Show: Embrace the shake

Earlier this year, I saw Phil Hansen speak in person (at Adobe MAX). His speech hit me profoundly. It’s a fantastic speech/story about how limitations can expand us. If you have 10 minutes to watch this, or watch this again, I feel it will be time well spent:

While I’m not comparing my modest expressional epiphany to his artist genius, I understood what he was saying from a first person experience. He put into words and a presentation, what I had been pondering. I had experienced the same spark, that he had (though at a much smaller level).

My experience in common, was a friend was talking about poetry. And it got me thinking, that I’ve tried poetry once. 

Someone dumped a large bunch of these refrigerator magnets on a white-board wall we had at work. For a week or two, people would put up a sentence or quip, daily. It was an amusing distraction. 

One morning I came in feeling a bit melancholy at some people putting ego and the now, ahead of thinking things through (looking at the bigger picture and longer term). Basically they wanted me to drive my team harder than I was (use the stick instead of the carrot), and I was frustrated at their inability to see that they are the sum of their actions. I wanted to pull the team instead of push them. Inspire them with enthusiasm and lead by example, not harangue them into producing more. So like a scene out of beautiful mind, the words on the board, just made sentences and a sentiment. I put the following magnets together in about 10 minutes:

Life is like a cold breath whispering in winter morning

a monument to man’s weak wandering

imaging his fall into the misty void of eternity 

mad with want, when approaching dust

not willing to see, hear, feel, love, or live life

sadly never knowing his soul and what joy this brings

I don’t know if that is very profound. But it captured a moment for me, and feeling. Just abject sadness at those not getting the shortness of our lives, being able to look inside themselves, or empathize with the people around them.

It killed the white-board. No one touched it again.

I don’t know if they just felt unable to match that, or the statement brought them down. But a few weeks later, I just covered my little poem in scotch tape to hold it together, and cleaned it all off, since it wasn’t getting used. And kept my little poem/vent.

I never really tried my hand at poetry again. That had said what I wanted to at the time. I’m not sure I have any other poignant things to say, that I want to say in prose. (I prefer to write conversationally). Also, I think there’s the fear that with an unlimited vocabulary, I can’t say anything profound in the medium of poetry.

The constraint of a few magnets/words, freed me from the bonds of near limitless choices.

So one of the more interesting things to me, was that I always felt that limiting my word choices, expanded my vocabulary. I doubt I could have expressed that, without the limitation of words in front of me.