What’s so good about today anyway?

Issue #67

Hello! This week I start with a reflection of what, for me, makes ‘Good Friday’ good. There’s the usual selection of articles I’ve enjoyed from around the web. I share a wonderfully insightful mini-interview with Lisa Maltby, a designer and illustrator. And I include a few notes on Karamo Brown’s new audiobook. Enjoy 😊 –Sam

First thoughts

Today is known around the world as ‘Good Friday’? It’s a religious day in the Christian calendar where we remember the brutal murder of an innocent man known as Jesus of Nazareth. What’s so good about that?

And, if you don’t even believe in God or buy into religion, is there any relevance at all? Isn’t it just a meaningless religious festival that can be ignored?

Long-time readers know that I identify as Christian, even if there’s much about that label that I reject. I’ve spent my whole life listening to reasons why Jesus died. These range from ‘overthrowing Satan’, to ‘satisfying God’s wrath’, to ‘taking away humanity’s sins’. 

I want to focus today though not on these theological ideas and simply on the human story.

Jesus is a historical figure. He walked on our earth. He was a real person. He took on the political and religious leaders of his day, standing up for the common person. He came, in his own words, ‘that you may have life, and life to the full.’ 

He lived a life that sought to bring fuller life to the masses. He lived a selfless life. It wasn’t about him. His love for humanity meant there was nothing he wouldn’t do to help others. His words and deeds brought hope. They set people on a path to freedom and wholeness. He took on the oppressors and, inevitably, that is what set him on the path to his brutal death.

And that’s my point. Regardless of what theological meanings there may be to the cross and death of Jesus, the historical story is powerful and moving and provocative in its own right. 

This was a man who so believed in what he was doing that he was prepared to die for it. This was a man who so loved the people who he saw oppressed by religious and political leaders that he was prepared to pay any price to help and deliver them.

This is what love looks like. Love is evidenced by sacrifice. 

Has there ever been a greater showing of love?

And, I would argue, if we were to explore the theological, the true meaning of the cross would also end up at the same place: love.

That, for me, is what makes Good Friday so good. It is a reminder of what love – true love – looks like.

Insightful articles

1. How disconnection boosts your creativity

‘Creativity is about connection—you must be connected to others in order to be inspired and share your own work—but it is also about disconnection. You must retreat from the world long enough to think, practice your art, and bring forth something worth sharing with others. You must play a little hide-and-seek in order to produce something worth being found.’
Austin Kleon, Thrive Global

2. To unlock creativity, you need to step away

Fascinating piece of research on how to foster creative ideas and the role of incentives.
Molly Dannenmaier, Futurity

3. Why you procrastinate (it has nothing to do with self-control)

It turns out that procrastination is less to do with laziness and more to do with self-harm. It is – though I’m not sure knowing this helps – essentially irrational.
Charlotte Lieberman, The New York Times

4. Digital minimalism and God (Or, is social media undermining religion)

‘Courage, reassurance, revelation: these require a quiet mind capable of apophatic insight. One of the unintentional consequences of innovating an algorithmically-optimized, always-present source of attention-snagging noise is that this quiet disappears.’
Cal Newport, blog post

Book notes

Karamo: My story of embracing purpose, healing, and hope

Karamo Brown

I deliberately didn't take many books away with me on my recent two week holiday to Los Angeles. Strange as it sounds, I wanted a bit of a break from reading. That said, I did download one audiobook for my trip. And that was Karamo Brown’s new memoir. 

Karamo Brown is one of the ‘fab five’ presenters of the hit Netflix show ‘Queer Eye’. Rachel and I love this show. And Karamo’s role, focussing on inner change in people’s lives has resonated strongly. 

I love the work each episode does in giving people a whole-life makeover. And Karamo, honing in on the inner world, is at the heart of making sure that the change lasts. 

Getting to delve into his life story through this memoir has been a treat. His story is moving and affecting. He's been through some serious challenges! Yet, through it all, you can't help but sense how helping others is hard-wired into who he is. It's like he was born to help people thrive in life. 

The subtitle of the book implies that it's about him finding purpose, healing, and hope. But the beauty and power of his story is the invitation to make it our story. His mission, it seems, is to help the rest of us find our purpose, healing, and hope. 

That's what makes the memoir so compelling. He beckons us to join the journey of personal transformation. To find and pursue our own dreams. I was inspired.

Interesting people

Seven questions with Lisa Maltby

Lisa is mostly known as a designer and illustrator. Her work includes illustrated maps and guides for heritage sites, book cover designs and illustrations for the food industry, such as for menus, packaging and editorial. She also works on a lot of branding projects and these usually involve more research and development – looking at which visual solutions connect audiences in better ways. Other than that she also speaks, write, and mentors. She is passionate about sharing honestly and encouraging others.

1. What’s a book you’ve read – recently or otherwise – that has significantly affected how you see the world?

I don’t think there’s one book that’s been a game-changer for me, but lots have inspired me at particular moments. I’m currently reading books on design psychology and I’ve just finished one called ‘The Choice Factory’ by Richard Shotton. This is very much about advertising strategies, but I find it fascinating how design can profoundly influence behaviour. I obviously want to influence my clients’ customers to buy into their companies or products, but I always want to make sure I am designing for good. I think there’s a lot of potential to influence the world in really positive ways. I’m also reading ‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Creado Perez which looks at data bias in a world designed for men. It’s a real eye-opener and I feel like it should be compulsory reading. It’s given me courage to keep speaking out when I see it happening.

2. What’s the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to overcome in getting to where you are today?

I’ve always been a people-pleaser and that’s often been a real obstacle – trying to fit in with what is acceptable to others. It’s taken a long time to realise that I don’t have to fit certain roles or stereotypes to be effective, in fact the opposite. I think the most inspirational people I know bring something different into situations, but they are also people who might bring a bit of controversy or challenge. So, I’ve realised you will never please everyone and it’s better to be your authentic self, even if it means offending others with your choices. If you really believe in something I think that’s more important that playing it safe. I don’t want a boring life.

3. What aspect of your job is the most interesting?

I love how varied my job is – one day I could be creating a mural, another day I could be speaking at an event and another day I could be designing at my desk. I love how fluid it is and that I always get to connect with new people, either through work opportunities or through building a community of people who have similar professions. When you work for yourself, you’re really open. Sometimes you have no idea what you’ll be doing next month and that also feels scary. But it also means there’s potential for really exciting things too.

4. What's a goal or dream you have that you haven't pursued yet?

I’ve always wanted to illustrate the Google letters on the homepage! Other than that I’d also really love to make more books. I think whenever you say you want to write and illustrate things people always assume they’re for children, but I don’t want to write exclusively for children... or adults for that matter! I think there are stories to be told for both. I’d like to write about more profound, funny and sad things – I want to create beautifully illustrated books about humanity, really. Books that help to unlock things that people often feel uncomfortable about talking about.

5. What cause or issue are you personally passionate about at the moment?

I’m passionate about equality and mental health, and I think those two things are intrinsically linked. When people have always been told that they don’t measure up, or that they can’t have the same chances, then those things can become big mental health challenges. I think there are lots of people who recognise issues of inequality and try to give opportunities where there have been few, but it’s a whole different thing to understand why those opportunities might not be getting filled. It’s easy to look at a quick fix, but it’s not easy to help people to overcome years of being told they ‘can’t.’ It’s not about one people ‘group’ over another, it’s about how this affects society as whole. It’s often subtle, but I think it’s important to call things out when we see them and sometimes those things come from really well intentioned people – it’s in all of us. We need to find ways of challenging these issues in ourselves and others without it being something personal.

6. What do you do when you’re in need of joy, peace, calm, or focus?

I go out into nature. I am my happiest when I’ve climbed a mountain – there’s something incredible about standing on top of earth and seeing for miles around. Unfortunately I don’t live too near to mountains but Sheffield is a great place for hills, trees and green spaces – I love the Peak District. I also love music and that can sometimes help to keep me focused if I have a lot on my mind.

7. What's something that costs £20 ($25) or less that you think everyone should get? 

A toothbrush.

Stay connected with Lisa

If you’d like to connect with Lisa, you can find her on her websites (www.lisamaltby.com and www.maltbydesign.co ), Twitter, and Instagram (@lisamaltbycreative and @maltbydesign.co).