A conversation with the conductor and page turner Kelly Lovelady

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Artists have suffered tremendously from the pandemic. Many have lost their income and realized that the safety net protecting them is even more fragile than they had feared. Add to this the underlying socio-economic challenges that the cultural critic William Deresiewicz aptly depicts in his recent book, The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech. At first glance, the democratization of the arts through digital technology might let you conclude that “There’s never been a better time to be an artist.” Many artists, however, feel differently: There’s never been a worse time to be one. Despite (or in fact, because of) the gig economy, as well as the long tail of digital platforms and crowdsourced funding mechanisms, revenue for most creators is falling. …


Twitter and Facebook suspended Trump’s accounts. It’s the right thing to do, albeit more than four years too late, and yet still truly disturbing.

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Wikipedia CEO Katherine Maher tweeted: “It must be satisfying to de-platform fascists. Even more satisfying: not platforming them in the first place.”

Indeed, when social media companies suddenly pretend to discover their conscience, like those Trump-enabling Republican leaders — from Betsy DeVos to Mitch McConnell — who are jumping ship after it has sunk, it feels like becoming a vegan after the chickens have come home to roost.

Moreover, Twitter’s and Facebook’s drastic actions are proof of the unwieldy power these companies have amassed. And as much as I welcome their using it now, it also makes me extremely uncomfortable. The line between freedom of speech and amplifying extremism will always be a moving goalpost. …


To make material and immaterial improvements to business, let’s cut to the heart of the matter.

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Photo by Kellie Shepherd Moeller on Unsplash

Love.

I have always tiptoed around it. It’s the most important, most delicate matter. Nothing is more interesting, more essential, but for that very reason there is nothing more trivial.

This is especially true in business, where the use of “love” has become inflationary. From brands as “Lovemarks” to the self-motivational motto “do what you love,” or “love what you do,” love is enlisted to make business sound less transactional. As for Lovemarks, the louder something shouts “love,” the less lovely — or loving — it is. In the same way that Valentine’s Day commodified romance, being expected to “do what you love” has turned capitalism into the emotional labor of today’s knowledge worker. …


Life between two kingdoms, the loss of control, the end of winning, the microbiocene, intimacy — and silence.

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Photo by Simon Godfrey on Unsplash

Yuri van Geest, Canay Atalay, and Rudy de Waele, the founders of the Conscious Learning Tribe, asked me to contribute to their last Un-Conference of the year. It was great to see Canay and Rudy again — they had spoken and run workshops at the first two House of Beautiful Business gatherings in 2017 — and to join their community. This past weekend, they convened 21 speakers from different walks of life and asked them to reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021 by answering three questions. Following is my response:

What did you learn from 2020?

This was the year when metaphysical truth became physical, when existential wisdom met science fiction, when God met Wes Anderson. It was a weird, never-ending story gone awry. …


This has been a year of super-recognition: seeing things we hadn’t seen before and understanding how we see.

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Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash

Can you still remember the face of the person who sold you your first iPhone way back when? If you answered yes, then you might indeed be a so-called super-recognizer. Think you’ve got what it takes? Take the online test to find out.

James Dunn, a cognitive psychologist at the University of New South Wales who’s studied the results of the test above since 2017, told me that super-recognizers inherit their rare superpowers — it’s not a skill you can train. …


From the Getting Things Done movement to Microsoft’s Productivity Score, when personal productivity meets digital surveillance, it does real harm to workers. Is it time to move beyond it?

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Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash

A recent article in The New Yorker by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, titled “The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done,” pinpointed the discomfort I’ve always felt with one of the main skills required of the “knowledge worker”: personal productivity. Google it and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of articles and blog posts that promote, for example, “37 habits to enhance your productivity” and similar “hacks.” …


To lead beautifully means finding the right words for someone else’s work.

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Photo by Scott Graham

This week has been one of the darkest of the year: sunsets at 4 PM here in Berlin where I live, and in the U.S. alone the number of COVID cases is growing exponentially, with as many as one in 300 Americans now testing positive.

But there is light, too.

Along with many others, I read about Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, the scientist husband-and-wife dream team behind BioNTech’s and Pfizer’s joint COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough. …


Will Joe Biden’s victory usher in a new brand of leadership?

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

In her New York Times review of Barack Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land, the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls him “an overwhelmingly decent man.” And by all accounts, that’s an accurate verdict. Decency has also been referred to quite often in the past few days and weeks to describe the president-elect of the U.S., Joe Biden. The Washington Post observes that Biden is displaying “decency,” USA Today believes “democracy and decency won the election,” for The Nation “decency is the point,” and Biden biographer Evan Osnos says Biden offers “decency in turbulent times.” And Biden himself, of course, had made the whole campaign focused on those very qualities: “Character and decency are on the ballot,” he claimed. …


After the US election, in between champagne and pepper spray, there is hope and a need for “a more beautiful everything.”

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Girl with Balloon by Banksy, photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

Just a few weeks after I, a privileged German immigrant, became an American citizen in September 2008, I cast my vote in California for Barack Obama to become the first African-American president of the United States. I remember watching his acceptance speech with friends in San Francisco’s Noe Valley district, and took part in the eruption of joy on the streets all over the city. It didn’t just feel like the ending of an era, it felt like a liberation from a time of suffocation, and the future looked bright.

Even more astonishing, Obama, even though he inherited a messy economy, won a second term four years later. But the cracks in the American society opened up, too, and the fault lines that had always been there widened. The United States became an even more divided country, and it was — in hindsight — not all that surprising that a demagogue like Donald Trump was able to take advantage. He personified the dark side of the American Dream: a propensity for entertainment, a penchant for stagecraft over truth, and an obsession with winning, all of which were further fueled by the commercial agendas and algorithms of an increasingly radicalized market society that still denies its citizens such basic human rights as universal health care. …


Companies, too, must move beyond the Anthropocene.

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Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Nature is excellent business. The World Economic Forum projects that if countries and businesses prioritize nature, they could generate $10.1 trillion in annual value and create 395 million jobs by the end of 2030. McKinsey touts the “bio revolution,” and BCG views “Deep Tech” as “the third wave of innovation,” referring to the combination of advanced bio-fabrication and machine learning that is spurring innovations such as “designer proteins” and fueling the next phase of exponential economic growth. Going beyond biomimicry, designers like Neri Oxman have pioneered bio design as an influential practice that allows for products and architecture to be engineered with and for nature. And biotech companies like Ginkgo Bioworks or Zymergen are replacing technology with biology. …

About

Tim Leberecht

Co-founder and co-CEO of The Business Romantic Society; co-founder and co-curator of the House of Beautiful Business; author of “The Business Romantic”

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