Hello again. This week I’ve been thinking about how, during the creative process, the elements of a project meld into a single unit, but only in the finishing stage. For years I have managed projects, from large multi-million dollar IT projects with diverse teams, to novels and small movies. My wife and I are in the finishing stages of our third renovated kitchen. For some odd reason we enjoy transforming a kitchen into a paradise for the foodies that we are. I have found that every project is complete only when the finishing details are addressed, the problems are resolved and the questions are answered. In writing and movie making this comes in the final editing process–and therein lies genius.

By the way, if you read these letters in email, you are missing out on the media links in my blogging. Clicking will take you to my WordPress blog site, which will be a better experience than email. And while I’m at it, if you know someone who might be interested in the sort of things I write about, please forward the email to them. There, I said it, now on to other matters…

As Thomas Edison said, circa 1903, genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration. In my experience that one percent comes last. Of course to refer to every completed project as a work of genius would be the ultimate form of self-aggrandizement, which is why, I suspect, people misquote Edison, substituting genius with “success”; the assumption being, genius equals success. Not necessarily. Rather, I prefer to think of the genius IN a work that is truly completed–because the result is always more than the sum of its elements. Genius can show up, uninvited and unexpected, but always dependent on the simple act of finishing. It’s a great motivator.

A case in completion, with a little inspiration, if not genius, is the video I posted this week for The Perfect Earth Project and the Peconic Land Trust’s Toxin-Free seminar.

Distilled from a seven hour seminar down to three minutes and thirty seconds, the promotional piece did not work until I inserted a short music queue at the start and the end. Suddenly it become a single statement, encapulated by Paul Wagner (Soil Food Web, New York), who simply stated, “Manipulate the biology, not the chemistry”; revealing a key to sustainable toxin-free gardens.

Which brings me to Max Levchin. Co-founder of PayPal (with Elon Musk and Peter Thiel), Chairman of the Board of Yelp, on the boards of Yahoo and Evernote, and CEO of his own innovation and investment lab, HVF, (which stands for Hard Valuable Fun). He also heads up GLOW, a womans’ health fertility company, and Affirm, a financial services company offering consumer credit at the point-of-sale, i.e the cashier. I watch interviews with him, and I learn something from him every time.


In a celebrated–at least by me–interview with Charlie Rose (aired on 8/1/2013), he said, (paraphrasing Warren Buffet), “…people really don’t understand compound interest” and he extended that idea, saying that people generally don’t understand the concept of compounding changes–if you improve by 1% every day, you will grow amazingly…and it’s very hard to detect if you don’t have a long view and can’t look back at the data. This is his point about the value of Big Data. It’s why I wear a Fitbit. Similarly, a project that improves in 1% increments, provided it is improved until completed, will become exponentially improved. Some to the extent genius is produced.

Finishing is shining the cask until the genie (derived from the latin word, genius) rises from it.

I believe this is true of the final editing of a book or when making a movie. See the full interview here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/517751

Here are his views on the NSA and privacy:


My Composers at Play podcast, named, “Writing About Music” is now live. I was delighted to be included in the conversation with a panel of three composers to discuss how to write about music and how to overcome the subjective meaning we attach to words. In a wonderful coincidence, composer, drummer and academic Jenny Olivia Johnson (listen to Dollar Beers-Redondo Beach ’96) and Christine Chen were in LA just in time to join Sophocles Papavasilopoulos to ponder the role, responsibility, and limits of words describing music. As I suspected, no, hoped, the conversation revealed new approaches for me to take when describing music or the process of creating it. For example I had not thought about the physicality of the musician performing a composition that he or she wrote. Nor have I considered the spacial aspect of how instruments are placed during a performance–something Jenny has investigated. Listen to the podcast here. (Heads up–it’s 46 minutes long):


Finally, to end with a reality sandwich; I just started reading Mark Goodman’s Future Crimes. In the last third of his promo video (below) Mark touches on a successful hack of Apple’s Touch ID — to Bill Stamatis’ point that bio-metric ID’s are not infallible.

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Michael Daly
8 years ago

Max Levchin is fascinating!

Geoffrey Wells
Reply to  Michael Daly
8 years ago

Agreed. It’s really hard not to like the way he thinks.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x


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