My second favorite Eric Ries quote begins this way:
The context for the quote is the world of business, start-ups in particular. The idea, extrapolating a bit, is that imagination lives in a place without restraint, specific points of reference, judgment or relativism – all of those things being important, perhaps, at a different time and in different ways. So the full quote goes like this:
“Zero invites imagination, but small numbers invite questions about whether large numbers will ever materialize.”
Throughout this year of growth and challenge, I’ve been thinking a lot about imagination, the genesis of ideas and images, and creativity. More recently I’ve been thinking about the intersection of art and propaganda, fact and fiction. I’ve been wondering if, instead of jumping to relativism and prognostication, those of us worrying about what’s to come in 2017 might not be well served to start first at zero, a blank sheet, and invite some real imagination into our thinking.
So that’s the first idea, based in a quote, that I give you for ringing in the new year: zero invites imagination.
The second idea, the second quote, comes from my first favorite Eric Ries quote, which I keep, scrawled on a sticky note, pasted next to the computer on my work desk.
“Values are the foot you leave on the floor when you pivot.”
And before you go groaning about how all of this stuff is so five years ago, just pause for a minute, close your eyes, and use that imagination to envision how you want to shift yourself into the new year. Do you want to stand firm, unyielding, where you are? Leap with both feet into the great unknown? Or maybe – and this is just an idea – turn your body, integrity intact, to approach things from a different perspective?
For me, the foot that stands firm is rooted in belief that ideas, creativity, imagination, and individualism are valuable, that these things matter. I believe in the messy, gray, abstract parts, in asking questions for the sake of curiosity. I believe in redemption, second chances, do-overs, re-inventions. Now, more than ever, I believe in all these things.
One of the good lessons for me from this past year has been a requirement to think clearly and specifically about values – not in a “stencil it on the front wall” way, but deeply and genuinely.
So, going into to 2017, what’s the foot you’re unwilling to pick up, to surrender? It’s worth contemplating; really, it is. Because the third quote, one that has endured through centuries, is this one, from Sun Tzu:
“Know yourself and you will win all battles.”
Simple enough, yet the hardest of all. Enough said.
(And yes, I really do treasure all three of my copies of The Art of War – the copy in my office, the copy at home and the original copy, a gift from my friend Bill, that’s lost in a box somewhere in my messy house.)
Fine and good so far, yes?
So, armed with imagination, grounded in clear values, evolving in self-awareness, we are almost fully ready for the new year, a fresh start, clean slate, et cetera.
I do have one more suggestion, though, because a part of me is rather apprehensive that the reality of 2017 might be a great deal worse than the idea of it – the mere idea being, in so many ways, already bad enough. So the fourth quote I’ll leave you with is this one, from Beryl Markham:
“[N]ever hope more than you work.”
Yep, roll up your sleeves, dig in, be the hero(ine) of your own story. Stand up for what you believe in, lend your voice to what matters most. Cherish the vision, but get invested in doing the work.
That’s my plan, anyway, which I have summed up into a single, two-word resolution for myself for 2017: Art harder.
And, as a final, departing thought for 2016, a note-to-self reminder that it wasn’t all terrible. Some of it was marvelous and rich and funny and poignant and sublime. I even have a Hipstamatic roll (the short movie I promised) to prove it.
Food | Week of January 2, 2017
Sweet Potatoes with Yogurt and Cilantro-Chile Sauce | Roast (or pan-fried) Chicken