I added the book to my Amazon shopping cart as soon as I got home. The book arrived the next Wednesday and after dinner I dove right in. Only to be initially disappointed.
I can’t remember where I first heard someone reciting Gordon MacKenzie’s story of asking children if they were an artist. Wherever it was, the story has stuck with me. To be honest, I’m not even sure if MacKenzies’s name was mentioned, or if I was read or heard the analogy of asking differs aged kids if they were an artist.
Gordon MacKenzie made sculptures as a hobby. A couple times a year he would talk to different grade school classes about his art. He noticed something when he interacted with the students. During his presentation, he’d ask the class if any of them were an artist. With the 1st Graders, nearly every kid would enthusiastically raise their hands. When he asked the 2nd Graders fewer would raise their hand. This trend continued with each older class. By the time he asked this question to the 6th Graders, only a few would raise their hands.
Seems self doubt and conforming to what is considered normal does away with our inner artist, and our creativity is stifled. There is a linked to a child’s restrained inner artist and the misery many feel professionally. Especially working in a corporate culture.
A week or two ago I was listening to a podcast on my commute home. The guest was talking about the struggles he’s faced trying to get through professional life in a place of work with a heavy corporate culture and he mentions the story of Gordon MacKenzie and the grade school art classes. Then he mentioned how he enjoyed MacKenzie’s book Orbiting the Giant Hairball.
Honestly I have no one to blame for my disappointment than me. I didn’t research the book past it’s mention on the podcast. I didn’t even read a single review left for it on Amazon.
My initial disappointment was based on me presuming Orbiting the Giant Hairball was going to be a “how to” style businesses self help book. It is not. But once I came to terms with what the book really is, I did enjoy it. The books is a collection of well written short stories by Gordon MacKenzie, a very creative artist who worked at Hallmark for thirty years. While I was hoping to learn some specific tactics to use in my day to day profession life, what I read were a series of entertaining and thought provoking corporate life lessons. The chapter comparing the "Pyramid" corporate structure to the "Plum Tree" structure resonated with me in particular.
The book was a quick read. I didn't put it down, learning a new bag of tricks that will help be succeed in the workplace. But I do now have a better perspective on how I can "orbit the Giant Hairball" and get more out of my professional life.
If this book sounds like something that you'd be interested in reading, follow the above Amazon link.