This will be short, because we have work to to. It may also be obvious to you, but it wasn’t for me. So here goes.
I was lying in bed one night recently, catching up on the unimportant, non-depressing kinds of news, when I ran across an essay by Bobbi Brown about her decision to leave her company and start something new.
I began reading the article because I am a devoted fan of both the woman Bobbi Brown and the products that carry her name. While I was reading, thinking about authenticity and simplicity and creativity and invention, something occurred to me:
The stories are all the same, and here’s plot line:
In my work as a…
[a make-up artist, mom, engineer, judge, etc.].
I noticed that…
[it was hard to find the right shade of lipstick, it was awkward to the doctor to hold the flashlight and the tongue depressor, the vacuum was losing suction over time, the children’s voices were getting lost in court, etc.].
So I wondered, “what if….” And then I…
[played with formulas and came up with 10 lipstick shades, designed a plastic tongue depressor with an LED handle, applied design from a different machine to make a bagless vacuum cleaner, started a volunteer-based service to advocate for children, etc.].
At first I …
[sold the product out of my car, knocked door-to-door at pediatricians’ offices, made more than 5,000 prototypes, asked a handful of people to help me, etc.].
And then one day…
[someone noticed, someone decided to give one a try, I found the design that worked, we had standing-room only at volunteer sign-up, etc.].
And that’s how it all began.
Perhaps some of the stories might start this way:
In my work as a casual observer, I noticed that those very popular new t-shirts didn’t come in [size, style, color, etc.], so I designed an alternative, etc.
In my work as someone who writes personal, hand-written correspondence, I noticed that there weren’t any [cards, pens, tracking journals, etc.] that were exactly what I wanted….
But the good ones never, ever begin:
In my work as someone who likes to make money, I saw this really good idea, and so I just copied it.
Sure, there are multiple glass-screened smartphones in the world; but I don’t even have to finish this thought for you to understand the point.
Speaking of smartphones, how about this story, which I love:
In my work as a decent human being I noticed that the homeless people I talked to on the streets hadn’t talked to their families in a very long time – sometimes decades. So I made a video on my smartphone, and I posted it to a Facebook group and helped connect the man with his family. At first, it seemed overwhelming; but then volunteers joined in. And now we’re building a network of volunteers and trying to connect 1% of the world’s 100 million homeless people with their families by 2021.
No, that isn’t how Kevin Adler tells the story of how he started Miracle Messages; it’s how I’m telling you the story, using my simple little plot formula for a specific reason. And the reason is that I want to encourage us – you and me – to pay attention, notice the world around us, and start something – today, tomorrow, one day soon.
It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. It could be this:
I noticed in my work as a good neighbor that it was hard to figure out the street numbers of the houses in my old, historic neighborhood. So I put together a kit of stencils and reflective paint, and I showed some of the kids on my block how to paint numbers on the street-facing edges of the steps or curbs, and now the kids have a way to help neighbors and make a little money at the same time. [true story, in my neighborhood].
The idea works just as well as a course adjustment:
In my work as a [doctor, lawyer, consultant, grocery store clerk, whatever], I noticed that [the same thing kept going awry at the same point]; so I [started doing something new]….
No, I am not suggesting that anyone ignore the calamity that is our current state of domestic affairs. Quite the opposite, actually. As I wrote last week, I’m a firm believer in the idea that the act of solving problems – any kind of problems – strengthens the ability to solve problems.
So, the idea is simple. Keep it simple: Look around. Pay close attention. Then start something. Where it might lead us is anyone’s guess, and that curious uncertainty is at least half of the reward.
P. S. The story never, ever, not one time, ever, goes like this: In my work I noticed ___. So then I ___. And since it was hard, I gave up and decided never to try again.
Food | Week of January 16, 2017