dread the chair, this was quite a pleasurable experience so far with little clue of what was going to hit me next. As we were about to call it a day, the door to the cabin opened and in came, along with a blast of cool air from the AC, a gorgeous bombshell with long black hair, sharp features, and boy was she tall (6ft give or take), sporting a business suit, juggling a handbag and some files in one hand with the other on the knob.

I hid my boner like a man and climbed off the chair and grabbed my laptop bag. She exchanged words with the doctor. Apparently, she was a consulting dentist as well as (I’m guessing a part-time Penthouse centerfold) but I wouldn’t take the later too seriously for now.

While I stood there with my jaw hanging, boner intact (hid carefully behind my bag) the doctor was kind enough to introduce us both. Although I had undressed her to a black bikini, she looked no less in a suit.

We shook hands and all I could I think off was being spanked like a naughty boy on the swanky lemon green chair behind me. She oozed power and loads of sex. Or maybe thats testosterone talking or my dick but I was alive. The equivalent to how I felt would be running naked in a packed stadium.

Without revealing much (or further making a fool of myself), I walked out the door leaving the two behind. I had only walked a few yards and my phone rang. I so wanted to pause with an excuse and this was my ticket. I paused in the hallway (in play), and it was another client. The conversation pursued while I had my eyes nailed to the doctor’s door, waiting for this lady dentist who had blown my mind to step out. I felt that behind my perverse thoughts, there was something far more beautiful, a connection.

Bang! She stepped out and caught me red-handed staring down at her from across the hall. For a moment, I had goosebumps on my back for the fact that it reminded me of my days in school when I could barely make eye contact with girls.

A three-second eye contact and I looked away (right from the players handbook), continued to walk out towards the parking lot. My car was awaiting my return but my client was still on call. I couldn’t help but pause by an SUV (it reminded me of one I had just like it) and appreciate it, while at the same time, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the girl one more time.

There I was, standing between my other car and this incredible SUV. I could see her walk out the main entrance and walk right up to this SUV and plonk all her stuff on the bonnet. She continued to fiddle while I was on call.

From the corner of my eye, I could sense something in the air, by looking at her nose deep into her bag. I cut the call and walked up to her and blurted the most obvious, “Is this your car?”. Turns out, it was her boyfriends and we had loads to talk about. She wanted me in the cafe (in the hospital lobby) and I didn’t want to come off as desperate weirdo.

She persisted I get a ride in her car for old time’s sake and we could exchange numbers. On this request, I couldn’t help but quietly sneak the keys of my car into my pocket and story up how my friend dropped me off and didn’t show up.

We exchanged numbers and got into the SUV. This was even way hotter than I had previously imagined. Girls behind big wheels have this uncanny ability to make some men extremely horny. While she drove at a steady pace, I couldn’t help but thinking on how wild it would be to park the car and throw yourself on each other and make wild passionate love on the massive back seat.

To that, I only looked out the window and continued to talk about how she fancied creative people. To my surprise, we had this common thirst for art (and maybe wild sex but she didn’t mention anything of it). We reached my office and we shared this awkward, should we hug or shake hands before I’m thrown out of the car moment. I behaved and threw in a handshake/high-five. She left and I sneaked back to the hospital, with a friend, to pick up my car.

A week later, I called her up on the offer but the tables had turned. I’m guessing she stumbled upon my blog (brandished on the back of my business card which I exchanged during our meeting from the parking lot) or her better half got the best of her. She no longer wanted to have that coffee or make wild-passionate-love in the backseat of an SUV or in other words, go for a drive.

I guess this was one fantasy never meant to become reality. Sigh.

Published originally on GQ.

Categories
SYNG

The Indian Platter

wave

I’ve just knocked the socks of the hottest looking female on the planet for the 100th time. We lay there, arms crossed, looking into each other’s eye with content. But, only I’m not. I’d be a douche if I said something. Truth is, I got bored. Rather quickly. Too quick for even my own good.

Looking for answers, I pick Google’s brain. Endless columns and blogs later, which by the way are in surprising abundance, ramble the same sad fart-induced ideas. Put ice in her foxy fondle, cherry her on top, lick the nutty nipples, chocolate sauce your turtle and let her tongue polish it shiny clean and so on. You get the drill right?

Yawn! Frankly, these just don’t cut it for me. Done. Done. And, done.

I think its time we set aside continental food and gave the Indian recipe’s a chance. I know how this may sound because I can see you’re brain has already gone in overdrive. Imagining daal, butter chicken, naan (bread), dosa, paav-bhaji, imli-ki-chatni, gulaab jamun and mind-blowing-bed-breaking-activities just don’t go hand in hand. Or, do they.

To be honest, the very thought originated, one late evening, by watching a woman swallow a whole “PAAN” post quaffing down a bottle of russian vodka. Till that very moment, I could’ve never put two and two together. Her lips, those drunk-dreamy-blue eyes and back-revealing saree ensemble had my blood rushing for a standing ovation.

I’d say, the next time you’re woman goes under the sink to clean the pipes, drop in the chatni or chaashni (used to sweeten gulab jamun). Top her up with idli-sambhar or if she’s from the North, butter chicken curry and use naans to wipe her clean.

The creative bunch can also introduce achaar, golas (ice candy), bhel-puri as part of the overall seduction game. Don’t be a weiner, try the tikka and see her soften-up like a tender malai-kofta.

Published originally on GQ.

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SYNG

Match Tickets

glass

There I was, a chilled beer in hand, on the edge of my seat, watching the match between India and Australia. Despite my bleak knowledge and interest for the game, the cricket fever had gotten the best of me. An adrenaline rush ensued once Yuvraj hit the ball down the boundary towards victory. It sure felt euphoric.

I settled back in my seat on hearing the phone ring. To my surprise it was a distant friend from Bangalore. I figured he’d be excited and be calling friends to congratulate them. But, before I could utter a word, he blurted, “Could you arrange some tickets?”

Even before my phone could find it’s place back on the table, another call from a relative in Rajasthan, and another from Delhi, and another from Mumbai – every one wants to watch the ball bashing action, live.

I feel like a hotshot bookie. I console and sympathise with all of them – “too difficult boss, but I will try my best”. Apparently rumours are afloat that 50% seats have been reserved by sponsors and the ICC for “delegates” and “very important people”. And who will these people be is still speculation.

Newspapers are littered with headlines of elusive tickets and how the “who’s who” have squeezed every connection high and dry. Reports claim that right down from the peon to the government “babu”, all are inundated with calls having to carry their phone chargers everywhere. A few have, in frustration, even switched off their phones completely.

However, I did notice something unusual over the past day. It all began while I was walking down the market and two random men approached me on overhearing my telephonic conversation for tickets. These men assumed I had a few lying around, to spare for random people I meet in the market. I consoled them too but they persisted and ended up taking my number.

I was witness to a unique Indian-like over-friendly – the kinds when you travel to a rare European country and see the only other Indian. This entire episode reminds me of deprived members of society running after a truck loaded with water and food grains. The rich and influential could care less; they’ve rolled out the red carpet to the terrace and VIP box with pocket change.

Frankly, I find heading to a local pub, fitted with a big screen and some chilled beers a far better deal, and it definitely doesn’t cost a month’s pay cheque.

Published originally on GQ.

Categories
SYNG

Water cooler at the gym

get the ass

For the past month, I’ve been dodging social media in all its forms, which includes selling the iPhone. You could call it cognitive therapy for the overdosed in media exile. During this limbo, with time to spare, I took to bodybuilding solemnly.

Like most gyms, mine is littered with 40-inch plasmas, which usually play HBO or CNN. Come what may, I’d step in unperturbed and complete my workout avoiding any social banter. But, to my surprise, something extraordinary happened a few days ago.

Um, well… I – along with other testosterone bodies – salivated at Lisa’s (esque-Katrina Kaif item number for Tees Maar Khan, a Bollywood flick) derrière between lunges. This orgy led to an unplanned huddle by the water cooler – a tête-à-tête on two sex-sirens.

At first, Kate (esque-Maliaka Arora from Dabangg, again a Bollywood flick) took centre stage and tickled our belly of pervert with kinky ideas. The young man on the right plonked, “she’s one sizzle fest, a cougar I fantasise about during expansively boring boardroom meetings or when my wife is away to her parents”. All of us nodded while I pictured this almost immaculately in my mind’s eye.

From Kate the conversation drifted back towards Lisa (Sheila ki jawans fame). At this point, our chuckles were tippled in slinky satire that sounded like a bunch of 13 year-olds who’d just discovered panties in the dictionary. Only at this point I realised that men from all age groups were participating without judging each other (a rare commodity these days).

That day onwards, the moment Lisa and Kate’s doppelgänger- Sheila or Munni appears on television, we all share fist-bumps or smirks and grins from across the floor.

Published originally on GQ.