David speaks with Stu Patience, a Nonprofit co-founder, teacher, and blogger.
Stu lives and works in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he works for a small-but-mighty literacy non-profit - Saya Suka Membaca, an Indonesian literacy charity that trains teachers to teach reading in Indonesian in an effective and fun way.
Stu is a highly underrated yet extremely prolific creator, and it's been incredible seeing his journey over the last few years. You can see his track record of publishing almost every single day for the last few years, and he shares on Driverless Crocodile, his blog, a ton of incredibly insightful ideas.
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📹 Watch on Youtube
👤 Connect with Stu Patience:
Global Giving page: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/teach-3000-indonesian-children-to-read/
Youtube: Saya Suka Membaca - Yayasan Tunas Aksara | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGJ7uZnfsJA
📄 Show notes:
0:00 | Intro
3:25 | Why Stu moved to Jakarta
4:22 | Teaching as a career path
7:05 | The Political history of Hong Kong
8:04 | Why Hong Kong is Interesting
13:22 | The terror of Chungking mansions
17:45 | The Concept of Cities
26:05 | The Future is now
30:22 | The Tourism Paradox
33:15 | The trap of urbanization
35:54 | How your values change based on status
38:21 | Diversifying knowledge vs. taste
40:01 | The Impact of technology on the world
42:29 | The magic of Mr. Beast’s content
43:03 | The Future of global culture
46:39 | China’s influence over Tiktok
49:37 | Building a life in Jakarta
55:48 | What is a Driverless Crocodile
57:48 | Stu's most interesting ideas
1:07:53 | The evolution of technology
1:09:57 | Helpful principles in starting to write a blog
1:11:33 | Curating your inputs
1:16:27 | Constraints and consistency
1:19:02 | Why failure is freedom
1:22:15 | What it’s like running a nonprofit
1:24:49 | Building communities online and offline
🗣 Mentioned in the show:
👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
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TK - Stu Patience
Stu Patience: [00:00:00] Businesses fail, nonprofits don't achieve their goals, teams fall apart, this kind of thing happens. We have, so we trust, we have small successes on the way.
My blog like it's a tiny blog, it doesn't earn, it's not an, a big earner. But it's there because I like doing it. And in some sense it's own reward. So the success isn't guaranteed. And a good question to ask is what would you do anyway if you knew you would fail at it? You know, so if you . Know you're gonna write your novel or paint your picture or run your charity or serve the people you serve with your business, and you actually know, look, five years down the line, this is, this is gonna fall. If someone could, you know, read, look in a crystal ball and tell you that, what would you do anyway?
David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu. And this is The Knowledge. A podcast for anyone looking to think deeper and work smarter. In every episode I [00:01:00] speak with makers, thinkers, and innovators to help you get more out of life.
This week I'm speaking with Stu Patience. Stu is a highly underrated and yet extremely prolific creator, and it's been incredible seeing his journey over the last few years, even though I only came across him last year. But looking back, you can see his track record of publishing almost every single day for the last few years, and he shares on Driverless Crocodile, his blog, a ton of incredibly insightful ideas. Some of them are quotes and nuggets from other books and other sources that he's come across, but some of them are really incredible insights in and of themselves that are really good to wrestle with things that are inquisitive, things that make you want to think again about something that you may have already taken for granted.
Stu and I talked about his background growing up in Hong Kong and how that influenced or led to him eventually moving to Jakarta and a lot of the work that he and his team are doing, building a [00:02:00] nonprofit in Indonesia, and it's really incredible work that they're doing. So you're gonna hear us talking about. On one hand, what it's like building a nonprofit in Indonesia.
We also talk a lot about this idea of emerging nations, emerging industries, and how the changing world of work with people going remote with changing forces in globalization will affect a lot of industries, both domestically and internationally.
And we try to unpack a lot of the complex and often political discussions around tourism between different countries and how these different worlds can collide between tourists, digital nomads, domestic citizens. It's a really interesting package that we unwrapped through our travels, through our work. And so it's a really compelling discussion and you can find out more about the great work that Stu's doing with his nonprofit, Saya Suka Membaca. There's links in the description and in the show notes. You can find the show notes transcript and read my newsletter at theknowledge.io.
Every week, I [00:03:00] share some of the best tools, ideas, and frameworks that I come across from business psychology, philosophy and productivity. So if you want the best that I have to share, you can get that in the newsletter at theknowledge.io.
And if you love this episode, Please do share it with a friend and don't forget to leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts because it helps us tremendously to reach other people just like you.
But first of all, I mean, you are in Jakarta right now, so what brings you to Jakarta?
Stu Patience: Yeah. So, I, with my wife, have been living in Jakarta on an alleyway for 10 years pretty much now. So we are originally from the UK, from Norwich. I work in a literacy charity, so the program is called "Saya Suka Membaca", which means I love reading in Indonesian. And what we do is we make curriculum, we make reading books in the Indonesian language, [00:04:00] leveled reading books and we train teachers how to use them. So it's kind of one of the keys to education is a huge need in Indonesia for improvements in the quality of literacy teaching. So that's kind of the spot, so I was a teacher and involved in mentoring, training teachers when I was in the UK. So that's kind of the skill what I'm doing here.
David Elikwu: So, is teaching always the path that you were on, what got you into that? And maybe actually, perhaps a more interesting question, which I'm stealing from, Srinivas Rao, who has a great podcast called The Unmistakable Podcast. He likes to ask guests, what did your parents do for a living and how did that impact what you ended up doing?
Stu Patience: Okay. Yeah, good question. So, no, I definitely did not want to be a teacher, from the beginning. So I actually grew up in Hong Kong, which was a British colony at the Colony at the time and I was there through, 1997 and through past the handover. And my father worked for an airline there, Cathay Pacific.[00:05:00] And my mom was a stay-at-home mom and did up, you know, all sorts of other things, in the background.
Yeah, so that's where I started. I went to an international school in Hong Kong, but a very diverse one. Especially by the time we left and loved Hong Kong. And I think, I left Hong Kong thinking, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew I didn't want to go in an office, into an office. And I think I had a sense from observing the careers and some of the different things that various people did that a high, high powered, high earning career, which was in some way what we were being groomed for was not going to be fulfilling.
But I didn't have a good sense of the alternatives, so I ended up studying English literature, which was something that I really, really loved. Loved stories and storytelling and found some of the theory about what stories do how they work, super interesting. So after [00:06:00] studying that, Oh, I had a little experience doing some teaching while I was still studying. So while I was a student, I helped a second language English speaker to learn English. And those moments, I think there were just some moments where there were real little light bulb moments for them. And that was probably the trigger that got me thinking, okay, maybe, there's something in teaching.
So I finished, studying and did a course, to teach English as a foreign language. And with that, yeah, had my first trip, to Indonesia. This was back in 2004 and I taught English at University there. So that was, yeah, that was how I started and from that point and from enjoying that experience, I went back to the UK and trained to be a teacher. And I think my motivation there was just this sense that I'd been given a whole lot by my parents by the opportunities I had growing up and wanted to do something, something hopefully of use or of service[00:07:00] to other people. So yeah, did what I could.
David Elikwu: Yeah That's really Interesting. Were you cognizant at all of the, I guess, the political history of Hong Kong while you were there and did that, I don't know, did you interface with that in any way growing up there?
Stu Patience: Yeah. But in terms of the history, very much so and I think, I don't think, no, that Hong Kong is a unique colony, but it has an interesting history in that most of its history is of immigration, at least in terms of percentage of the population, immigration and people choosing to come there. So we were certainly aware of the history of the Opium war and conflicts with Britain and China and that kind of thing. So we knew about that, but it wasn't, I would say it wasn't so much part of the lived experience day to day.
David Elikwu: Okay. Fair. That's really interesting.
Stu Patience: Yeah. And it's, it's interesting, you know, coming forward to today and the political upheaval and the [00:08:00] difficulties there, it's really, it's really hard to watch.
David Elikwu: Yes, I can imagine. I think Hong Kong is really interesting for a few reasons. So first of all, you mentioned Cathay Pacific, so shout out to them your father, because actually, funnily enough, so I used to run a travel business and they were one of our first customers, so we ran some trips with them. So went to Hong Kong, went to the Philippines, went to some places around Asia. So there's a lot that I probably owe to Cathay Pacific for those reasons. But yeah, Hong Kong is a really interesting for me in that actually, I think there's a few different paradigms to this, and this might be an aside to, you know, the rest of our discussion, but I think, one layer of it is the fact that I haven't actually spent very much time digging into the history of it specifically, but it has come up and been touched on in a lot of books I've read, even fictional books. And it's so interesting how I've kind of started putting together this patchwork understanding of the politics of the time just by how I've seen people interact [00:09:00] with Hong Kong in that way. And then also number of years ago,
Stu Patience: I was gonna say, is there, is there like a theme that comes out from that as you look, I should say as a disclaimer that I more or less left when I was 18 and I have been back a couple of times, but not nearly as many times as I would've liked.
David Elikwu: That's a good question. I think, so some of it you touched on is this notion of people moving there by choice and that being like a, voluntary thing and kind of this idea of building something there. I guess it's interesting how it also interfaces with the aspects of it being a British colony and then also, now and everything since then as it being part of China and acknowledged as being part of China, at least by China.
And so I think then the other aspect of this is that I worked in Shanghai for a while, a number of years ago. I spent some time working there and that was a really interesting experience, really great experience. I found it so interesting having spent some time living in China then how by moving around the rest of the world, you get to experience [00:10:00] other aspects of how people interface with China. And I'm sure actually perhaps being British might be a similar thing, if I was born British and grew up here, then going around and hearing what other people think about Britain might be interesting as well. But I just remember. You know, first of all, okay, you are in China, you're in Shanghai, you get this view of Hong Kong and also a view of Taiwan and then there's been times where I've been in the UK and I'm trying to practice my Chinese, and the people I'm practicing with are from Taiwan, and so actually the picture of China that I'm getting from them is also very different. And then I think last year or the year before I was in Switzerland, I went to a Chinese restaurant and the guy that had the Chinese restaurant was actually from Tibet. And so then again, I'm getting this very different side of the picture and it makes it so interesting and then actually, I think even last year with the lab leak and stuff, with Covid and lots of people giving. Yeah, lots of people giving different perspectives on their thoughts on China, [00:11:00] how China's treating people and it's a really, there's so many things in there. It's a really interesting mix.
Stu Patience: I think it, like what you've said, just really you put your finger on the diversity of China as well. The diversity of ethnicities within the Han majority states and the diversity of points of view and perspectives and of experience as well. So, it's just really very hard to imagine. I think, coming from a cultures, if you say the UK has been a stable political entity since, or not the UK I should say, England has been a stable political entity since like maybe the eight hundreds or something like that, and it's very hard to imagine like the total upheaval of the start of the Chinese civil War, the end of the imperial system. And then through World War 2, the start of the Chinese Civil War and then into the successful revolution, the cultural revolution and all those changes, it's very hard to, to kind of get your head around that. The [00:12:00] huge amount of upheaval and also the huge diversity of experience depending on where people are. The country's so big and Indonesia, where I live now is a little bit similar. It's almost as long in an arc as Europe is wide. And we talk about Indonesia, we talk about China, that there's so much, so much there and so many perspectives.
David Elikwu: Yeah, I think one of the first questions I probably should have asked was where in Hong Kong you lived? Because I've been twice and I've had extremely divergent experiences, and maybe this is part of the cultural milieu that exists now, which is really interesting. The first time I went to Hong Kong was probably the worst travel experience I've ever had. Not any, you know, that's not painting anything on Hong Kong, so this is actually when I was still living in Shanghai, my visa was expiring, and so technically you have to leave China and just, what you do is you just go to Hong Kong and then you come back. It was just a really messy, logistically, so I think I had waited too long or the queues at the immigration center were too long cause I was on a business visa and so I ended up almost overstaying so I had to [00:13:00] just leave as quickly as possible and I was still working. So I was like taking days off work to go to Hong Kong. And so I just booked the cheapest place that I could find cuz I was still paying for my apartment back in Shanghai. And the cheapest place that I could find happened to be in Chunking mansions. And so I
Stu Patience: Hey. Okay. Nice
David Elikwu: Staying there for a few nights and it was not, not fun. So maybe you can tell us what Chunking mansions is from the perspective of someone that has lived in Hong Kong for a while.
Stu Patience: Yeah. Look, I have quite a lot of affection for, at least for the concept of Chunking Mansion. So though I've never stayed there and never stayed in a budget hotel there. So, Chunking mansions is like a multi block combination of a couple of ground floors shopping mall. This is on the Kaolin side of Hong Kong, and above the shopping mall, which is largely Indian or Indian sub Continental in terms of the businesses that are there or was at the time, with a few, Chinese businesses mixed in. [00:14:00] And then it's like at least four tower blocks and this is a combination of this, this is circa 2000, like a combination of a combination. I imagine there is some really nice flats somewhere up there, but also very small and budget rentals, budget hotels slash, I dunno what you call them, flop houses, brothels vice, the whole lot. Some amazing Indian restaurants as well. It's just buzzing and, yeah, a very, a very interesting place. And maybe not a happy place depending on who you are what you do there. Yeah.
Was that a decent summary? What do you think?
David Elikwu: Roughly Yes. Yeah. No, no, it was a good summary, but I think if you're not prepared and you don't know, let's say you didn't have that summary in advance. Wow. I was in for a, I don't think I'd really, I just, I booked somewhere on booking.com or somewhere just sorted by, you know, cheapest and it was probably like 10 pounds a night or something like that. And [00:15:00] yes, it was not the funniest, it was like even what you were describing, I think the scale too sanitize might not appreciate. Yeah, people listening to this might not appreciate the scale of this building, which is actually several buildings, but all connected together in one huge thing. And some of the places that you might stay in are actually almost like buildings within buildings or complexes within complexes. So the room I stayed in had no windows. It was literally the smaller
Stu Patience: The size of the mattress.
David Elikwu: Yeah, pretty much. So I think I opened the door, you have to climb onto the bed. So close the door and then behind where the door just opened is where the bath was, like the bathroom, which was just a shower and
Stu Patience: So you had it on suite, this is, this is,
David Elikwu: Yes, on suite. Yeah, I mean I paid above, you know, I paid a bit more for that cause otherwise I would've been in bunk beds with a bunch of other people and I thought that's the one thing I didn't want to do. But yeah, it was literally, it was a shower and [00:16:00] everything else was stacked underneath it, so it was like the toilet, you kind of hunch around the toilet to use the shower and yeah, it was a really interesting experience. And like you said, it is pretty much like the Indian subcontinent and a lot of maybe African immigrants. It's hard to explain. So I came speaking, and this is actually what caused me to struggle somewhat, I came I speak English, I speak some Mandarin. You know, the first month I was working in Shanghai, did like a month of language school and I'd studied some before then. So I can speak Mandarin a well, at least at the time. But I can't speak Cantonese
Stu Patience: Doesn't help you much in
David Elikwu: Yeah, in Chunking mansions, those are the two things that nobody speaks, many people speak, Indian people speak. Whatever language you had wherever you came from, that is probably what you speak and nothing else cuz that's kind of the point of being there. And I remember reading a story about how this is after now, like Googling, where did I just end up? Apparently, a large proportion of all the stolen phones in the world end up going through [00:17:00] Chunking mansions at some point. So it's a very interesting, cultural heritage aspect.
Stu Patience: So when I was growing up, we had the Kowloon Walled City, which you may have heard of this little pocket kind of neutral or in theory Chinese territory in Kowloon in Hong Kong, which was a, a block, I don't know, a couple of hundred meters square, but high rise. And I think Chunking mansion is pretty tame compared to how the Kowloon Walled City was.
David Elikwu: That's really interesting. I think, I mean, this kind of leads onto something I know you've written about before. I was thinking maybe we discussed this later, but I think, we might as well talk about it now. What I'm interested in, and I think I've seen you write about this from a few different angles in the past, which is this idea of cities.
And I'm interested in what your take is on the concepts of cities in general. Cause I think there's a few different, angles from which you can come at this. One is we've just had the pandemic, people are no longer thinking, at least as a, the primary view that you have to go and work [00:18:00] somewhere in order to work there. There is a greater possibility of being able to work remote, you have a lot of people, it's weird. We've kind of come full circle in some respects where on one level I think people are drawing back a bit from globalization, at least in terms of having the risk of manufacturer being overseas. But then simultaneuosly as people get used to the idea of working remotely, people are also simultaneously starting to hire more remote workers, whether they are expats or whether they are like native people living, somewhere else in the world. So I think there's that aspect of it, then there is, so I know you've written before about like hinterlands and this idea of just, I guess the surrounding area of the city and the fabric of the area around it and this idea that you can add to it, you can extract from it. And I think humans in general have always had this complex history of the extent to which we add value to the land that we're on or the extent to which we extract value from it. And that is kind of where we're at with climate change. There was a report just last [00:19:00] week about how Exxon, the gas company or the energy company had a report all the way back, I think in the eighties of what they thought the effects of climate change would be, and they were pretty much exactly what has
Stu Patience: They'll bang on the money.
David Elikwu: Yeah, they were banging on the money, but they just buried the report and it's just crazy how the gas companies knew exactly how bad climate change could be cuz they modeled it all out. The models were exactly correct and here we are where we are now.
So I think there's those aspects, and then just from what we were talking about, this idea of slums, and you had a really interesting post about this, which I loved, which is there's this duality where on one hand people hate the idea of slums and people hate how they look, people hate how they smile, everything about them, they're ugly, and well, more than that, you know, you empathize with the people that are living there and you don't want people to have to live in those circumstances. But then on the flip side, it's also really interesting that people move to those places. It's [00:20:00] not like, you know, maybe in some circumstances you end up there maybe because you didn't get a visa or, something happened that was a negative. But very often, particularly within a big city, and Kowloon I think might have been a good example of this. You have people coming from India, coming from all the way across the world, coming directly to this place to come and live there because they see the opportunity in that space, even where other people might see the negative aspects.
So I know I've just thrown a lot at you, but I would love to hear maybe your thoughts on some, some intersection of that.
Stu Patience: Yeah. I think the way I've come to think about cities I think is kind of as like, possibility machines, places where combinations happen. So if you take the view that economic growth or economic dynamism and progress is somehow a function of people with a particular skill, talent, resource. Finding good matches, now [00:21:00] that might be employers, that might be buyers for their services, that might be something buzz for the services or for something that they have, maybe they have a connection back home and a resource that they can bring into the city to sell or trade. Like cities just have exponentially more possible combinations that people can make within them. So I think, for economics, for culture as well, for just for creativity and interesting stuff happened.
I've written a post, taking an idea called Scenius I think it was Marc Andressen and I heard talking but the idea that a lot of the, a lot of artistic movements, and also movements in technology and things are not very rarely the work of individuals that happens, but, they're always building on someone else's work. But also where you really get explosions is in a group of people coming together. They're trying things out, they're encouraging each other, they're failing. So a lot of artistic movements, I think like modernism would come down to this kind of thing. Literary modernism in the start of the 20th [00:22:00] century, I think, the birth of hip hop was similar. So this is just how it goes, people encourage each other, people take ideas and mix them together. And that's what is in almost all aspects of life. Dating, matchmaking, finding friends, finding hobbies and things to do, educational opportunity. This matchmaking is just happening in cities and I think that's kind of what they do and the rewards from that, be they in terms of the ability to feature family, be they in terms of cultural enrichment, the rewards from that coming together are why people move to the cities. And it's why either people who could afford to live in a nicely leafy suburb somewhere or somewhere rural, want to be in the city, cuz it's where the action is. And it's equally why people from poor communities also, you know, have throughout the 20th century particularly, but throughout history really moves the city in droves. Because however hard it is and however difficult it might be living in a slump or not even in slum,[00:23:00] sleeping rough. Somehow there is a sense that the reward or the possibility of reward is worth it. And that's really what we see living, in Jakarta as well.
So I spent quite a lot of time in poor communities in Jakarta. One of them, one of the most densely populated areas of Southeast Asia. So something like 70,000 plus people per square kilometer, you'll have to check this, but I think London has 6,000 per square kilometer. So it's, it's dense, you've got families, living in a room, you know, a meter by two, a room like your room in Chunking mansions without the bathroom. You've got a family of five, they might be sleeping the short direction across a single mattress or sleeping in shifts and making it work. Because they've come the possibility is worth it. And sometimes actually, people that I've known have some land or have family land in a village in Java somewhere, but they come here to make some money, so that they can go back and have a better life.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that's a really interesting point, [00:24:00] and maybe I guess the intersection of these two ideas is what do you think the future of the way economies are moving and shifting now, how do you think that might impact some of these kind of, I dunno, I don't really like the time developing nations, but yes, the nations that are still like rapidly developing in a sense where you're still having mass urbanization even in China, I think is such an interesting thing to me. As an example, just as somewhere that I've been, where I think people still don't realize the extent to which China is still largely rural and as many people as there might be in all these big cities, the majority of Chinese people are out in these farmlands somewhere and they are gravitating towards these cities. And actually even in Shanghai as an example, there's a ton of people that actually are only there during the week because at the weekend they're taking the trains or however they travel back to their village, back to their home. And so actually on the weekend they're not there. And so I think that that's an interesting aspect.
So I'd love to know how you think [00:25:00] some of these, I guess, changing patterns might affect people in places like Indonesia, places like Nigeria, Pakistan. I think Pakistan's a really good one because, or no, I think India is about to pass China actually, in terms of the world's most populous place apparently that will happen this year. So yeah. What' do you think of some of those changes?
Stu Patience: Yeah, with the caveat that I'm not hugely well qualified to kind of to.
Maybe, we'll come back to this later. I'm actually, the work that I do now is in Indonesia, so we're training teachers to teach in Indonesia. So the team that I work with is Indonesian, but I know we'll come back to that later. Just wanted to,
David Elikwu: Okay. No, problem.
Stu Patience: Yeah, yeah.
David Elikwu: Okay, fine. But I think even still, I think the point being that, you know, even at one level removed, there's an extent to which you are training people and giving them skills, which soon, one day there's a possibility that the horizon at which they can use those skills might be far greater than [00:26:00] how they might use them now. And so I think that's the interesting part.
Stu Patience: Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. There's a quote I love by, I believe it's William Gibson, which is, the future is already here. It's just not very evenly distributed. And that's, I think, true of technology. I think it's true of cities. I think in the history if urbanization happened, I think London was the first city, at least since ancient Rome that passed a hundred, sorry, 1 million. So if we say it in the modern era, there's like this initial Western urbanization. And in some sense, other places have been catching up to that. If you say that's like the history of the 20th century, you are a large part of the 20th century. So in some sense, a lot of the things and the experiences that we've had in the west with growth and declines, stagnation, say in our city sensors and then re-energizing and regrowth. I think all those things are happening, will happen, in newer cities and mega cities. The flip side of [00:27:00] that is in some way the future perhaps of some western cities is actually, Shanghai, Singapore, parts of Jakarta, like the futures here. And if you compare them to most cities in the West, actually they're way ahead in terms of technology. And some of the stuff that happens.
I think in parts of the world where the population is growing, I don't see it stopping. I don't see people choosing not to go to the city. I think if we are serious about our environmental impact as well, probably urban living is the way to go in terms of ecological footprint and wider carbon footprint. I think that's the case. I think, cities, cities will continue to grow and because there's nowhere else where, apart from maybe the internet. Yeah, where you can get this face-to-face at least, combination, generation of possibilities for people.
I see middle class Indonesians moving to suburbs, so that whole cycle as [00:28:00] well of coming to the city, wanting to have a family, feeling like there's not enough space, and maybe the second or third generation moving somewhere leafier and greener kind of out of the city. All those cycles of sprawl and concentration I think. Yeah. And they say like cities, there are a few companies that are super old, but I think cities are just about the oldest institutions, or whatever you wanna call them, that humans have. Longer lived than pretty much anything else, including nation states and empires.
So that's interesting to think about.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that's a really interesting point. And one more question that I might have on this actually touches on Indonesia specifically, I think is, how do you think that the, the changing nature of the way people work might interface with tourism and the fact that there are some places that historically have gravitated towards making the most of their money through tourism.
And I think in Bali, for example, from, at least from what I've [00:29:00] heard and from what I've read, you've had large parts of, you know, entire rice patties being wiped out just to create these nice tourist destinations and a lot of life having to, not just life, but the geography and a lot of the cultural aspects of the place being shaped and re modified around this idea of maybe Westerners coming or other people coming. And how do you think maybe either that might change or that might match with, I guess the economies themselves being self-sustaining, but when you've already maybe used a lot of land for certain other things.
Actually, an another example that just came to mind is Mark Zuckerberg buying huge swaths of Hawaii and just having this massive, I have no idea what he's planning to do with the hundreds of acres of land that he's bought, but he has a ton of space there and I dunno what he's doing with it. But again, it just goes to this idea that maybe just as part of capitalism, there's, you know, countries and nations that have given away parts of their [00:30:00] land. A time where it may have been more convenient, but there might be a future time at which it becomes a lot less convenient because you are actually able to make a lot more for yourself.
Stu Patience: So I'm not in love with western tourism and western tourism in Bali, but whenever I go anywhere, I continue to be a Western tourist. So it's kind of important to be aware of that.
There's this thing called the tourism paradox, which is that tourists go to seek a new place and a different place somewhere beautiful, somewhere natural, somewhere culturally really interesting, like Bali. And yet in the act of going there, they destroy the thing that they're going to see, or we, I should say, not they, we destroy the thing that we're going to see.
Families who have held paddy fields or have had those beautiful violins, paddy fields for generations selling their land to build a concrete block, Airbnb or hotel for backpackers or for digital nomads or whatever. It's not simple, but it's very easy as someone who has [00:31:00] enough and who isn't working in the paddy fields 12 hours a day to look at that and go, what a shame about those paddy fields. And it is, it is a shame and I feel that at the same time. I bet Mark Zuckerberg's Hawaii resort is gonna be really natural and really beautiful because that's a real, a thing that it takes money to afford to have a nice clean, well maintained, orderly, but natural enough, natural environment. That no annoying people are wandering into and ruining be that people who are from the place or be that other tourists. So in some sense that kind of unsullied tourism is very much a luxury good.
Either people have, who have enough money to buy it. Now Zuckerberg owns it, but lots of people pay for resorts and whatever, and they go to these places or people who have the luxury of time to do the adventurous thing and to trek through the jungle to find the unspoiled place that in 20 years time maybe won't be [00:32:00] unspoiled. And I think another thing to throw in there is, you know, Jakarta used to have a lot of paddy fields as well and it's not tourists per se, that have come and brought up the paddy fields and developed them. But it is Indonesians now. There are families selling land, maybe selling it too cheaply and then having nothing or then spending the money and then where they had an asset, they had cash and then cash goes, and then there's nothing. But there are also people making a living or moving up in that way. So I guess they're a winners and losers. So capitalism by no means produces perfect outcomes, but also, people are making choices I guess. Markets seem to enable people to make choices, not always choices that turn out great sometimes because of folly and things people do and sometimes, because of bad luck. Yeah, I don't know what the alternative is, apart from telling people that they can't sell their paddy fields, and I don't feel very comfortable. I don't [00:33:00] know, with the Bali tourism authority telling people they can't sell their paddy fields on my behalf, it's complicated.
David Elikwu: Yeah, it's a really good point. And I think maybe there's a global aspect of it, which I find really interesting, just listening to what you were saying is there's a really interesting paradox around this trap of urbanization in some ways where I mean, it's kind of been cyclical through history where thinking back in history a long time ago, it was the Lords and the rich people that lived in, you know, I guess the city type places. And then the poor people had all the land on the outside and then, you have a lot of the poorer people then gravitating towards the cities to make their fortunes and to, to try and get richer. And then the richer people going out and buying all the land on the outside, and then you have people then in slums in these huge, tightly packed, super urbanized in some sense areas while all the other people moved to the suburbs. And so it's a, it's a really interesting cycle in that [00:34:00] respect where, I dunno if there is an answer or how people win. I know Balaji, if you've come across him, he is a somewhat mythic figure on the internet who has all these futuristic ideas, and people love him because he's made a lot of predictions, particularly about technology in the past that have come to pass and that have been somewhat accurate down the line. But he talks about this idea of the networked state and his prediction. I don't know if I believe in it to any extent. One of his predictions is that in the future, people will come together almost anywhere in the world and essentially create their own nations or their own, you know, nations that will be recognized by sovereign nations. And yeah, it's hard to square and it's also hard for me to explain because even listening to him, explain it, it's very complex. But it's a very interesting idea that, going back a step to something you mentioned earlier, I'm finding this really interesting duality where as a result of people being able to work [00:35:00] remotely, I think I see professionals diverging and moving away now that they don't have to live in London as an example. You have more people living in Kent, you have more people moving slightly further out. They can commute when they need to, but actually they're moving slightly further out. But then I see creatives converging. I see tons of people moving to Austin, to Silicon Valley, to a lot of these places and developing scenes like you referenced before with Marc Andreessen. This really interesting balance of there are some people who would gravitate towards scenes because of the balance they get from it and maybe that is something that is always the preserve of creatives and something creatives always benefit more from. But then there are other types of people, maybe professionals or some people that have more or less money, depending on the city you're trying to escape. But typically people move away from the city so they can have more space, probably at less cost. And so you have that simultaneous divergence as well. And I see those two things happening at the same time.
Stu Patience: Yeah, I think those values, our values change at different stages of our life. If you are a [00:36:00] young single creative professional of some kind or another, you want to be where the action is. Actually, if you're young, single person of any kind, you probably want to be where the action is.
So you head to the cities, you head to where the other people are, and probably we don't all have that strong preference, but probably the distribution is skewed way over that way to crowds and to being, where the action is. And space is less important too, you wanna get up and have breakfast and get out and see, be in the world and have a place to sleep. But as, I think as we age, if we have families, space becomes more important. I mean, even if you wanna live at the same population density within your house or apartment, if you add two kids, you know, you need more space. So I think there's just that very natural push. I think, we become more conservative in different ways and we long for different things.
So yeah, to me that's quite a natural kind of process, I guess the distribution effect of the internet allows people to [00:37:00] spread out further. And in fact, I guess the highest number of digital nomads in Bali right now are Indonesian, digital workers rather than, we hear quite a lot of western digital nomads there, and there are plenty of them, but I would guess by far, the highest number Indonesian digital nomads in Bali. If you can work like that, if you have the skills, and I think as much as anything, if you have the cultural capital, then that's a great possibility. So, for example, you can teach almost anyone to do some HTML or certainly to use, you know, a block-based layout tool and build almost anything that you can picture, but you need an aesthetic, like it's an internet aesthetic, but there's kind of a, an artistic, taste that not everyone has full stop. But that also, consciously or not, we are educated into at home or by our peers. So if you are from a [00:38:00] very poor community or a rural community, you're much less likely to have those skills. So there's those options are kind of less open to you as well. Although increasingly, you know, people are accessing, they have the internet on their phones from when they're young. So, maybe also we see the internet undermining this trend. But certainly in this generation, that's how it's gone, and will going.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that's a really interesting point that you can diversify knowledge, but it's harder to diversify taste. And there is an extent to which, you know, design taste, and those things have to be almost by necessity embedded in some culture. And so you have to participate in that culture to an extent. Even if, and actually maybe this does translate well because there is an internet culture and there is, you know, like Web3 has an internet culture, it has an aesthetic. If you embed yourself in that community, you know what it looks like, and you know when you are interacting with something that is of that nature. And so I think that maybe is the interesting aspect there. Where, [00:39:00] there are ways that you can embed yourself within, I guess, a cultural milieu. But you have to go there either physically or on the internet, you have to kind of embed yourself within that space.
Stu Patience: And you need to have as well as internet access, which I think we can assume increasingly is effectively free or becoming free at the margin for most people. But there's language and there's literacy as well, so there's also this kind of catch. Now with video, it's less of a thing and people say we're moving toward more of an oral culture with the internet, with podcasts, with videos, YouTube, I think it's the second most visited site and it's just this amazing boon for anyone who wants to learn anything.
But we still live in this, in this world where cutting edge technology depends on or access to the cutting edge information, and culture depends on this 3,000 plus year old, 5,000 year old technology of the written word and of writing and of literacy, different types of literacy, [00:40:00] bit of literacy.
David Elikwu: Yeah. It's so fascinating how technology is completely changing the face of anything you could imagine the world looks like. I just thought of two facts, that I've come across quite recently that are really good examples. So one is, I think I got this from the World Bank called the IMF for one of these big international corporations. They said that there are in some of the most poverty stricken places in the world, you are more likely to have a telephone, like a mobile phone than a toilet. So there are more phones in some of those areas of the world than there are toilets things that you might have thought. Yeah, they're cheaper.
Cheaper, more accessible and so you are getting people onto the internet, straight onto Twitter, straight onto Facebook before, you know, they're just skipping so many levels of what people might have considered civilization or development in any other sense. Like, you know, before you build a house, you are on Twitter. And actually that leads directly to another stat that I saw that I think there are more Indian users on Twitter than there are people in the United [00:41:00] States. So that is a bigger country than the us just Indian Twitter users.
Stu Patience: Indian Twitter users.
David Elikwu: Yeah, specifically. And it's so interesting how that could change the fabric of the internet in many ways because so many of those populations are also still young and still growing and they are still coming online.
And you know, what happens when English, for example, has been, you know, the world language for a while, and it's the majority of what people speak in, but what happens when the majority of people in the world don't speak English? And I don't think we have got to that point yet, but we're rapidly reaching it.
So if India passes China as the most populous.
Stu Patience: So, you mean if the majority language of the world. So, I think English probably is the language spoken by the most people, including as a second language, I would guess.
David Elikwu: There might never be more people universally that all speak a single language other than English, because English was spread so far already. But it will be interesting when the majority of people in the world speak [00:42:00] something other than English. Like when there are actual competing languages in a, at sufficient scale. So China, I think you just mentioned, is a good example where there's a lot of people that grew up in the regions adjacent to it that grew up speaking Mandarin. Like I had a friend from Malaysia growing up that speaks Chinese friend from Indonesia that speaks Chinese.
And so, yeah. So I think those aspects of it are also interesting. So for example, on YouTube, I know that there's quite, I think it's a Mr. Beast, apparently one of
Stu Patience: Yeah he translates into Spanish and things.
David Elikwu: Yeah, so he just takes the same content, hires another team of like translators and dubbers and they just recreate that content in Spanish, in Portuguese, in places from other aspects of the world. And I think one of them either actually outperform, I think he might actually get more views in one of his foreign language videos than he does in his English videos. Maybe not all of them, but that is another aspects of it where, you know, most of the people that are consuming, some of the biggest [00:43:00] stars are not listening in English anymore.
Stu Patience: What happens to the global culture going forward is a super interesting question. I, think there's something like English is spoken as a first, second, third, fourth language, I think by more people than anything, anyone else. So I think maybe you get to the stage where the dominant paradigm of English is not the English of native speakers, and maybe we're not very, we're probably already well past that, but actually the cultural weight of say, particularly US culture, but also, say the UK and certainly on the internet, given the history of the medium English is still dominant or at least as far as you and I are aware.
Yeah. But I think, so I think what happens is the cultural center of the English language, moves away from, from native English speakers. And the language changes, which is what it's always does and what it's always done and what languages, are kind of supposed to do.
So yeah, and English has a pretty good track record of absorbing other languages, but for better or worse, I think mostly for better. It's [00:44:00] interesting how that pans out and you can compare that say to French with the Académie française, which who, who at least traditionally controlled the language and we're aiming for kind of a purity of language.
And I would guess that the CCP does something similar with Mandarin, although I'm not sure, what the story is there with standard. I know that people compliment you on your excellent standard Mandarin or used to back in the day. So yeah, that's an interesting one.
David Elikwu: I think actually the last thing I was gonna say on that, just before we move on, I think is just being that because of the rate of development of these countries, which is currently still matching their rate of population growth, I'm interested to know what happens when, in India or in Pakistan, in Nigeria, predominantly, as an example, you have huge tech companies that are becoming unicorns and so people are actually, building great technology products in a lot of the rest of the world. It hasn't actually happened yet and I wonder if it will, I wonder if there is an extent to which people will still continue developing [00:45:00] those things in English, because a lot of them are, and the extent to which if the market that you are in is sufficiently large enough, you will predominantly just make it in your native language and so you end up having some of those apps. So for example, like Twitter I just use as an example because it's so widespread and all of the users, the majority of the users are now Indian people, and then you have a bunch of them that are Chinese people and a bunch of them from other places in the world.
If the next maybe technology unicorn that ends up becoming ubiquitous to some extent. Maybe not next, but few iterations away. If those end up coming from somewhere in India or somewhere in China or somewhere else in the world. I just wonder, how that starts to shape and change how we interface with technology.
Because actually coming back to, I hate mentioning Twitter so much but just using it as an example now that Elon Musk has bought it, that creates so much conversation between that, or actually maybe, let's say Facebook and TikTok where TikTok has become so massively [00:46:00] used, right. Everyone, everywhere in the world is on TikTok, and now it's a huge problem because people are saying, oh, it's the Chinese spies, it's this, it's that. The idea of an app from a country that is not the US being so widely used by children in the US is a big problem. Even when, funnily enough, and one of the things people complain about is that in China, the government has laws about what you can show to children. And so, you know, the government passed a law, I think a year or so ago, saying that kids can't play video games for more than a certain number of hours per day.
Yeah. And, and they can't.
Stu Patience: Good luck with that.
David Elikwu: Exactly, there's a lot that they're trying to do to protect their own people and it's funny that in the US you have none of those laws. So none of those protections for the people, for better or for worse because you don't want it to become autocratic. But none of the protections, you let the app in and then now that's a huge problem. And so it's like you want to cut off the app.
So that's part of what I mean where, so that's an [00:47:00] example of a Chinese app becoming ubiquitous. I wonder what happens when an Indian app becomes ubiquitous and you can't just stop it. You can't just, switch it off or just tell people, oh, stop using this Indian thing or will they make up a reason? So those are the kind of things that interest me about how technology is growing and spreading.
Stu Patience: Yeah, I think, we see this already, so certainly Indonesia is a country that's big enough. It has a big enough pool of Indonesian speakers who are not necessarily first language English speakers. That there is a big enough market that companies can learn and build a big enough app and become a unicorn.
So we have, Gojek, which is our ride sharing app, but it's become an app for everything. In terms of online shopping and delivery, motorbike, taxis as well as car taxis. You can order, massage and house cleaners, to come via house, via gojek. We actually bought a hamster and it arrived on the back of a motorbike, which you believe like 20 minutes after in a little box.
So this has happened and this is, this is a [00:48:00] unicorn. This is the Indonesian homegrown unicorn. We have a couple of online marketplaces as well, which are a little bit more local, I think, or have a little bit more of a moat, either a cultural moat or a geographical one. In terms of we much less regularly buy things on eBay from the US compared to buying them on eBay from the UK, just cause they're closer and cheaper. So I think that happens and where you have, a big enough population. So certainly, China, the US, India, Indonesia, Nigeria probably is one that would have a big enough population, I guess, to develop something homegrown that gets robust enough that then it goes looking for a bigger market.
I think what we'll see is those apps will do an excellent job of becoming, American or English or French, they will native us just like Google has done. So I would expect to see, and we'll probably laugh the first time we see it because it may not land perfectly, but I think pretty quickly as we see with TikTok, like no one's laughing about TikTok now, because [00:49:00] it's, it's done its thing so well.
David Elikwu: Yeah. I think that has been such an interesting case study, seeing how that has made that, it's kind of crossed the chasm from being an app, cuz there's plenty of things in China, as an example and the same in Jakarta that everyone uses. If you are there, it's ubiquitous, you know about it, everyone's on it. And going from that to being, it is actually everywhere, elsewhere in the world and widely used and widely recognized. So I think that's interesting.
So maybe the other part of the question for you is, I'm sure that the Indonesia of today is probably quite different to when you first visited. When you first went there. You know, how did you come to the point where you decided actually this is where I'm gonna build my family and build the rest of my life? I don't know if you'll end up moving again, but
Stu Patience: Yeah. I hope we'll be here for a long time. So it's a long story as these things always are, but I have this some sense of connection to, Asia, having grown up outside the UK and specifically in Asia [00:50:00] and for my family that goes back a couple of generations. So there's family history and roots there, you know. If your dad's a professional footballer, you are much more likely to become a professional footballer. If your dad's a plumber, you're much more likely to become a plumber. I guess if your parents grandparents have lived in another country or immigrated or something, you're much more likely to do that. So there's family history there. And then, my wife has some similar history and was actually born here.
So she's, she's from the UK but was born out here. We initially thought as we were looking for a place where we could hopefully be of service with our skills, that it would be somewhere else cuz we felt like, oh, we kind of, we know a bit what Indonesia's like what else is there?
But in various ways, we ended up back here, so, yeah. And it's been such an interesting place, to live. So Jakarta as a city, even in 10 years, you know, we've gone from one good taxi company, which interestingly was like a, there's a company called Bluebird Taxi Company, which is still the number one taxi company. Was a [00:51:00] technological disruptor in its day using the technology of radio. So they were one of the first radio dispatch services, so they were able to come out, compete and provide a better service. And their second technology was a social technology, which was honesty. So they made a big deal that if you left your wallet or whatever in the taxi, it would get back to you. And this, you know, story spread and sadly honest tax. There were plenty of taxi operators who did not hold to that principle, and in that way they really grew and it got to the stage where you go, any further more or less arriving in Jakarta, their friends who have been there before them will say, Hey, get a Bluebird taxi.
And then, Grab, which is the Southeast Asian, I think it's part owned by Uber. It was a competitor for Uber. We had Uber here for a while, and now we have Grab and Gojek, which I mentioned earlier. They have their own disruptive technology and they're, they're kind of disrupting things.
So we've gone from a Jakarta where we have one good taxi company, there's a Busway network, there's no underground in Jakarta or wasn't until re quite recently. The lands low lying, it's pretty [00:52:00] difficult to do and various monorail schemes and things have fallen through for a combination of political and another reasons.
I remember getting across town on the busway in the early days and you know, you get to the Busway stop at 6:30 and you could wait for more than an hour and no buses come and then, you know, three come, but they're all completely packed. The air condition's leaking, there's a rusty bit of the door, you know, and it takes two hours to get across the city cuz there's a dedicated busway lane. But the only time the dedicated busway lane is not empty is in rush hour because there isn't good control to stop normal drivers driving in the Busway lane until the one time you need it, it's not there. And in the last five, six years, I think, I haven't waited more than 10, 15 minutes for a bus, sometimes it still takes an hour to get across town, but it's a relatively comfortable hour. And things are just so much better, and that's been, we had a change in political leadership. I don't wanna go too deep into, into politics, but saw some real leadership cleaning things up and [00:53:00] making a difference here.
So it's really encouraging, encouraging and exciting to see. I think these things, the motorbike taxis as well, again, it's a, it's a matching and combination tool. So, you would have motorbike taxis who operated in a local area and in your area, you know the guys like, maybe they're your neighbors and you know what a decent price is to go down the road to the market or whatever it is, so that kind of works. But when you wanna come back to the market, maybe your guy's not there unless he waits for you and you have a kind of standing arrangement. So if you are out of your area, that you would tend to get ripped off, because they don't know you. It's a one-off thing, they're not gonna see you again and that's, that's me as a Indonesian speaking foreigner, but also Indonesians experience the same thing. Is it safe drivers? You know, drivers who really weren't safe. And then with the introduction of the apps, you suddenly have this, this matching problem is fixed, so you can find a taxi driver. The guys who wanna drive all day for a lower price, but bring [00:54:00] in much more money for their families will do that. Now it's not without its issues, but for motorbike taxi drivers, the possibilities that this created, we just kind of huge, I've blogged a little bit about this.
So that's the kind of change, these increases and technology being a key piece of the combination of the motorbike taxis and online, like grab, sorry. Uber equivalent, and online marketplaces. You suddenly, you can can order, I ordered a cover for my car and it arrived in my house within an hour or something. And it's not via a centralized Amazon warehouse, it's just by a local seller connected to a local taxi driver who rips across on a motorbike and delivers it. Now, this is not true all over Indonesia, but in Jakarta, like the, the velocity of the economy has just increased so much. And then we see, development happening all around. It's just, it's exciting to see. Again, not without its losers and its challenges, but for many [00:55:00] people I think we see things getting better and there's a sense of that optimism in a culture or a country where for many people, putting food on the table for your family or getting those first rungs in on the educational ladder, it's a huge motivator and source of meaning we see people working for better, in a way that I think some of us in more affluent economies lose some of that sense of drive or purpose.
David Elikwu: So maybe a follow up question is, I know that you mentioned a lot of the things that you've seen and learned in your time there. I'm interested in, so now kind of getting to the intersection of these experiences that you've had and your writing. So you write online somewhere called Driverless Crocodile. Maybe the preliminary question is please explain where, where that title comes from? What is a driverless crocodile? And then let's talk about your, writing and how those two worlds collide?
Stu Patience: Yeah. At the end of the day, driverless Crocodile is just a silly name. But it [00:56:00] started in good discussions, a discussions with my sister about some of the things that I was learning, running a small non-profit here, and that she was, a working as a professional translator and building the business side, I guess thinking, about things more strategically. And we were sharing things, we were learning at the same time listening to some interesting podcasts about driverless cars, which was, you know, was a theme and everyone was talking about at the time. And we are huge fans of Roald Dahl. I dunno if you've come across Roald Dahl's enormous Crocodile, possibly the best children's book ever written.
So on a whim, this document became the driverless crocodile. Guide. It was a Google doc, and on a whim following some advice from Seth Godin, I think about just taking action and doing something. I registered the domain and then a month or two later, I just started blogging and that stuck. So driverless crocodile it is.
But so then there's a backwards meaning that, you know, we live in a world where one of the narratives would have [00:57:00] us, have us believe that we are rudderless crocodiles, as it were like in this automated world. And that's kind of what we've got to look forward to. Whereas I think that's totally not what we are. You know, we are, you can go deep with a philosophical argument about it, but we are, we have purposes, we have moral choices to make. We are not driverless or I don't believe that we're driverless and we're not crocodiles. We are humans living I hope to serve each other as well as to get on and advance our own purposes. So it's kind of an anti, some kind of anti metaphor. Yeah.
David Elikwu: Sure. I love that. And I have, I think I came across it maybe last year. It was definitely a while ago, initially, and then I think I came across some of your stuff again. So I really enjoy it. I'm interested to know, or I'd love to ask, what are some of the most interesting ideas that you have written about or thought about?
Cause I think that is, at least for me with my writing, it is truly this intersection of, so I try to write, you know, as prolifically as [00:58:00] possible, but it's the intersection of everything I'm learning, everything I'm thinking. And then what I'm saying is almost the outpouring of that and it's the smallest slice of those are the two things. And so I'm interested in, yeah, like what are some of the biggest ideas that you have either encountered or been percolating on, that have resulted in things that you've written?
Stu Patience: I think the kind of the driving force with starting the blog was thinking about what am I learning that will enable me to work to make things better? And particularly building this small charity. I'm a teacher by training for most of my career I managed to avoid management. I was kind of working with senior management, but not, not of it. So I kind of had this perspective like, managers are idiots and I'm not interested in the money stuff. And then, starting to run a small charity in a team, you suddenly, you know, your scales full from your eyes and it's like, well, of course management is super important and without money you're not gonna be doing this thing [00:59:00] very long.
So starting to look at, okay, what are the tools that I need, to be able to do this work in a sustainable way and sustainable in a way that is not just the work can continue, but the work can continue to get better. So it's kind of a sustained improvement and hopefully build something that can be sustained, in the sense of continuing to improve after I'm not involved in it anymore.
So my writing comes out over a lot of it looking for tools how to do that. so that could be technologies, like double entry bookkeeping, and that simple tools of financial management. It can be just thoughts about how best to deal with people.
There's a post from Seth Godin about difficult conversations, where he says, look, you have these difficult conversations with people you're working with or people who work for you because you want two things. And the two things you want are you want this person to like you and you want some other outcome, which hopefully is not just a selfish outcome, it's an outcome that is [01:00:00] better for the team, it's better for the people that you're seeking to serve. So recognize this, and then you can say, actually, I feel uncomfortable about it, but this is the choice that I need to make. I need to have this difficult conversation. So it's only difficult because we want these two things, and when we get a clear vision of that, we can actually choose. And it might be, okay, this person is really important and this principle is not that big a deal and I should let this one go for the sake of the relationship, but it might actually be okay. We need to make a call here and someone's gonna be upset with me and not like me, but that's okay because in this context, you know, we're working for something different or something bigger.
So those are a couple of examples of the kind of tools that I would find, learn, listen to podcasts, and write up. I had a huge amount of inspiration from Lean and Steve Blank, some of his stuff on startups. So he was one of the initiators of the Lean Movement. Now what I do is not very technological in the sense that we use, use the word digital technology. Although, we are [01:01:00] using video, we are using desktop publishing and all that kind of stuff. But it really is face-to-face with people, but actually a lot of those principles, finding something small that works, iterating around a minimum viable product, thinking about a scalable, repeatable, charitable business model. These are the kinds of things that I write about.
And then as the blog has gone on, I think, I don't think it's just stew's miss, I think there is more kind of structure to it, but I think the lenses of history of just understanding, for example, if we think of literacy not just as a skill you learn in school, but as a culture and we remember, okay, actually every child, wherever they go to school, every child is homeschooled at the end of the day in terms of the hours they spend with their families. And the influence that family culture has, thinking about culture becomes very important and we can kind of start to look for the pieces to do this better.
Literacy as a culture, then we have a lens that we can look at learning to read it. And none of this is novel but it's novel to me.[01:02:00] What are the pieces of this culture that are maybe missing in the context that we are working in? And which of those pieces are the most important or which pieces exist that we need to take advantage of? And hopefully from there we can use that kind of as a place to stand to build out some of the other, the other parts. So for example, you've got kids across Indonesia who are not from families where there's a culture of reading. Often there are no books in their home and they've never seen a single member of their family reading for pleasure. And their teachers are from the same kind of family very often. So the teacher might not like, have a love of reading or particularly be a very strong reader as we might understand it. So your solution, if you are gonna break into that kind of problem or that culture in a way is you need to find a place to land and to from which you can kind of grow. So actually the teachers are really committed, they love the kids, they want the best for 'em, and they want to teach reading well, they just don't know how. So from there actually you [01:03:00] can, like that there's a channel that you can work with and say, okay, from here, if we've got this working in the classroom, that's like point number one. Is there something we can do to think about possibly bringing literacy into the home? Can we do coloring sheets that the kids take home and put up on their walls? Again, it's not high tech and it's been done before, but it hasn't been done in this context, in this culture. So looking at culture becomes a key piece in actually the work for change and trying to make things better.
Thinking about literacy as a technology got me really interested in technology and how technologies grow? Where they come from? What is technology? Yeah, there's a whole series of articles about that on the blog. Kevin Kelly is a really interesting thinker in this area. He has a book called What Technology Wants, which is kind of fascinating. So then you can look at Indonesia or Southeast Asians say, okay, we're struggling in literacy, but what technologies have been like almost universally adopted and why, and what can we learn? And you can look at smartphones. I think probably the most [01:04:00] transformative technology say in the last 50, 60 years has been small motorbikes, motor scooters. So Honda, so across Indonesia, little motorbikes have completely transformed people's lives, their mobility, their work, their livelihoods, just like huge. And people have paid to make that happen, it's not like Honda's running a charity program giving away motorbikes. So what can we learn from Honda that makes it work? And the first thing of course, is that people really want it and they see the value. But then you can look at how they've developed a business model that works. They followed Henry Ford's kind of thing of going from parts that kind of really needed skilled work workers to fit them and needed maybe hand finishing to be fitted to really simple interchangeable parts in motorbikes at scale to get it really cheap. So there's, there are principles there in terms of how you develop a tool that works in a context.
So these are just examples of how a particular angle might take you down a rabbit hole. Thinking about [01:05:00] economics and, you know, why are people in poor communities poor and getting into thinking about economics and markets. if you want something to really scale the ideal way, is if the people who use it, who want it the most can pay for it, it's not the only way, it's not always the solution. But if you can make it work so that you are not giving out motorbikes, but people are coming to you saying, please, can I have a motorbike? And here's the money for it, you can use that money to make the next motorbike. So learning from these kind of examples, is part of what the boats about as well, and sharing how some of these things, it's not long.
Like American motorbikes, pre-World War 2, it was British and then American motorbikes, Harley Davidson was huge. And the Japanese were a tiny fraction and then in 20 years or so, post World War 2, you know, they're the first company I think to sell a million units in a year, and they just take off. It's like it's 70 years or whatever it's been and it's so easy to forget. Like, I was born in the early eighties, Honda was already a huge thing. Toyota was already, you know, [01:06:00] a good car, but actually it was only five or 10 years before that Toyota was struggling to break into Western markets and everyone was laughing at how bad their cars were.
So like our memory, our memories are short or just, you know, we weren't alive then, so maybe it's fair enough that we don't remember, but realizing, okay, these things have been done, these changes have happened, and there are principles that we can take advantage of to make the work of change faster or easier or more effective.
Yeah, and they inspire me as well.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that last point you were making is something I find really interesting. I was looking at a picture, I think it was just this morning where they were comparing, there's a picture of 5th Street in New York in 1900, and it's full of cots, like horse drawn carriages. Then you look at a street just a few blocks away. I think 13th Street or 8th Street in 1913. So just 13 years later, full of cars and suddenly, you know, well with the Ford Model T specifically, but I think it's just so interesting how [01:07:00] technology can become ubiquitous in a flash. We were just talking about smartphones earlier with a lot of these things, they completely shape not just the way the world looks, but also how people interface with the world.
And just like you were mentioning, the bikes, I'm really interested in how that probably facilitated a lot of urbanization. It's suddenly a lot quicker and easier for people to get from one place to another for loads of people to use the road at the same time. It's not like two cars on two lanes of the street. There's actually a ton of people going up and down at all times, at least from the pictures and videos that I've seen.
Stu Patience: And when your infrastructure is tiny, it's the technology that fits. You know, you don't need big roads for a small, for a small bike. Yeah. Sorry.
David Elikwu: Yeah. No, no, exactly that. That's exactly it. Because then the technology, well so the technology that develops and grows wings is whatever fits within the society. But then the development of that technology also shapes part of the culture and technology around it by itself. Because even, for [01:08:00] example, thinking of some of the biggest startups that you were talking about earlier, they're all facilitated by that same thing.
So now you have a whole layer of ecosystem on top of deliveries, of taxi rides, of different things that are now enabled by this technology that was enabled by the natural constructs of the cities themselves.
Stu Patience: Yeah, Totally. And where it gets, I think where it's really interesting is some of these changes seem to happen easily, maybe that's easy for us to say in 2023. The spread of the smartphone seems to have been easy. I guess if you were looking at it in 1990 or whenever people started experimenting with the concept, it didn't look easy and it's taken a long time, but in some sense there's a kind of social gravity that's pulling this technology or that makes the uptake easy. On the other hand, you know, we've been trying to really do good education for all in a lot of countries for more a hundred years or say in Indonesia, like 50 plus years. And it's [01:09:00] really hard, you know, so it would seem that some problems have this tendency to solve themselves and some are hard and often it's the ones that we really want to solve poverty, injustice, that are hard. So the question is, what can we learn from these cases where it seems like the wind is behind a particular solution and bring that to make the work slightly less hard.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that's a really good point. Going back to your writing for a second, I'm interested to know, cuz it follows on from some aspects of what you're saying, it's prompting me to ask in the spirit from which you are communicating the things that you share, is the message more important or is the reader more important? Like, is it more about the weight of the ideas that you're trying to communicate from everything that you've been learning and think about? Or is it more about the change you're trying to drive in the people that read the thing, if that makes sense.
Stu Patience: One of the really helpful principles in starting to write the blog [01:10:00] has been this idea. There's a quote I love, and it is more or less those who like this sort of thing will find this, the sort of thing that they like. So I think in writing it's very easy to get hyper aware of your audience in such a way that you forget why you are writing or you lose your voice or your writing just becomes, just pompous or your on your kind of on show.
And that happens sometimes to all of us in our writing. So I think writing with a real sense of persuading my audience of something is not exactly, how I would think about it. I think sharing the idea there's kind of an offer here it is as best as I can do it today and slightly over three years, I've blog every day.
So more than a thousand days in a row, here it is the best that I can do it today. I hope it's useful, if you like it, it's for you and that's kind of the spirit in which it's offered, so I hope it's generous, it's trying to be of service. I'm sure a lot of people will read it and [01:11:00] shake their heads and go, ah, whatever and that's fine. I kind of need to be okay with that. So that's kind of how I think about, think about the writing.
David Elikwu: Yeah. But that leads perfectly to the other thing that I was gonna ask because I went and I was trying to go back through your archives and fall as far back as I could see you had been writing on average probably about 30 posts a month. So how do you, I guess maybe it's a two-part question, depending on how you go about your writing. But how do you, I guess, cultivate the curiosity in itself and how do you curate the, what you consume?
You've mentioned podcasts, you've mentioned books. So how do you curate your inputs, and then how do you go about the output? How do you stay writing for a thousand consecutive days?
Stu Patience: I think, to start on the, to start on the writing. The second part of the question. There's again, Seth Godin was a key kind of inspiration in the early days. He talks about, just building the habit. You don't write because you have an idea, you have an idea because you write cuz you sit down and you say, okay, I'm going to write something.[01:12:00]
And a key part of that for me was getting over, a kind of sense of pride or vanity. I think there's two types of pride in writing. There can be a sense of pride. Like, I want to look good. And there's sense, there's a sense of pride, like, and I'm worried about how I look and there's a sense of a pride in that, okay, I wanna serve something that's good, that in some way I'm proud of that's useful. It's not just junk. And I think that second type is good, but often the first type gets in our way cuz we so quickly start kind of second guessing ourself. So a key principle for me was accepting by definition, 50% of my posts will be below average. So don't worry about that because if you only write one a month and you leave a below average post hanging, then that's embarrassing. But if you are writing a post the next day and a post the next day, the good stuff rises to the top. The other stuff, you know, no one reads and there's plenty of posts on there that have only got a couple of views and that's how it is and that's fine. So setting the bar low, giving yourself permission to say, okay, I will, this is not gonna be my [01:13:00] finest piece of, according to my best taste, this is gonna be the best that I can do today. Hopefully it's grammatically accurate, and makes, you know, makes sense, and has something of value in it. But I'm not aiming for world beating brilliance and most people don't care. And again, that's fine. So that, that kind of gives yourself permission to relax into writing and just put something out.
For me, quite often actually, the post might be a quotation from something that I've read or listened to. And probably, actually my most popular posts are quotes from other people. And that's fine too, cuz that's something that, that I've found that other people have looked for and found helpful. So That's great, that's why the blog's there. And in terms of curating the inputs, yeah, again, part of writing the blog was this sense of I've got this huge imbalance of my life between consumption and production. So again, going to a daily blog, it's like, okay, there's some kind of filtering there in terms of aura. What comes out is maybe what remains from that day. You can filter, you can select, you can [01:14:00] have habits, you can have particular types of book that you read, you can read at different types of the day. So I kind of tend to do some spiritual reading in the morning. Tend to read other stuff throughout the day, often it's kind of non-fiction, you know, here and there, snatch bits on the Kindle or a hard copy book if I have it. And then at my best, like read something fiction. I should preface this with saying I love reading, so it's a, it's a pleasure rather than a chore and I love the idea.
But reading and reading classics here and there. I read, there's a long, long, long, long book, but read through Les Misérables, the novel, which is, took a long time, but it's just fantastic. And there's, there's a different sense of grounding and way of looking at the world that more serious books. I like Le Mis is actually like, it was pop in its day, I think. So to call it a serious book is probably, you know, overstating things, but it looks serious when you see it on the show.
And this kind of sense of balance in reading different kinds of things, I think is really important. Reading the things that you're interested in going down the rabbit hole, leaving a book and coming [01:15:00] back to it and picking it up. That's a filter just because there, there are only so many hours that you can read or minutes that you can read in a day. So the filter is kind of by my attention but I mostly trust it. And then, look, I'm not on Facebook. I'm like, I'm on Facebook once a year, I'm in and out of Twitter and there are a few blogs that I kind of tend to read cuz I like their recommendations. So that's kind of filter mechanism.
David Elikwu: Yeah. That's really interesting. I think I loved the point you made about consistency and what Seth Godin slash you were saying about the fact that, you get to do the thing that you show up, you don't get to show up without having done the thing. It reminds me of, there's a picture of, there's a picture, black and white picture. You see a bunch of people that have won Nobel Prizes, right? I think it was in economics or maybe in various different fields. So 13 out of the, 13 of the people in the picture had won Nobel Prizes. And I think the point someone was making is that, but they hadn't won them yet. So none of the [01:16:00] people in the picture had won Nobel Prizes at that point in time, but they would go on to win them.
Stu Patience: Oh, is that the physicist meeting
David Elikwu: Yes. Yeah, this is it. So it's like you don't get invited to the meeting because you've won a Nobel Prize. You won a Nobel Prize because you get invited to the meeting and you didn't get invited to the meeting because it's just a special club. But it's because of the work you are already doing. So because you do the work, then you get the outcome and it seems like everyone in that example, gets the outcome.
And I think the another example that just came to mind is something I've written about. So I wrote a post called Constraints and Consistency and it's just really simple analogy, but it's the point that if you look at the NBA. And you look at the historical records at the list of the 10 people that have made the most points, so the people that have scored the most points in NBA history, and then you look at the list of the people that have missed the most shots in NBA history, and it's almost the exact same list.
Stu Patience: I think Kareem is one of them. Yeah.
David Elikwu: Yeah, exactly. Kareem, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant. So it's [01:17:00] almost all of, at least seven of the names that have scored the most points are also the people that missed most shots. But it's just the fact that, if you continue to shoot and if you continue to just show up and do the thing and hone your craft, then eventually you get the outcome.
Stu Patience: Yeah. And I think it was important to remember that you, you may not get there, you may not get the outcomes. Businesses fail, nonprofits don't achieve their goals, teams fall apart. this kind of thing happens. We have, so we trust, we have small successes on the way.
My blog like it's a tiny blog, it doesn't earn, it's not an, a big earner. But it's there because I like doing it. And in some sense it's own reward. So the, success isn't guaranteed. And a good question, you know, a good question to ask is, and again, not. Not my question, but what would you do anyway if you knew you would fail at it? You know, so if you know you're gonna write your novel or paint your picture or run your charity or serve the people you serve with your business, [01:18:00] and you actually know, look, five years down the line, this is, this is gonna fall If someone could, you know, read, look in a crystal ball and tell you that, what would you do anyway because it's worth it or it's somehow worth trying. And you read about a lot of people whose purpose at the end of the day was kind of the money, and then failure is a waste of five years. But I think there are lots of things that we can do, whether it's our, work or our service or our art, for which thing is, is worth it in itself.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that's a really good point. I think you're completely right in that, just thinking about the, the question, the way that you just framed it now, I think there's a lot of people that are often held back by fear for doing the thing that they want to do because it might fail. And so if you were to ask someone, and I think this is the interesting part, initially, if you were just to ask, okay, would you do this if you knew you would fail?
They might not do it, even if it's something that they liked. But actually maybe if you said, no matter what,
Stu Patience: You are going to fail and it will be embarrassing.
David Elikwu: Yeah. Then you have to think [01:19:00] again about, okay, fine. So failure is now guaranteed rather than being optional. If it's optional, you're scared of it. If it's guaranteed, you kind of, you know, you have to take the fear upfront and you have to say, okay, fine, so I've already failed. In essence, now what do I want to fail at, and what would I be willing to hang my hat on having failed doing that thing?
Stu Patience: Yeah. Yeah. And what will I take a hit for? You know, there's, there are so many things. I mean, I, I can just think growing up there are so many things that you imagine, oh, I can imagine doing that. You know, oh, like if I really got into skateboarding, like I'd just do this move and it'll be fine.
Surfer, I'm kind of an enthusiastic, not very good surfer, but it looks beautiful and you think, oh yeah, I could do that. Kind of used to think, look, if I was in Star Wars, I would have the force like that would be fine. And when you do these things over and over, it's not a, there are little bits that are like you imagined, if you're learning to skateboard, gravity hurts and you will, you will fall down and be awkward and, and sore.
And [01:20:00] learning to surf the, the same thing, like it's, there's a lot of slog and discomfort you get waves in your face, you get held under all sorts of things. and it's not at all the graceful thing you imagined. But you are doing the thing and hopefully you can learn your craft in time.
And this is the necessary journey to learning your craft. And I think looking like an idiot in what you put out online because you were too earnest, because you were in a hurry. That's going to happen to you as always, with looking like an idiot, it's usually us who notice and remember it far more than anyone else. Cause every everyone else is paying attention to other things.
David Elikwu: Yeah. I remember reading a study about that. I forget the name, there's a name for it, but it's essentially this idea that we think other people will care more about us than they really do, particularly as it pertains to us doing something wrong or not being good. So we are very easily fearful of what others might think, and we think people are looking at us or noticing us more than they actually are. And I think, you know, [01:21:00] a really easy example of this is maybe you fall down or maybe you stumble and you are looking around immediately to see who's noticed. And actually everyone is just going about their business and no one actually cares that much.
Stu Patience: Yeah and you remember. You are thinking about it like weeks, months, years later. I remember the time I took down, not just my shorts when changing for PE and primary two, and one of my friends was kind enough to turn around and go, Stu, I assume no one else remembers.
David Elikwu: Hopefully they are not also on podcasts saying, oh, I remember this
Stu Patience: Ah, Now you mention it.
David Elikwu: Someone in my class.
That's funny. Okay, so one of the, probably the second last question that I'll ask you, is just, okay, so maybe this is transitioning back to your work. I'm interested to know, you spend all this time working, being deeply contemplative, particularly as you are consuming these works, reading Les Misrables, reading all these other books.
How does that affects the work that you do. So,[01:22:00] the two part question is, one, what's it like actually running a nonprofit, particularly in Indonesia. But then the second part of it is, you know, how does how does the contemplation that you've cultivated in your work affect the way that you approach it?
Stu Patience: Okay, so I think running a nonprofit is just deeply interesting and rewarding and motivating. Like we and the team, the colleagues that I'm lucky enough, lucky enough to work with Indonesian colleagues almost entirely. We believe in what we are doing. We are trying to make a difference and we are kind of motivated by this. And that being in a team of people who are focusing on something that they think is important is huge. It's so, it, it's always interesting going for work. It's not always fun, but it's often fun. It's always interesting, there's something to learn, there's a new challenge. Driverless Crock is kind of testament to that and to those challenges and to the learning, that it demands of you.
And again, we are solving hard or some people call them wicked problems. You know, if this problem was easy to solve, I believe, like if the problems of poverty, [01:23:00] of lack of opportunity, marginalization, if these problems were easy to solve, I think we would've solved them. But they're difficult problems to solve, and that means that there's always something to do.
So I think you need to play the long game. You know, you're not, you're not gonna turn up and change this in a couple of years when this is like, there are structural factors, there's deep history, all sorts of cultural factors that mean that, whatever problem you're looking at, it's the way that it is.
So you're not gonna show up in four years. You're not gonna change it, unrealistic. I'm not gonna change it in a 30 year. I'm not going to solve it in a 30 year career. But I believe that the difference that we can make, maybe we can accelerate something that's happening. Maybe we can affect a lot of people.
But it's a long game. When you trust that there is like a multiplier effect of, as you build a network, as you earn trust, as we find out what works and what doesn't work, in a one room schoolhouse 3000 miles away in an island that doesn't have electricity, how do you, and there's no books.
How do you teach reading there? That kind of [01:24:00] thing. so, so there's that. And then in terms of deeply contemplative thing, which, some of my friends may be laughing at if they get this far.
I think for me, everything is connected. One of my deep motivations is to, to understand how things work? What's under the skin, how does the engine work? how does the back end of the restaurant make the front end possible? and in some way that's what the blog is doing or what I'm doing on the blog. I'm trying to get under the skin. How do people work? How do economies work? How do organizations work? What is technology and how does it grow? how can you change a culture? so that's for me, directly feeding into, the work that we're doing every day. /And I believe, I trust that it makes me better, at what I do.
David Elikwu: Sure. That makes sense. The final question that I wanted to ask, and I wanna see if there's a way that I can frame this that connects the dots of some of the things that we've discussed. I'm not sure if I've got there yet, but I [01:25:00] think it's a interesting question that you've already touched on in a few different ways, but I'm interested to know what you think is the role that community plays, and I'm using that word in an abstract way because it, happens both online and offline. And I think the, the reason I'm interested in this is two reasons. One is because you are writing online, and I love this idea of, through the work that we do, through writing, both of us writing online, you're kind of cultivating and building a community of people that can gather around some of these ideas.
And I can send people emails and people respond to me and, okay, there's some things I sent out. No one responds. There's some things I send out that either were like deeply personal things or seemingly innocuous things. And then several people respond to me and several people are sharing kind of bits of their lives and and things that they've encountered.
And so I've loved this idea of building an online community. But then I think we've also touched on this idea of offline communities. You are someone that is living in [01:26:00] a place that you've moved to. You are building a nonprofit there. You're kind of embroiling yourself in that community in a sense. But then simultaneously, you're not on Facebook really, and you're not on Twitter, really.
And so I'm interested in how you think of those commingling ideas. One of the things that actually just came to mind, I haven't brought this up before and hopefully I don't shatter my whole shelf, but this I think is a great example. So this, I haven't actually brought this out for anyone to see much, but it's a London Street Atlas. From, I don't know what the year is, but you can see how bruised and battered this thing is. It's actually pretty horrible. Let me see if I can find the year. But anyway, it's from a very long time ago. If you, if you can't tell just from, from looking at it. But what I find interesting about this, it only has one little tab on it here, like a sticky note kind of thing to mark a page. And this was given to my parents when they first came to the UK, by some friends that already lived here.[01:27:00] So this is probably 2001, I think this book or the, we came before that. so like the late nineties is when we came, so pretty much around that time. But they got this book and the one tab just says church. And I find that really interesting because. , they didn't mark anything else. They didn't say, here are the places that you could go to see cool stuff. Or they didn't say, here are places that you could go and do other things. What I find interesting about it is this idea that community can center us, particularly when you don't have anything else.
And actually as long as you find community, suddenly you find everything else. So when I was, we still went to the science museum and we still went to all the places that you could have bookmarked on your copy of the Street Atlas. But you don't have to do that if you have community and if you have a place that you are grounded, whether it's physical or on the internet, that can kind of be your locust point that allows you to go out and discover other things and other aspects.
And I think there's a part of that, which I think is in the spirit of [01:28:00] your work online and also in your work offline. So I'd love to hear maybe some of your thoughts on that.
Stu Patience: It's a really interesting and important question I think, I'm of the generation that had at least partly an analog childhood. And, you know, computers were part of life from the beginning, but more or less from the beginning, but not the internet.
And I think community in person has to be, I mean it's where until we are all androids or born and test tubes, it has to be where we start. And I don't think it can be otherwise. And I think, everything we have is given to us. if you start at that point, if you say, when we come into the world, everything we have is given to us and it comes from our first community, our family, and hopefully that's a supportive and nourishing one.
And it comes from the physical community kind of around them. Be that your extended family. or a community, like a church community that you're [01:29:00] part of that's supporting that? So I think, physical community has to be where we begin. And I guess my hope with the online stuff is that it's enriching, its community and it is a type of real community.
So I don't wanna call it not a community, but I think my hope is always that it enriches what happens in the real world. you know, there's a lot of, talk about Bits vs. Atoms and, you know, has, physical technological development slowed down. And what we have is all in the world of bits and information, which is kind of cool, but it's not rocket ships and, flying cars and that kind of stuff.
And there's a point to be made there. But the invention of paper. Enabled, or cheaper paper enabled Isaac Newton to have notebooks. And there was a time when people didn't have scientific notebooks, right? It was, it was a new technology to like draw your experiments. And then it's much cheaper to draw an experiment than it is to physically to draw 10 and do one it's like doing a wire frame on a computer these days, right?[01:30:00]
So the, virtual kind of enables and enriches the physical and I guess, stories, myths, legends, they enrich our lives and the real physical lives and I hope are transformative in the real world. So, that's how they come together.
David Elikwu: Amazing. Well, Stu, thanks so much for making the time. Thanks for coming on and sharing everything that you shared. I've really loved this conversation and speaking with you. And also, I would just add, it will be in the description and I'll probably mention it in the intro, but your writing online is awesome for me to see. I think particularly because as you mentioned, it's not super, the most well-known blog in the world compared to, let's say, Seth Godin's blog who has been writing online since God knows when, and everyone has probably heard of or come across Seth Godin at some point. And I just love the idea that you just continue to do it.
And obviously you've had some hugely popular posts and you have people that, follow your work and read everything that you share. this idea of toiling in darkness, [01:31:00] I love it and I empathize with that greatly. And I think I'm in a similar boat even with the, things that I share as well. And I think it's important and it's the ability to, it's hard work and it's to do the work and show up consistently and consistently do the work, just like you said.
Stu Patience: It's hard work and it, and it's a great deal of fun. So, I wouldn't change it. there's fun to be had in the darkness or in obscurity. And David, you've been a really, really generous host, and it's been, it's been a lot of fun talking to you, so thanks so much.
David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.