Thursday, January 10, 2008

Finding your inner dragon

One of my dearest friends, Amy, left for Geneva today. She'll be there for six months interning for the U.N. I am so proud of her and excited to hear about her adventures in a new place. Amy is someone who "paints her own canvas" as Gordon MacKenzie would say.

I have finally finished Orbiting the Giant Hairball. I was enjoying it chapter by chapter, putting it down after each because there were so many thought-provoking ideas embedded in nearly every sentence. Gordon MacKenzie fully understood the idea of making every word count.

Among all of the beautiful doodles and thoughts on how to run a company, invigorate meetings, and inspire creativity in even the dullest environments there is one story that stands out to me. It's the first time a business management book actually made my eyes well up. At the very end of the book, Gordon MacKenzie writes a letter from God to a new born child. He uses the analogy that each of us is born with a blank canvas and a sense of wonder. Somewhere along the way the canvas is taken from us and hidden away where the adult world can draw boxes on it. The canvas will be returned to us once we are deemed responsible, only after we have been properly trained to color within the boxes.

Gordon wanted us to buck that notion. He wants us to "create the biggest, brightest, funniest, fiercest damn dragon" we can. He wanted us to grab our own paint brush to swoosh "through the sensuous goo of Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson or Ultramarine Blue." In a very real sense he is asking us to reject stifling forces of any kind in any area of our lives.

To be sure, Gordon's challenge to us is terrifying. We have done well in high school, gone to college, maybe even graduate school, and worked hard to move up in our careers, all to be told that by doing so we may have just been coloring boxes rather than creating a work of art that expresses who we are at our core and what we value and love. 

However, there is something even more frightening than this challenge that Gordon asks us to take up. The final line of the book is "If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can do it, only you." Very similar to John Lennon's quote "most people die with the music still in them." And it's true. So few people fearlessly and relentlessly live their dreams and truly build their own road to happiness. My New Year's resolution: to move even a little closer to swirling my paint brush in Cadmium Yellow, to dabble outside the lines, and learn to play my own music. 

The photo above can be found at:

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