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Season 3 Episode 1
April 17, 2024

[DECODED] Potential and Prodigy

Each season on Decoded, we demystify a nebulous concept in commerce. In this season of Decoded, presented by FERMÀT, Phillip sits down with Rabah Rahil, the CMO at FERMÀT, to examine the legacy of these prolific thinkers, inventors, and polymaths, philosophers, and mathematicians whose work inspired Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates. One of these inspirations from the past is the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Listen now!

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Each season on Decoded, we demystify a nebulous concept in commerce. In this season of Decoded, presented by FERMÀT, Phillip sits down with Rabah Rahil, the CMO at FERMÀT, to examine the legacy of these prolific thinkers, inventors, and polymaths, philosophers, and mathematicians whose work inspired Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates. One of these inspirations from the past is the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Listen now!

The best time to be excellent, and the worst time to be average.

  • {00:08:07} - “The first lesson we could learn {from Srinivasa Ramanujan} is becoming your own self-advocate, especially in your career, and understanding that maybe you have a talent and an intuition that can be useful for others.” - Phillip
  • {00:10:12} - “Outside of an Ivy or if you want to go study under a professor, I think academia isn't a lot of times the path for you because I think a lot of times when you have these innate geniuses, if you would have taken them through an academic establishment, the creativity would have been beaten out of them. Because when you think of academics, it's very conformist.” - Rabah
  • {00:13:50} - “I would rather hire people that have had a bunch of failures and pick themselves back up versus people that have never failed. Because I found those people that have never failed are candidly just quite soft.” - Rabah
  • {00:17:05} - “Some truths look like universal laws in one context. But if you zoom out to a bigger context, the law doesn't hold true anymore. The law is broken from a different point of view.” - Phillip
  • {00:24:38} - “When you lack conviction, you can be convinced that your intuition is wrong.” - Phillip
  • {00:29:55} - “The cheat code of mathematics is it's cold and sterile, and there's usually a right answer. What we deal with is humans. Humans are insanely jagged. They flip from logic to emotion to logic to emotion, and there's going to be way more nuance in like, that's why marketing degree is an arts.” - Rabah

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Phillip: [00:00:00] Are you ready?

Rabah: [00:00:00] You know, I'm actually super ready. I've been really interested in OG mathematicians that were somehow considered prodigy. So if you got something of that flavor, I'd love to hear.

Phillip: [00:00:13] Let me thumb through my notes. Welcome to Decoded, a podcast by Future Commerce, brought to you by FERMÀT. Have you ever wondered what your legacy will be? No, I'm serious. Have you ever wondered if what you're doing right now for your work will be remembered? Before the era of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the surest way to cement your legacy was to be multi disciplinary. Now think about it, the most prolific minds of the 16th and 17th centuries, the names that fill textbooks, were polymathic thinkers who were discontent to study or contribute to just one subject. Each season on Decoded, we demystify a nebulous concept in the world of commerce. In Season 1, we discovered that developers and marketers often live worlds apart. And we discussed ways that we can bring those worlds closer together. In Season 2, we examined product development life cycles, and how the world's most innovative brands reinvent themselves over and over again to stay culturally relevant. With this season, I'm sitting down with Rabah Rahil, the CMO of a new company called FERMÀT Commerce. And we will examine the legacy of these prolific thinkers, these inventors and polymaths, philosophers, and mathematicians, the people whose work the likes of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates built on top of. And in that, we will consider and decode what, if anything, marketers can learn from their work. I'm your host, Phillip Jackson, and this is Decoded, presented by FERMÀT. Okay. First question. Have you ever watched Ancient Aliens?

Rabah: [00:02:21] Oh my gosh. Come on. Dumb question. Next question. This is a little bit too close to home, though, because I was very into it. And then, there was... Because I watch a lot of YouTube as well.

Phillip: [00:02:32] Sure.

Rabah: [00:02:33] Side digression, the fastest way to feel rich, YouTube premium. But so there was, like, a whole 3 hour debunking of all the Ancient Aliens episodes.

Phillip: [00:02:42] Yeah.

Rabah: [00:02:43] And that kind of broke me.

Phillip: [00:02:44] Ugh.

Rabah: [00:02:44] But I love the guy with the hair and everything. And so, yes, I do know Ancient Aliens.

Phillip: [00:02:49] It's a little known fact. I'm trying to model my hair after the dude, the alien dude.

Rabah: [00:02:53] {laughter} He's great.

Phillip: [00:02:57] Yeah. Once upon a time, I felt like, one way to try to get my doctor to get off my back about my BMI was to just make my hair taller. And I was like, what are you talking about? I'm, like, 6 foot 2. Yeah. If you jam on dead mathematicians, physicists, and theorists, this is the podcast episode for you. Actually, today, what I want to talk about is this, a good example that's from outside the world of commerce, of a person who was considered to be sort of a child prodigy, someone who worked entirely on instinct, but whenever was asked to prove their work, had a lot of trouble explaining why their intuitions were correct.

Rabah: [00:03:39] Yes.

Phillip: [00:03:39] It was almost magical. And I think a lot of there's, like, a really interesting lesson in that for people that are marketers who struggle with the idea that some people just have this intuition and other people have to work really hard to have the same kind of outcomes. There's an episode of Ancient Aliens that kind of sent me down a rabbit hole, and it's talking about a dude named Srinivasa Ramanujan, who I would say I'm going to venture to guess 100% of the listening audience has never heard of.

Rabah: [00:04:08] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:04:09] But I think this guy should be talked about more because he had a really interesting life where he died really early. He died at the age of 32, but he was a mathematician who just had this child prodigy nature even though he grew up in a time where he didn't have the Internet. He grew up in 1887, and he was just fascinated by numbers and working out these things that I think you typically have to have classical training around.

Rabah: [00:04:39] He's really interesting, and there are a lot of things we can pull here in terms of parallels of he had this divinity vector into a lot of his work, which I thought was really fascinating. And I also think it's really fascinating when you find people that can come to the... Because he was actually incredibly academically proficient, but he just wasn't classically trained.

Phillip: [00:05:02] Mmm hmm

Rabah: [00:05:02] And I'm sure you're going to get into the story. They ended up inviting him to Cambridge. This guy just had such an innate understanding for numbers and relationships that it was just in his being, and I think that's so fascinating. I think there's, you know, bringing it back full circle, markers that have that in them as well. Or not just markers, but just humans all across every spectrum. And so we're going to dive into one of them.

Phillip: [00:05:24] Yeah. Commerce is like a fundamental human activity, and it kind of unites cultures. Right? Brings people together. The human truth in this is that we all have a job to do. I know that's a thing you like to talk about. And the job to be done sometimes is being really inquisitive and asking hard questions and poking holes in the hypothesis. But sometimes the job to be done is you need somebody who has an unbelievable instinct and can't necessarily come with a formal amount of training and work backward to prove the hypothesis to the academics in the room, but they know it in their gut what the answer is, and they can marshal other people over to their side. There's sort of genius in the way that they sell an idea into an organization. That's what Ramanujan did in his time. He sold his ideas through letters, which for the younger folks in the audience, you actually physically used to have to write these things with a pen...

Rabah: [00:06:21] You get a dead tree and some ink, you fold it up, and some random person comes to this predesignated spot to grab the dead tree and then take it to this next predesignated spot. It's very barbaric.

Phillip: [00:06:31] It's so barbaric. In fact, you know, he couldn't just send an email.

Ancient Aliens Narrator: [00:06:37] Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, December 2012. After years of work, mathematician Ken Ohno and two of his former students come up with a groundbreaking mathematical formula that will allow scientists to study black holes in an entirely new way. Incredibly, they achieved this feat by studying a single paragraph written by an Indian mathematician over nine decades earlier, Srinivasa Ramanujan.

Phillip: [00:07:16] He had to afford postage, and it had to travel across the ocean. So, you know, he grew up in India, and in his growing up, he was always kind of considered to be sort of an outlier. He would find himself, they'd go looking for him at the temple. He always sort of went to the local temple, and he would be found scrolling on paper sort of like you ever see that meme with the math lady where she's thinking really hard and there are equations flying? It's like that was this guy's childhood in a nutshell. And in trying to find something for him to do, he was sort of the star child prodigy of his village. But how do you become more than that? And if someone recognized that he was, like, truly a talent, he had to advocate for himself. And I think that [00:08:07] the first lesson we could probably learn is becoming your own self advocate, especially in your career, and understanding that maybe you have a talent and an intuition that can be useful for others. [00:08:18] So what did he do? He sought out the academics of his day. And the story kind of picks up. They made a movie out of this. It's called The Man Who Knew Infinity. It was starring Dev Patel in 2015.

Rabah: [00:08:31] Yep.

Phillip: [00:08:31] And the story kind of picks up not in his childhood, but as he's writing these letters to very famous mathematicians of the day. One in particular is a guy named GH Hardy, at Cambridge. And, basically, they didn't believe that he was capable of knowing the things that he knew because of where he came from. I don't know if you've ever encountered people like that in our circles, but commerce used to be a really academic trade that required a lot of schooling. You had to go to, like, I don't know, the Fashion Institute of Technology to be in retail. And now it's very much a learned trade where people can come from pretty much anywhere in any background with minimal schooling and plug in via all kinds of ways, especially in the digital economy.

Rabah: [00:09:20] Yeah. I think, for better or worse, in my opinion, it's better that the tools of commerce have been democratized. And that's kind of basically our space, DTC, Shopify, arm the rebels kind of vibe. And I think there's a good and bad with that. Right? So before, the line I always say is this is the best time to be excellent and the worst time to be average. Where back in the day, if you were average, you could have a really good life. You clock in. You clock out. You have your marriage, your kids, and your house with the white picket fence. And now that's not the case because so much knowledge has been democratized, and the bar is just being pushed up where you can just make money in a lot of different ways. And if you still play by that old system and those old rules again, no judgment, but a kind of quasi-hot take. I think [00:10:12] outside of an Ivy or if you want to go study under a professor, I think academia isn't a lot of times the path for you because I think a lot of times when you have these innate geniuses, if you would have taken them through an academic establishment, the creativity would have been beaten out of them. Because when you think of academics, it's very conformist. [00:10:35] There's very little, until you get to the upper echelons, there's very little freedom to play around and say crazy things and/or just pursue crazy ideas.

Phillip: [00:10:46] A hundred percent.

Rabah: [00:10:46] And so I think in a weird way, where he grew up was almost a feature, not a bug because he could explore these incredible ideas that would have been essentially either gated or minimized because he couldn't explain why he was so successful or what he understood outside of it was the divine talking to him. Kind of a little bit of a hot take.

Phillip: [00:11:11] I don't think it is, actually. The last 10 years in watching the commerce industry change, we would hire classically when I had the agency at Something Digital. We used to hire for the summer internships, you know, NYU computer science majors, and they generally just couldn't hack it. No offense. Right? Actually, recently, I think Jensen Huang from...

Rabah: [00:11:40] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:11:40] From NVIDIA had a video that's going viral around this about people that come from elite institutions not having, not being able to rise to a level of challenge and adversity and having the grit to see it through because they don't really have anything to prove. What we found was you get the kid that came through the code school, who did a 6 week boot camp who was waiting tables. They will kill themselves for that job. Because this is what they need the most. I think, yeah, it's a feature. It's not a bug. Coming from outside of the entrenched ecosystem can actually create a lot of grit for people.

Rabah: [00:12:24] Yeah. And I think building off of that point, and we can move on to the next one, but it's just there's this kind of quadrant of hires that I talk about. And one of them is basically the Y axis is agency. The X axis is talent. And one of the things you have to be really careful about hiring are frustrated geniuses, where they're super, super talented, but really low agency. And the problem there is they're going to interview incredibly. They're going to have all these amazing ideas, but nothing ever gets done because they need it to be perfect. And they have this unique ability of pointing out what can improve, but they won't do anything until anything improves. And spoiler alert, it's never perfect. I worked at a spectrum of companies from tiny agencies to my own agencies, to massive agencies, to Whole Foods. It's never perfect, and you have to be really careful with these frustrated geniuses. And furthermore, I've found that adversity is actually it's almost like the Nietzsche where I wish, like, ill will upon my friends, not because I don't like them, but because I love them. And what he means by that is he wants people to be able to experience that because everybody wants to think they're going to run into the burning house, but you never know until you have the burning house in front of you. And so that's kind of the Nietzsche quote, the kind of thesis behind that quote. And I found that people that have had almost put it too long, didn't read. [00:13:50] I would rather hire people that have had a bunch of failures and pick themselves back up versus people that have never failed. Because I found those people that have never failed are candidly just quite soft. [00:13:59]

Phillip: [00:14:02] Coming back to Ramanujan's story is the fire of being a self advocate, being from outside the normal system, from having to now come into an established academic, a very rigorous place. The fact that he succeeded then and made such a mark and actually created a number of structures in math that would actually go on to change the world, which we'll talk about here in a second, that he did that within a 7 year period. So he died early. He died at at 32.

Rabah: [00:14:38] 32. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:14:39] All of this took place from 1913 to 1920. All of the mark that he left behind and everything he's remembered for happened in a very short period of time. So this idea of being able to leave a mark and a legacy, that can happen in such a small period of time. We'll talk later in the series about other people who have left that kind of impact that were not remembered by name. So legacy is part of this too because the legacy of the impact that you make on an industry is most of these people, in fact, the guy who brought him to the United States, GH Hardy, is not a known name.

Rabah: [00:15:16] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:15:17] And there's maybe one for every 20 videos on YouTube about Ramanujan, there's a GH Hardy video. It's kind of an interesting...

Rabah: [00:15:24] Yup.

Phillip: [00:15:25] He's sort of known as the guy who brought him to the States.

Rabah: [00:15:29] And he was a monster in his own right, which is kind of incredible when you think about it.

Phillip: [00:15:33] There's a killer quote from Hardy about the work that Ramanujan did at Cambridge. And this is like Aaron Orndorff-level prose. It's "He defeated me completely. I had never seen anything in the least like them before," speaking of his theorems. And only some in the last 10 years, Rabah, have proven very useful in things like string theory and understanding black holes, which is just nuts. He did this work in 1913 to 1920. Just unbelievable. You were speaking about jealousy before and being envious of people's genius. Einstein, said of Ramanujan, "Brilliant man. I would not even attempt to understand how a prodigy's mind works. I will just remain jealous." {laughter}

Rabah: [00:16:30] So good. Especially coming from him. Right?

Phillip: [00:16:33] Oh.

Rabah: [00:16:33] Just so good. Yeah. But kind of another a bit of a non found, he wrote his paper on relativity. It kind of went relative no pun intended, relatively unnoticed. It's such a wild story, and it basically changed the whole thing, the law of physics forever. Right? everybody thought it was Newtonian. It's all good. We've figured this out. Let's move on. Turns out it's not.

Phillip: [00:17:00] Yeah. Well, it turns out that it depends on what your context is. So that's like a marketing lesson [00:17:05] too. Some truths look like they're universal laws in one context. But if you zoom out to a bigger context, the law doesn't hold true anymore. The law is broken from a different point of view. [00:17:18] And that's a thing I think marketers suffer from is the naval gaze or being too forest for trees. We get lost in our own one perspective. That's a thing.

Rabah: [00:17:33] Yeah. No. I couldn't agree with you more. Resolution matters. And I think for me, um, I can't remember the economist, but he's a super famous economist that has a great line of "strong opinions weakly held."

Phillip: [00:17:47] Yeah.

Rabah: [00:17:48] And I think that's a way better way to approach life where you have strong opinions, but if you bring me data and a better thesis and you can prove out that thesis, do you want to be right, or do you want to make money? And I have found that some people want the former, and that's okay. But at the same time, if your goal is to move your business forward and generate impact as a marketer, sometimes you have to be okay with being wrong. And that's why I prefer a thesis driven framework more than a right or wrong framework of, "Okay. This is going to work and this is not." Dude, I've been doing this for almost 20 years now, and I haven't once been able to call an ad. It just is what it is. And there again, there's nothing wrong with that. It's just like, okay, here are some thesis that we can test out. And when you find one that works, do that. Going back to your earlier point, there's a great book called How to Fly a Horse. It's essentially like, looking through the seeds of innovation and finding all these really crazy things. There's a story about the vanilla plantation where an actual slave on the plantation discovered how to cultivate vanilla. But one of the coolest stories in the book, there was this incredible hospital in London, and people didn't want to go there to deliver their baby because the infant mortality rate was through the roof. So much so that there were women delivering their babies in the streets outside the hospital because they didn't want to go in because their baby would die.

Phillip: [00:19:16] Oh my gosh.

Rabah: [00:19:16] And so come to find out back in the day when you were a doctor, you would have basically a leather apron, and the more blood and stuff, they would never wash their aprons, and the more blood you had on it, it was essentially like a sign of pedigree. Look how many surgeries and things that I have done. This is pre-germ theory, and there was this guy, Ignaz Semmelweis. He was a doctor, and he was saying, "Hey. You know what? Why don't we wash our hands before we deliver the babies?" This was an athema because a gentleman is not dirty. That's the kind of vibe of the time. A gentleman can't be dirty. And all the doctors at the time were "gentlemen." So he ends up being able to push it through, and so all the infant mortality drops. All these babies start living now because they're not suffering and dying from infections because the doctors are actually washing their hands. I find that that's actually a really interesting marketing point because people can get caught up in attribution and all that stuff. Are the main metrics going up? Amazing. And then try and work backward from there. But if things are working, don't stop the party train just because you don't know why things are working. Just try and figure out why they are working without kind of sending this guy to the insane asylum and beating him to death.

Phillip: [00:20:27] {laughter} That took a wild turn.

Rabah: [00:20:30] It's a great book, though.

Phillip: [00:20:32] There was a cult tale and a cautionary tale too about people who have 100% prediction rate on things are typically sort of causal. They don't realize that they're causing the problem that they're predicting. And the most famous one was, I believe, there was a doctor who performed a specific test to try to test for tuberculosis in England, I think, in the late 1800s. And part of the test was he was putting his fingers down the throat of a potential person. Yeah. And every single person he diagnosed as having tuberculosis died of tuberculosis died of tuberculosis. 100% success rate turns out he was giving it to them.

Rabah: [00:21:24] That's good.

Phillip: [00:21:26] No. That's horrible.

Rabah: [00:21:26] Circular logic. No. No. Yeah. Terrible for those people, but yeah. It's a sign of the times.

Phillip: [00:21:33] Part of being a self advocate is having faith in your own abilities and your intuition. It's about creating opportunity for yourself, but that requires you to prove your hypotheses and find others that can advocate for you. In industries of innovation, there are no set truths, no best practices, and no surefire ways to succeed. But as an industry matures, like ecommerce, patterns emerge. What preconceptions about ecommerce do we hold today, and what beliefs do we have that need to be challenged to move ecommerce experiences forward into the future? And do we have enough faith in ourselves and our intuition in building a new type of ecommerce experience that will not only win people to our side but move the industry forward? What's worth mentioning is you really can't talk about Ramanujan without talking about his faith. This is one of those interesting things. It's the reason why there's an Ancient Aliens episode about him is that a lot of his deep conviction... So this is something that I love jamming on. A lot of his deep conviction is that he was convinced that his insight and his gifting came from the family goddess Namigiri. And one of the really interesting things about faith is that he knew he was right, and he would work to prove it because he was convinced that it came from a higher plane. His enlightenment and his work was for a higher purpose. And what's really interesting is [00:24:38] when you lack conviction, you can be convinced that your intuition is wrong. [00:24:43]

Rabah: [00:24:43] Correct.

Phillip: [00:24:43] And I think that is a lesson to take away too from Ramanujan is it's not just about his innate ability. It's that we can all learn to trust our instincts more because people that have been there, done that, or have more experience or who know better can easily talk people that have strong and correct intuition out of their conviction. Have you ever experienced anything like that, Rabah?

Rabah: [00:25:12] Oh, for sure. And I think I've probably been on the wrong side of that as well where I was about browbeating when I was younger in my career. I'm not super religious. I lack a little bit of the faith vector, but I think it's actually really important when deployed in a really meaningful way. So I have a little bit of a Buddhist bent where I meditate daily. Big stoic in Buddhism. There's actually a lot of overlap in between. But one of the similar to stoicism but more acutely in Buddhism is this concept of beginner's mind. And so it's very, very important to always try and hold beginner's mind or at least come back to it. Because what happens is when you get so far down the rabbit hole of expertise, what you were alluding to earlier, Phillip, is you can't see the forest for the trees because you're just doing all the math in your head. I was actually an electrical engineering major for two years before I switched to economics, and I was studying at a research institution. One of the cool things about a heavy research institution is you get these brilliant mathematicians that come in, but they're also, like the only class they're teaching is because they have to. They just want to write papers and do research. And so I had this Russian guy who was just brilliant, but this was, like, high level calculus, and he would make jumps in his head that were not even possible for people in the class. And so you would lose that teach. And it's similar to Einstein, who was supposedly a horrible professor. They actually had to kick him out of teaching because nobody signed up for his classes. And so I think there's a certain aspect, especially as a leader that's making the final decisions, trying to go back to beginner's mind is really, really important. And I think there's a double edged sword here, though, because you don't want to again, I'm more of strong opinions weakly held versus divine dogma where I know I'm right. This is the only way to do it, etcetera, etcetera. It definitely worked out for our mathematician guy, but I think there is a certain aspect. When you're doing really hard stuff, it's awesome because it can fill up the boosters where you're like, okay. This it gives you I think the higher purpose thing is definitely there. But to your point, I don't know if he gets there without having that divine vector because that was really what was lighting him up and guiding his way.

Phillip: [00:27:33] Yeah I think the wrong lesson, Rabah, would be to say that the element of faith makes everyone great at something that they have an innate talent in. I think that that's the wrong lesson.

Rabah: [00:27:44] Yes. Yes.

Phillip: [00:27:45] The right lesson is that having deep conviction and being able to advocate for yourself and being able to champion working through the hard proofs of things that you have an intuition over, can be powerful in any industry. But I think that, you know, there's only one Ramanujan in the world. So it's, like, generational talent, a legendary person, you know, that's exceptional in all ways.

Rabah: [00:28:14] It's so well put. And that's the other kind of challenge that you have sometimes deriving one to one lessons from people of this stature. People ask me, like, back in the day with fitness stuff, blah blah blah, and they're like, "Well, LeBron James does it." And it's like, it's pretty safe to assume you're not LeBron James genetically. You know what I mean? This guy is just driving a different car than you, and so you need to make sure... But I totally agree with you, and I think the lesson that I pull from this is the ability to not only have that conviction, but then surround yourself with people that you can respectfully disagree with and take input on that can get you down a path.

Phillip: [00:29:02] To put a really pretty bow on that, and because I think that you had a really killer point to make. Just contextually, if you say something, one of Srinivasa's famous quote is, "An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God."

Rabah: [00:29:21] That's a bar.

Phillip: [00:29:21] But if you were to say that's about cost caps or bid caps, probably you're going to sound crazy.

Rabah: [00:29:29] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:29:29] So I don't know that, certainly recognizing patterns in the universe, especially things around mathematics that have a universal language behind them have, I think, a higher order of meaning too than some of the work that we have to do on a daily basis. So, yeah, definitely put it all in context.

Rabah: [00:29:47] Yeah. And I just wanted to, because you brought up a perfect point of encapsulation for me. [00:29:55] The cheat code of mathematics is it's cold and sterile, and there's usually a right answer. What we deal with is humans. Humans are insanely jagged. They flip from logic to emotion to logic to emotion, and there's going to be way more nuance in like, that's why marketing degree is an arts. [00:30:14] Right? It's not a science degree. And that's why math is a science degree because it's pretty much settled. This is how things work. There's usually going to be a right answer and a wrong answer, and maybe there are a couple pathways to solve the equation. But for the most part, it's very rigid in that sense where there are so many different things and nuances and the things that go into the purchase, into commerce, into understanding. There aren't status symbols in math. There isn't an Hermès equation and a Coach equation. And so I think that's the challenge. And that, candidly, what I find so interesting about commerce is to your point, commerce is culture. Whereas mathematics is essentially the science of math. It's the science of the world, and especially if you're into that kind of Plato vibe of he saw the whole world in equations in math. So I think that's the one bifurcation I would make is that mathematics and the hard sciences are much different than the nuance of prose or marketing or things of that nature that have to deal with the human experience.

Phillip: [00:31:21] It's funny, though, how often... And in a couple episodes in our series here, how often that will come back to this idea that famous mathematicians or physicists are also famous philosophers, inventors, and artists.

Rabah: [00:31:37] Yes.

Phillip: [00:31:37] So it's funny how those things often can coincide. You can hold both ideas at the same time. I'll leave it at this. Ramanujan might be most famous not by name, but as sort of like a meme as to why mathematics doesn't make sense to most people. There is a thing that you probably saw in high school about an infinite series, and you might have heard a high school math teacher say, "Did you know that if you add up 1 +2+3+4+5+6 all the way up to infinity that it equals -1/12th? Math's so stupid." Well, you can thank Ramanujan for that proof. {laughter} So yeah. And in that way, I think that sometimes, yeah, the applicability to some of these things is incredibly niche. But, hey, the applicability of half of what I talk about on Twitter is also incredibly niche.

Rabah: [00:32:33] But to back you up here, I think this is where you find the gems that become Cambrian explosions or seismic shifts in the way you think. So I read a lot of business books, a lot of nonfiction. And sometimes I just get tired where, you know, you're working all day, and then you go into a business memoir or something like that. And I found so many gems in fiction books, like The Alchemist, King Killer Chronicles, like, all these things. And so I think you need to... It's good to dip your toes in other ways because you're actually bringing that beginner's mind to this fiction. That's then opening you up to see it without having all your guard up, without having all your predispositions in place to then refute what you're hearing. So I don't know. I think this is you can't live here, but I think it's really good to sprinkle into really kind of shock the system to either, a) get new ideas, or b) understand why you are holding these ideas in a more deep manner.

Phillip: [00:33:33] I love it. Who knew that we could tease out so much meaning by talking about a dead mathematician?

Rabah: [00:33:41] Let's go.

Phillip: [00:33:41] I really feel like one of the things that makes the type of content we produce at Future Commerce so different is specifically trying to bring out outside influence into the world of what we do. That is incredibly, you know, analytical. It is incredibly measurable. It is quantifiable. But, hey, we all need that inspiration that comes from outside of our day to day. Thanks so much to FERMÀT for making that possible here on this season of Decoded.

Rabah: [00:34:10] Yeah. Absolutely. This went in so many different directions. And I know when a pod goes well, when I have more energy at the end of it than when I started. So kudos to you, Phillip.

Phillip: [00:34:21] If you didn't know much about Srinivasa Ramanujan, now you do. Go check out the Ancient Aliens episode. We'll link it up in the show notes. And also, hey, Netflix right now streaming, The Man Who Knew Infinity, but you're going to have to spend $8 now for the ad free version. Next time on Decoded...

Rabah: [00:34:48] One of the laws of nature that I think sort of flows into every part of how we sort of live is this idea of the path of least resistance. And FERMÀT happens to be one of the people who observed this first in the real world. So when light refracts, so you know how it bends from air to water, and so you have that funny thing of, like, when you look at a pool, things look closer than they actually are. So he's the first person to observe this in the physical world. And so I was like, "Okay, this idea is everywhere. And the question that I had was, "Okay, as a marketer or as somebody interacting with consumers, what are these non-obvious paths of least resistance that can actually give the consumer the experience that they need while still respecting the law, the physics of each of the mediums that somebody is in at the point that they are in them?"

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