“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.” – Sir Francis Drake, 1577
“Should we be spending millions of dollars getting to Mars during a down economy?” Recently a friend of mine tweeted out this question. I answered in the affirmative, and was immediately challenged by good friend of mine in New York. This tumulted into a regular ‘ole 140 character style debate. In summary, he appealed to the fact that so many in our country are unemployed and un-insured or under-insured. This conversation got me thinking about the importance of poetry. And particularly the importance of poetry in business.
(Let me just say, irrespective of your political thoughts on this issue, I assure you, my point is a philosophical one and not a political one.)
He’s right. Things are bad right now. Maybe we should just shut down the whole freaking space program. It’s all a bunch of dweeby math geniuses with “Peter Pan” syndrome living out their Star Wars inspired childhood fantasies. Isn’t it? I mean in times like these, there seems to be no pragmatic rationale that would lead us to look to the stars. We have to fix the problems we have, we don’t have time for that stuff.
See what I did right there. We always seem to relegate the idea of adventuring and pioneering and exploring to a subservient status. They always have a seat somewhere, it’s just never at the grown ups table. But c’mon, they’re noisy, they’re messy, they’re annoying, they’re kinda weird and they don’t understand the serious, the “real” issues. The dreamers, the inventors, the explorers, the crazies…the poets… they still get to sit down of course, it’s just at the clown shaped, water-colored kiddie table in the corner. Until, that is, they discover America or turn on a light bulb or make men fly or help us easily connect with loved ones across the world in one click.
There is this false sense of maturity in business. We can analyze, but we can’t dream up something new, because that’s a waste of time. Especially during hard times. During hard times, we’re told to “hunker down” and “keep our nose to the grindstone” as if that will make it better. As if focusing on the same problems will ever get us where we want to go. As if the practicality of removing our eyes from the glitter of the horizon is somehow more sound and logical. Someone has to keep dreaming, dammit! Especially during the hard times. I am completely cognizant that sometimes a storm may befall us and shift more of our focus on problems that need to be fixed now. But if that’s all we do, then we will never actually get anywhere.
No matter how tight your margins are now, no matter how close you get to missing your rent payment, no matter how slammed your back is against the wall NEVER underestimate the importance of conceptualizing new frameworks, anticipating new trends, exploring new methods, of dreaming and adventuring and pressing into the unknown and uncomfortable. As workshifters, we have unique challenges, but in many ways, we are also pioneers. We thought, “hmmm, maybe there is a different way to do this working thing”, “maybe everyone else has been doing it wrong”. Keep doing that. Keep questioning. Keep challenging paradigms. Yep, even in the hard times.
Recently, someone I desperately admire said, “this is business, there’s no room for romance”. That is both incredibly disheartening and one of the dumbest things I have heard in all my life on this earth. Business is not played in a vacuum, it isn’t so damn special that it gets its own silo. Exploring, adventuring, dreaming – that’s all a part of life, and for most of us, its the part that makes it worth living. Poetry is not only an element of business, it is the most important element.
Since the beginning of time, the pragmatists have always laughed at the dreamers, at the poets, but for the most part, its the poets that inspire us and its the poets we remember. Yes, we have to keep dreaming about Mars. Why? Because it’s next.
Do you spend enough thinking about new ways to do old things? Thinking about what the world will look like in 5 years, 2 years, 6 months and how you can prepare and capitalize on that?
Photo by: Diana Kimball