I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since I was at Catalyst East. It’s been a whirlwind since then. But hey, I guess the countdown continues until next year!
This year’s theme was “KNOWN,” which was awesome because there was a lot of talk about identity and foundational faith issues alongside leadership, which is the conference’s main focus. Good, deep stuff.
I would say of all the main stage speakers, my favorite would be Malcolm Gladwell. And really, I can probably say that any time he speaks. If you’ve never read his books, you’re really missing out. Utterly fascinating. I definitely feel a lot smarter after reading them. And, well, I’d like to say he’s someone I’d like to sit down over coffee with, but honestly, I don’t think I could keep up with him. But I’ll listen to him all day long!
Let me just start by saying that Bob Goff, if you’re out there reading this right now, I’m looking for an adoptive grandparent. Just sayin’.
For those of you just joining us, this book has quickly moved into my favorites category in the realm of the written word. I listed to it, as per my usual, via Audible.com and was delighted to hear that Bob Goff does the reading as well. I really adored the whole thing; hung on his every word. It was too short, by the way. Need more! Perhaps a sequel…Love Does…More?
If you don’t know who Bob Goff is when I say his name, you may recall his story being included in Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, another of my favorite books. Bob’s story was about the guy who helped his kids write letters to all the foreign dignitaries asking to come interview them. They received 29 yes answers and set off around the world as a family so the kids could interview these world leaders. At the end of the interview, the kids left the head of state with a key to come see them. My three sentence wrap up does it no justice, so go read it for yourself if you get the change. It’s a remarkable story. I cried and found it so inspiring. It is one of my all-time favorite stories, and it isn’t even about anyone I know! Anyway, that gives you just a glimpse of the type of guy Bob is.
Back to the book, Love Does, which is a pretty recent release and includes the same story along with many other amazing ones. I keep finding it funny that this guy is a lawyer by trade because he does so many uncharacteristically lawyerly things. He needs a TV show about his life and persona. Yes, he is a character.
The main theme of the book is about living with whimsy. He states that he doesn’t think people need more opportunities for whimsy in their life, they just need to recognize the ones that are readily available. He tells story after story about the ways he’s incorporated whimsy into his life, and consequently, the way his children, friends and family have caught the same vision.
There were two items the book instantly reminded me of when I started reading. The first is the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which is a favorite of mine. It’s chock-full of whimsy and imagination. I identify with facets of each of the characters as they strive to reconcile their own degree of imagination within a very concrete world. Some days, the skies the limit like Mr. M himself. Some days, I feel a bit stuck like Molly. And then, yes, I do have a few days like the Mutant Accountant where everything is just as it seems, and the magic has left the building. But, in the end, they each find their own opportunity to invite whimsy in, and in doing so, find the best parts of themselves and others.
The second item the book reminded me of was the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Isn’t he just fascinating? I don’t think I’m smart enough to be his real-life friend, but I’d like to try. I digress… Blink is basically about the thousands of things behind-the-scenes or in the past that allow you to make split second decisions when needed. And it talks about the cognitive factors involved. It’s really amazing, as are all his books. If you like sociology type stuff, he’s great to read. Anyway, there’s this chapter in Blink where he talks about improv, and that it’s a great case study for the subject matter of the book–“making sophisticated decisions spur of the moment.” He notes that improv isn’t chaotic and random, as those terrified of being asked to do it might seem, but instead it does follow a set of guidelines that are agreed up and rehearsed to an extent, before the actors take the stage. The most important rule for improv is agreement. Meaning, you say “yes” to whatever the situation and circumstance. You don’t stop, or block it. You catch it and move forward, as they said like basketball. “Good improvisors develop action,” said one of the performers from the group Mother in NYC. Malcolm pointed out that in real life, we tend to stop action. Probably 90% of us or more would never agree upon the first rule in the beginning, and therefore, improv becomes a type of stage performance rather than real life.
I think Love Does is an answer of sorts to what good improv could look like in real life. Allowing your mind to recognize whimsy is the first step. The second is the acceptance of it. The third is the action upon it. Oh, the places we’d go–Dr. Seuss would be proud! I know for those of you straight-laced sorts out there this probably sounds either silly or scarey, or a little of both. But I think it sounds exciting and adventurous. And really, who doesn’t need more of that? Whether we recognize it or not, we’d all do a little better with a bit more adventure.
One of my favorite trips was in college with my best friend, Heather. It was coming up on Memorial Weekend, I think, and it seemed like everyone we knew was headed out of town. We didn’t want to be left on campus by ourselves so we made the decision to leave for Colorado the next morning to go see a friend. We were really giddy, got to packing, and the next morning jumped in the car ready for the road ahead. As I started the engine, I eagerly asked, “Ok, so which way do we go?” Heather replied, “I don’t know. Do we have a map?” Love it! We just started laughing, and had to postpone our trip by about five minutes so we could Mapquest our way to Denver. But the excitement overtook us, and that is a delicious place to be. (The whole weekend was great, by the way.)
Even before reading this book, I’ve been influenced by this type of philosophy over the years through various avenues and people. I’m sort of prone to it, built for it, and sought out by it, though. I wish I had room here to tell all my stories of whimsy. There have a been a number of them, and even if all didn’t turn out the way I want, they make for great memories….and sometimes lessons learned.
But I realize not everyone is automatically cozy to the idea of whimsy. I say, just start small. Try one morsel before a big bite. I think you might get hooked. After all, calculated risk still involves risk. I know you can do it! Loosen those straight laces. I don’t think you’ll regret it. And if you do, it may just mean trying again. One fail doesn’t mean the whole project is a failure. It is worth letting some playfulness in.
I think Grandpa Bob just accentuates the fact that life is meant to be lived. Sure, there are responsibilities that you’ll still have to manage. But whimsy may just be five minutes in the beginning. You can still pay bills and get the laundry done and drive the kids to soccer. Bob Goff is a lawyer, nonprofit founder and Consul General to Uganda, for goodness sakes. If this man can take time for the whimsy, we all need to take a page out of his book. Literally, I’m taking the page with the kids writing world leaders. It taught me a lot.
Read this book. You’ll definitely laugh. Definitely cry. Also I hope you gain a wee bit more respect for whimsy and, in return, start a significant relationship with this little gem.
Just remember, I asked Bob to be my adoptive grandpa first.