Substance & Form: The Will & The Way
The Difference and Why it Matters
I live across the street from the Americana, a Caruso development and one of the biggest malls in Los Angeles when you factor in The Galleria. Incidentally, I learned that an old essay by Ray Bradbury inspired the development of the Glendale Galleria. Who knew? The writer in me, that also wishes to be a real estate developer, was in absolute glee.
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The Grove shouldn’t be the best park in Los Angeles, but in a city that ranks amongst the worst in park availability, the Americana in Glendale serves as a nice urban oasis. A retail paradise. The stroke of genius is that Caruso commercialized the concept of a European town square. A placa. Town squares are where lovers meet, friends chat, kids play, and old men pass the time with coffee, cigarettes, or chess. It’s where personal time is reclaimed from the demands of city life. It’s a place to see people and to be seen.
It’s here where I observe changes in fashion, but the firmness of time. The more things change, the more things stay the same. Teenage girls dressed as sad Bratz Dolls are the happiest when sharing stories about their crushes over Wetzel Pretzels. Parents playing with their kids like puppies. Grown adults on their phones and walking alone. The biggest section in Barnes & Nobles is now the Manga section (10 years too late, like all merchandising trends related to anime and gaming). The public school kids in their navy blue JanSport uniforms bob and weave in between the slow-walking Chinese internationals sporting shiny designer shades, a Louis Vuitton bag, and Balenciagas. Cheesecake Factory is somehow always busier than the Apple Store.
I recently had a revelation when I observed a boy, a teenager, and a man in equal succession. The full range of man’s life. The boy was clearly the happiest, but he had the least. Just one toy in hand. The teenage boy was the most anxious. His eyes darted left and right to block my gaze from looking through him. Uncomfortable in his skin because his designer sneakers and Off-White t-shirt didn’t provide him the security he thought he bought. And lastly, the man, heavy with burden and everything that he owns and that owns him in return. Tanned, on his phone, heavy with jewelry, and walking fast.
Isn’t it funny how a young boy can be so happy with just one object? I certainly remember those days. I used to sleep with my Gameboy. I cherished Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon cards like they were winning lottery tickets. But why was the teenage boy so miserable? Life is much harder for teenagers because they realize how much they need to acquire to be seen as cool or beautiful. But as soon as we acquire those things, we want to get away from them, just like the older man in his 50s.
I’ve been thinking a lot about form and substance. And how our culture has cleaved the two. The will and the way are no longer unified but abstracted by performance culture and mimetic behavior. The teenage boy that has no business wearing designer clothes desires credibility. So he replicates the form but lacks the substance.
Teenage angst is everywhere:
The housewife that started a street-wear brand spending all her time trying to be someone she’s not on Instagram.
Brands looking to the metaverse as a way to be relevant.
The technology company that spends too much of their time looking successful and while losing sight of the product.
Investors driven by FOMO, only to get wrecked by macroeconomics.
We all can fall into this content trap. I thought I had to publish at least 2x times a week, get to 10,000 subscribers, write Twitter threads, analyze companies and trends, and get famous people on my podcast to matter. I spent hours last week trying to get the right social handles for GM, Reality Marble, and Brian Gold, and I fucking hated myself for it. I’ll play this game, but I will still play it my way.
But hey, you know the sayin', "Fake it 'til you make it" Me, I did the opposite, made it then I faked it — J. Cole
The Art of Being Your Full-Self
So here’s what’s going on. In honor of all the Lao Tzu I’ve been reading, I’m going to be unifying and focusing my output on the following:
Good Monsters is where I will be publishing articles and reports about money and marketing. This will be my main focus. Reality Marble will become the moniker for the quarterly reports that will synthesize a ton of the research we have already worked on. It will no longer be the name of my personal blog.
I will use this substack/blog to write more about my life. Less business, more poetry. This should bring up my output to at least 2x a week. I’ll experiment with the LinkedIn newsletter feature, YouTube, and TikTok for distribution, but only when we reach a critical mass of incredible content. However, my main focus will be long-form content on Good Monsters and here on this substack. I shot two podcasts already, and I’m itching to get them out. One is with the founder of Modernica, my favorite furniture designer in Los Angeles, and the other is with the grand architect of the USC campus and the downtown corridor. We talked at length about city design.
Good Monsters Inc.
We've generated almost half a million in revenue since opening our firm in 2020. We currently make most of our revenues through our engagements for strategy and design. A high-touch services model that we intend to grow by becoming even more selective with our clientele.
To stabilize and grow our revenues even more so that we don't become dependent on any one client (something I hated about the agency business), we are moving on to the next phase of our operations which is to focus on productizing our services, and regularly publishing our research while slowly building up a thoughtful community of thinkers, artists, and readers. You can read more about our operating model here.
Open-Sourcing Our Research: Publishing
As you know, we’ve been studying the most powerful ideas, people, organizations, institutions, networks, communities, policies, cities, cultures, and technologies that have arisen to date.
We will publish our findings and open-source our thinking around money and marketing into articles and reports to bring forth new insights, deep narratives, frameworks, and mental models that will enable individuals and organizations to adapt to the new economy.
The first two Reality Marble Reports by GM will be:
The Unreality of Money
Marketing’s Lack of Design
It will be well-designed, provocative, entertaining, and hopefully, radically useful. I’m still figuring out how much to charge for these reports. Somewhere between $25-$100, but I’ll send the first one to you guys for free. These reports will get at the core of why things are happening the way they are.
It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties.
Alfred North Whitehead
Building a Community of Substance
The word community is everywhere. Everyone wants one, but few know how to create and sustain a community. What bothers me about the community space is that people are creating rules before there is an actual dynamic entity. Designing currencies before there is an economy. Community is formed from the bottom up. Again back to substance and form. Right now, we have a little less than 100 people subscribed to this newsletter. You’re in good company. Leaders from Riot and Apple, friends and family that I respect and admire. I intend to grow that intentionally with purpose and meaning, establish a fellowship with my readers and welcome anyone interested in my craft. At the end of the day, it’s not about the quality or frequency of the content; it’s about the quality of connections you have with the people you care about.
Thanks for reading. Have a beautiful day.
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