Privilege : Upbringing and Networking

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I’m a hugely privileged individual. If you’re reading this, my bet is that you are too.

I was born into a family that could afford most of the material comforts in life. I had a very happy childhood, grew up in some nice neighbourhoods. I’ve lived a big chunk of my life in some great cities and worked and met with some brilliant people who’ve influenced me more than I could ever thank them for.

I’m male. I’m straight. I’m reasonably healthy and don’t suffer from any mental problems (if you don’t count insomnia and over-thinking as a disease). I have more friends than I can keep up with and more opportunities to succeed at anything I do than I would ever care to admit. I tick all the right boxes. Almost all of the privileges and advantages that society can bestow on someone have been bestowed on me.

Many more privileges, I’ve realised, than most people want to acknowledge.

I grew up in a family where I was encouraged to read lots and lots of books, to learn and to question(one of the perks of having parents who are teachers). Because of the environment I was brought up in, I grew up to be a confident man with a high sense of self-worth and with the firm belief that my destiny lay in my very own hands.

I was given a lot of freedom to try out different things, meet interesting people, showered with love and instilled with confidence. Later, through the course of life, I happened to luck out and meet people who filled me with the sense that pretty much anything in the world is possible. I’ve had experiences and become friends with people who have opened me up to new ideas and exposed me to possibilities that I once could only have dreamed of.

Growing up in a loving family, in a decent neighbourhood with access and exposure to most things pretty early on in life adds a huge layer of hidden advantage than the more tangible one wealth provides. These things are important, and they matter much much more than what people seem to be willing to see. The safety net that your connections and your family provides makes life so much easier. They open doors for you most others may not even know exist.

And yet somehow, especially in the tech industry that I was part of and will be part of again soon, we seem to deliberately forget how privileged we really are, and seem to believe that we’re exactly the opposite.

We convince each other that we’ve made huge successes of our lives through sheer talent and intelligence and anyone else who hasn’t, has failed because they don’t ‘get’ it as we do, they’re not as smart as us and are just plain lazy or bad at math.

I understand where some of it comes from. Intelligence does play a good part in this — but I suspect that part is vastly overrated. I know that I’m reasonably intelligent by any kind of standards anyone uses — but I’ve also realised that just intelligence hasn’t been the most important thing why most things in life have worked out for me so far.

More than anything else, it’s because the world is rigged in my favour. People like me are ‘meant’ to succeed. That’s just the way society is designed.

In hindsight, I entered the tech industry by sheer luck and coincidence. Initially I was fixated on Mechanical Engineering at first , then on Electrical Engineering and finally ended up in Computer Science and Engineering. Then I fell in love with English and games. What happened then was a lot of Game Design and Writing (as a freelancer). Then suddenly I switched to UX and right now I am studying Data Science leaving my job suddenly. Data Science wasn’t planned , VR was planned. In a short period of time, I had worked in more domains and with more tech stacks than most people in their entire career.Coincidence only even made possible because of my privilege.

I worked on some really cool products simply by being in the right place at the right time and because some people were kind enough to give me a chance. I dated some really nice girls and made some amazing friends because I ticked all the right boxes. I’ve had access to some great job opportunities and I get to hang around some brilliant people because they see me as a ‘peer’.

Much like network effects, our privilege is all-encompassing, ever-protective, self-perpetuating yet invisible. So much of the privilege is hidden into the system that you cannot even see it.

That, in the end then is the most important thing to know.

However intelligent and smart you consider yourself to be, you’ll never really know what life is like for other people. You won’t really know their pain and problems, how hard things are for them.

I’ll never really know what it is to be poor. Even if I do — I’ll be poor knowing that I have a family that will always support me, that I’ll never have to worry about a roof over my head or food to eat, and that I have the education, experience and connections that will invariably help me out.

Wealthy people will never know what it’s really like to be poor. Straight men will never know what it’s like to be gay. Men will never really know what it’s like to be a woman. Able-bodied people will never know what it feels like to be differently abled.

There are a few things that we’d do well to remember and remember often: that we are deeply privileged and very lucky.

Do we struggle? Yes, we do.

But perhaps a lot less than those who didn’t hit some kind of cosmic lottery that we did. And when we’re a wee bit more humble, we might just get a little bit better at imagining what it’s like to be someone else. What it is to truly be in someone else’s shoes.

Some of life’s greatest lessons come from comic books and Uncle Ben was right on the money when he said: with great power comes great responsibility.

Do we have power?

Yes.

Maybe not as much as we’d like, but we still have it.

And we have to be better at this.

This is important.

There are people out there who are asking you to listen.

  • Listen to them. Try and understand them. More importantly, believe them. It is possible that you think that the stories you hear are implausible. What’s more likely is that you don’t realise your advantages and it hurts your fragile ego to be told that.
  • Use your abundant imagination and walk a mile in someone’s uncomfortable shoes. It’s not that hard to do.
  • Open up.
  • Confirm and confront your biases as best as you can.
  • Have the humility to recognise that while we can try to imagine what it is like for the others, we’ll never really know.
  • Remember your position of privilege.
  • Know how to not talk like you already have all the answers. To shut up and listen.
  • Most importantly, be kind to everyone that you encounter.

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Now some songs on which I am tripping now a days.

 

 

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Aargh!!! Not again.

I am extremely mad at myself. I am so mad, that I feel crazier than usual. At times like these I wish there was someone who could whack me and straighten that convoluted head of mine.

This is a random post as I have nothing to write about. But there are lots of bits and pieces of thoughts in my mind from last couple of days and they are troubling me, so I decided to write them down. You may ask why can’t I write it in private? Writing in private takes the fun out of it and I have a pretty boring life so I like to have fun whenever I get chance. There is not a clear direction of what I am going to write about but a perfect example of how I like to think about things. Starting with puzzling Q and A and then deciding which one is better before settling down to form an opinion about it. I have opinions and you have to be ready with logic and explanations if you ever want to challenge my opinions.

Brace yourselves, Puzzled thoughts are coming!

1). I simply don’t know when to give up. I should learn to take a hint. Never been given a cold shoulder before (it’s happened once earlier, but that was just pathetic). The weird thing is, I don’t feel hurt – I just feel odd. Pride and arrogance tell me that there is no possible reason for anyone to ignore me. Or is there?
This is my punishment for being so easily amused and cheerful all the time – a good solid dose of depression. It’s definitely not helping the cause of writing. Neither is continuously thinking about the gorgeous girl who I always meet (accidentally) in the office elevator.

2). Every now and then I reach the conclusion that the Universe has nothing left to teach me. Or that whatever else is left, is either useless or redundant. I wallow in the splendid muck of my ignorance. And then the Universe drags me out, gives me a cold shower, cleans me from head to toe and proceeds to give me a whipping which would make any Los Angles dominatrix proud. I hear you loud and clear Universe.

You.
Are.
My.
Daddy.

3). Depression and excitement can go together – I am a stinking potpourri of emotions these days. I make myself sick.

4). I figured out something when I was twelve years old. I was a bright, precocious brat with a simple view of the world. I figured that elders (anyone who was older than me) had nothing to offer me as far as knowledge was concerned. Considering I was so young, this notion might look childish, but today I can add the weight of a decade of experience behind it. In my humble opinion elders have not been responsible for a single bit of knowledge in my head – either it was already there and I just needed to discover it or else I was smart enough to figure things out on my own. Elders may have played the role of a guide in some of the discoveries but given enough time I would have stumbled upon those hidden springs of knowledge on my own. A very egomaniacal thought but I stand by it.
I come to the next more crucial point. My mental growth is now almost stagnant; it has remained so for the last couple of years. 

5). Life is going on at a steady pace, which can be a good thing, but I prefer a sinusoidal curve. I some how feel that inertia has set in and I am waiting for something big and drastic to happen (ok I have a vague notion of the kind of thing I’ll call drastic, so it wouldn’t be a bolt from the blues). For now my fingers are crossed and double crossed.

It is ironic but even a steady and assured upward-looking future is sending me into a depression. Carpe diem, that’s what a friend said. How? 

Comic Books : A Personal recollection

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Suppose you are a shy kid and don’t like human interaction much and in your house lots of people come and go, then you just sit inside your room and wait for them to leave the house so that you don’t have to give replies to their god-forsaken questions.

But what you do locked up in a room? If you have a sibling you talk to him / her but there is a limit to what people can talk to each other. In this situation, imagine if your parents are intellectuals then your houses are filled up with lots of books, magazines and papers. When you are young, you don’t care much about the world and nation affairs, you care about the comic book snippets, crosswords and puzzles in their supplement. That’s how I entered the world of comic books. But with snippets in the papers and magazines, to know the complete story you have to wait 2-3 months as they only have 4-5 scenes per day. And if you are blessed with impatience, then your next logical step is Comic Books.

I never liked going my village (reason : water of that region doesn’t suit me and I use to get skin infections there) but going to villages is sort of annual pilgrimage in India (till now), so I didn’t had much choice. But traveling was a long affair as it used to take 3 days to go there and I always bought 7-8 comics during that entire trip. And those books were mainly Naagraaj, Super Commando Dhruv, Parmanu and Tiranga. Raj comics was the publisher. I used to think they were the coolest superheroes. But in one summer, we went to Patna to meet my relatives, my aunt’s son had came for holidays from his engineering college back then and he was teaching me how to play bike racing games on PC. That was my entry to the world of video games (but we are going to focus on comic books here, video games in later posts most probably ). One day he was watching a movie on HBO, the display screen was black, someone was jumping here and there in a cool car with cape, Jim Carrey was being Jim Carrey in a green tight fitting suit and Tommy Lee Jones was dating two beautiful ladies. Nicole Kidman became my first love of my life. I would still like to marry her if she wants to marry someone 20 years younger than her. So I went and sat with him and I saw Batman Forever. That incident introduced me to the wonderful world of DC comics. After that I asked my parents to subscribe to HBO and Star Movies at home. And began watching all the movies day in day out. I watched James Bond’s movies, Steel, Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Centurion, Spider-Man, Iron Man and the list goes on. So Marvel Comics also happened. And in the holidays, I began to found out sitting and reading comics.

I started to find out the basic idea differences between DC and Marvel. DC is more realistic and true to engage your dark thoughts about the realism and the world. Marvel is about the Happy-go-lucky guys who sometimes get into difficult situations. In the same time, while on a trip to Tirupati, I read Karna’s and Rabindranth Tagore’s biographical graphic novel by Amar Chitra Katha.

That was my introduction to the world of Graphic novels. Definitions abound (a quick search on the internet will show you that), and are often confusing and contradicting. The Americans started calling this medium Graphic Novels and the Japanese Gekiga to differentiate it from comics and manga. It covers fiction as well as non-fiction, but is clearly meant for a mature audience. It’s all encompassing when it comes to genres. And its impact on pop-culture cannot be ignored.

So day by day, my obsession to these characters and storyline grew by leaps and bounds. I used to go through all the wiki and whatever I could find to learn about them.

With age, my fascination with sequential art remained undeterred and I felt myself gravitating towards stories of a higher literary calibre, told with an economy of words and deftness of brush strokes. These were stories that painted a broad canvas of human emotions in a way that I found very different from the more conventional text-only prose.

I had come a long way since then. Read a lot of comics, graphic novels, Mangas. With these books, I think English has become my first and go-to language. Now even I dream in English also.

Now a days I am reading The Dark Knight III The Master Race . Frank Miller and his talented team is bringing out the real depth in the Batman story line.

Now I believe I had given you enough motivation to start reading Graphic Novels. Fans of Tarantino and Rodriguez would love to read Lone Wolf and Cub – a staggering epic created by writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima in the seventies. These 28 volumes of manga (a total of 8700+ pages) are set in Tokugawa era Japan and tell the tale of a master swordsman and his young son. This masterpiece has served as an inspiration for some of the most brilliant moments in world cinema over the last 30 years.

Based on Paul Auster’s story City of Glass (from his acclaimed The New York Trilogy), City of Glass: The Graphic Novel serves as a successful example of an adaptation carried out by independent artists of a previously published piece of prose. David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik’s artwork takes the story to a dimension the original author could have never imagined possible.

And then there is A Contract with God by Will Eisner, the book that cemented the term Graphic Novel into modern lexicon. It is a collection of short stories set in a Depression-era-affected Jewish community of the 1930s.

Other interesting titles for collectors – Blankets by Craig Thompson, Bone by Jeff Smith, The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Maus by Art Spiegelman.

But make sure you read Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I still hadn’t gone through it but it is on my list. After the college, it is becoming little tough as most graphic novels are printed and published abroad they can leave a sizeable hole in your pocket. And I have lots of bills to play.

So, go to a bookstore and give them a try. They aren’t bad and they are miles better than the cartoons of today like Chota Bheem. Rahul Gandhi likes Chota Bheem and you don’t want that your kid also ends up like Rahul Gandhi.
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Now the regular sections.
Music videos which is on my Playlist now a days.
Tu Mera Nahin

Ghost Town : Madonna feat Taylor Swift

In other news,
My faith in humanity is shaken. Aargh!

Programming : Solution or a part of the Solution.

Coding Academies Are Nonsense

I encountered this article and it has some very nice points about the rise of the Coding Bootcamps and what is the current reality of them. If you haven’t read it yet, go through it before continuing here on this post (link is right above).

How I decided that I am going to write about it ?
I have friends and they all believe only programming is going to get them to highs in their life and when I ask them what made them think so , they start showing me articles, news clips and examples. But are those examples provides a complete informative picture ? No,they don’t. And when you try to discuss something with delusional people, beware you are going to be taught a lots of things which are miles away from the reality. But you don’t destroy relationships on the basis of ideologies , so you write about it and let people decide for themselves : what is right and what is wrong ?Then I found the above article and decided to increase my number of tweets by 1 and after that ,thought let’s give this post a shot. And now we are here, me writing and you reading.

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Programmers might disagree with this article as the today’s StartUp scene has glorified the Programmers thanks to the movies like “The Social Network” and sitcoms like “Silicon Valley”.

People opposed the movie “The Social Network” by arguing that it is not the correct interpretation of the founding of the Facebook but if you ignore the accuracy of the founding of Facebook and take it as fiction , you will discover that Mark Zuckerberg inspite of not being only a good programmer was also a man who took the complete oversight of the development of Facebook by hiring some great people to handle the basic intricacies which made the Facebook one of the coolest websites to hangout and a disruptive company which is now changing the Internet feature by feature.

See the list of some of the best(first) hires at the Facebook.
https://www.smartrecruiters.com/blog/the-10-hires-that-made-facebook-facebook/

Sitcom “Silicon Valley” handled it very carefully. Episode by episode , it shows how the Pied Piper hired some guys to provide a clear roadmap about how to go from a Garage company to a company which will change the world by solving a problem(data compression) and in the same time handle the juggernaut(Hooli) which is very good at plagiarism.

Now back to the real life.
I like photography and Instagram , Snapseed , Boomerang (by Instagram) and Sketch are my favourite apps. So whenever I get time I go through their Engineering blogs to read about their work. So I came across this article and it provided few things which solidified my opinion. (Go see my Instagram feed and follow me: https://instagram.com/abhinav_grv/).

Go through this nice article, also.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/11568119/Instagrams-Kevin-Systrom-Im-dangerous-enough-to-code-and-sociable-enough-to-sell-our-company.html
See the headline , “I am dangerous enough to code and sociable enough to sell our company”.
Not all programmers are sociable. They are hard coded nerds with a belief that programming is what running the world.

It is true upto an extent but
1.) What are you going to program in vacuum?
2.) Is your code solving any problem?
3.) Is your code optimized enough to not disturb the other resources and the solve the issue at hand?

So, if these questions were answered with utmost truth , you will also know(learn) what I know(learned).

Programming is a cool thing and I am a Programmer myself and I have been doing it from 2004 , but now I am in a transition mode to become a Product Curator as I love to see, handle and get involved in the both extrinsic and intrinsic aspects of the Product Development. I respect Programmers as they build cool systems but what is the use of a system which is of “no value”.

But more focus should on the end to end development of the solutions.
Below are some of the links, go through them to understand the profile(s) of the real problem solvers.
1.) https://medium.com/swlh/the-role-of-a-product-manager-e0354b4b6845#.txhfoyiax
2.) http://a16z.com/2012/06/15/good-product-managerbad-product-manager/
3.) https://medium.com/@matbalez/product-manager-you-are-664d83ee702e#.k9r1gxezi
4.) https://medium.com/swlh/the-role-of-a-product-manager-e0354b4b6845#.tez6lksx9

If for sometime, we let go ourselves from our ego , then only we will be able to see the real problem and what steps should be taken to solve it.

On the ending note :
“Focus on the steps required to solve a problem but don’t get stuck on the step itself.”

How not to get things done?

Yes, it is going to be quite a messy article.

But what is the motive to write this one if it is going to be a messy ?

Because few days back , I didn’t had anything to do and was confused where I am going on in my life (introspection : my favorite pass time activity.) So I started watching Game Of Thrones (finally , as I don’t prefer watching anything which destroys the original substance by modifying it according to the marketing people to keep up the TRP , but “marta kya na karta !”) and suddenly the thought of this post came up.

And it doesn’t hurt in once in a while to write a truthful-realistic letter to yourself to get your beliefs straight. And it is mostly that , I suppose.

Why am I writing it ?

Simple, I have a fair good record of not getting things done. I leave them by completing it 80-90% because of the following reasons. And there are lots of articles on “How to get things done !” and they all are written by super optimistic persons , so I thought let’s give it a Realistic treatment and I started drawing out inferences from my life to find out the reasons which didn’t allowed me or disturbed me to get derailed from the path.

On the upfront , these are the few reasons :

  1. Procrastination
  2. Friends (disclaimer : not all of them)
  3. Lack of focused attention
  4. Over marketing of yourself.

1. Procrastination :
It is basically “play a waiting game”. Waiting game , here is the work in your hand and  playing , is delaying it by thinking let’s research some more on this thing so that we can churn out a more finished product. What are you , huh , Apple ? Even they don’t churn that good stuff.
Follow this link to see the real face of Apple .

and

Note : I don’t hate Apple ; I just don’t like it. Overpriced Beautiful Stuffs.

Be Microsoft . Put a product out and then keep on updating it ; people like updating , we are used to it thanks to Microsoft.

2. Friends (disclaimer : not all of them) :
Yes , believe it or not. Not all are your wellwishers and they had just put up a poker face in front of you because they want to enjoy seeing you fail. No , you hadn’t done anything wrong to them , but you are a part of a lineage and not everyone is appreciative of the achievements of your fathers and forefathers and when they compare their life with them , they get angry and jealous and then there you are , still building your legacy and that makes you an easy target and boom, you will see and hear a lot of things from them which will derail you from doing your required things as you will start spending time lamenting and thinking about the things which they made you feel is true but in reality they aren’t. They are “the wolves dressed as rabbits”.

3. Lack of focused attention :
You are not focused. You may say that you are focused but take a moment to think on what are you focused ? Answer will be “on the end results” . The correct answer should be “on the process to reach the end result”.

You should always know “what the end result should be ” but always focus on the “processes to reach the end result ” as they are basic building blocks. You don’ t just sow the seeds of onions to reap potatoes by thinking that there will be potatoes because you want it to be potatoes. So think about it.

4. Over marketing of yourself
Yes , you do it a lot. You just talk about yourself , your past achievements and your lineage achievements.

Let’s dissect it.

If you have to talk about or tell about yourself to everyone , then you are probably not what you think of yourself.
If you talk about your past achievements , then please note down this thing :”past performance doesn’t guarantee future success”.
If you relish your lineage achievements , you shouldn’t do that. They hadn’t indulge in those things, only then they can get things done.

I think the above mentioned points sums it all up nicely and you probably know what needs to be done to get things done.

Remembering the Past…

It’s been a while since I wrote something about any App which is a wonderful way to remember our past but it also states/reinforces the fact that “to remember one’s past, one need to have few apps ;let alone one is going to remember others past”. Some like to call it “intersection of life and apps”; I like to call it “invasion of apps in life”, but hey as Harrison Ford boldly and gladly stated in the movie “Paranoia”, “privacy is a myth”.

It started when I was going through my Twitter feed around 11am (believe me I am the guy who has nothing productive to do, thanks to the wonderful company which is paying me for doing nothing) and I saw a tweet about the Timehop app and found it amusing.

So what does that app do actually?
Now a days we all tend to upload our lives online :
1). All pictures/videos to Dropbox/Google Drive.
2). Social interactions and  relationships to Facebook.
3). Our instantaneous thoughts (which can be expressed in 140 characters) to Twitter.
4). Our instantaneous long thoughts to Tumblr and WordPress.
5). Our precious moments / images in Instagram.
(Above I have only mentioned the most popular ones, yet there are other options like Box, Orkut, Flickr, etc to do so. )

So how does it work?
It’s simple.
When you get the app through the respective appstore, Google play for Android and Appstore for iOS, you just have to select the options from where the Timehop will sync data according to the date and will display it to you on that day few years later with heading 1 year ago, 2 years ago, and so on.
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So how does it look?
It looks like this.
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I have connected few of my apps which I use on daily basis. I was using Dropbox but thanks to new improved Google Photos, I migrated to it from Dropbox. But the integration didn’t work. I tried a lot of things to fix it by scrolling the internet but didn’t able to make it work. So I left it there and connected the rest in that app and was amused when it started showing up my past on my face everymorning. Past was not a cakewalk for me. It more of a Grilled Chicken walk, some very good and some very bad and some I never understood.

But a problem aroused as I had been using Dropbox since 2011 so my memories are there for the last 4 years and my Timehop started giving me blank entries. So I then installed Carousel for the Dropbox memories and life is pleasant (sometimes awkwardly pleasant too) since then.

So how does Carousel looks like?
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Now let’s take case of our parents, they are not dependent on anything to remember their past, they just remember and now we are a generation, some call it millennial, Gen x, Gen y, what not, even superior to our ancestors and we have lot less attention span and way less memory retention capacity than them and still how we are better than them, I really doubt on that.

Aren’t we were talking about Apps to remember the past?
So, let’s get back to that again.

User Interface is OK of Timehop. It is Minimal type and not that strain at eyes when looked at for a long time.

Problem solving is happening. We are too much busy to remember our past as we are busy in doing nothing.

So overall use it. I recommend it. And it works on your PC and MacBook too.

Making uncanny relationships and connections. Build interesting stories.

Disclaimer : It may offend some.  So if you want to read it further,  please keep an open mind about things as deep inside you want it but thanks to society you bad-mouth it openly.

So now back to the point of this post.

First of all, what is the meaning of uncanny?
As per dictionary, it mean

strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.

It means what we think of something, other may not see it that way and it is cool till they take it as a sport and not personally.

Everyone makes connections of something to something to remember it. It is the general way to learn something for the people who believes in understanding things rather than just memorize it blindly.

It becomes interesting when people starts making connections in a funny senses like imagine you start imagining your friend imitating a popular comic actor of a TV show or movie.

It is quite common that people start imitating characters they see on TV unconsciously and they didn’t know about it. But now you have to two options in that situation :
1. Get irritated of that person.
2. Enjoy their comic act later thinking what the hell they were thinking doing that kind of stuff.

(People in relationships , it is for you.)
You are out with someone just because it is your duty to accompany them, you are getting bored and you can’t tell them that so what can you do? Simple, just pay attention to the nearby surrounding and start imagining things uncannily. This way you will not get bored , you will not get irritated which can lead to routine small fights in a relationship and plus , you will improve your imagination and if you will later try to tell anyone about those made-up-connections , your storytelling abilities will also improve.

In school or college , most of the time what is taught there have no value in life until and unless you  figure out how you want to use it. But how will you do the “figure out” thing , by making out uncanny connections with the surrounding because you get the ideas from there only. And by “making out” I mean “making out” because then you are at your peak performance there.

So start making Uncanny Connections To Build Stories as you share your stories and leave behind a Story afterall.