Looking afresh at your world can reveal beauty and riches that were there all along. With wise words from John Lennon, Douglas Adams and Rory Sutherland.
The simplest, smallest thing can fill your heart with joy, break your heart, change your outlook.
Here is the tiniest example. A Monday morning a few years back. A Monday morning that really felt like a Monday. I took my seat on a grubby, run-down early morning train, surrounded by fellow travellers looking similarly overjoyed (or perhaps not) at the prospect of another week.
But my spirits raised exponentially on sighting a tiny wee smiley face sticker on the back of the seat directly in front of me.
If this was a minor act of vandalism from some previous traveller, then it was vandalism at its most benevolent. They could have expressed themselves vandalistically in any way. They chose to share a tiny wee smile.
I was put in mind of John Lennon’s lovely account of the night he first met Yoko Ono. He attended a preview of Ono’s exhibition at London’s Indica Gallery on Monday 7 November 1966. Let us allow the dear departed Mr Lennon to take up the story (courtesy of the excellent Beatles Bible website):
“There was [a] piece that really decided me for-or-against the artist: a ladder which led to a painting which was hung on the ceiling. It looked like a black canvas with a chain with a spyglass hanging on the end of it. This was near the door when you went in. I climbed the ladder, you look through the spyglass and in tiny little letters it says ‘yes’. So it was positive. I felt relieved. It’s a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn’t say ‘no’ or ‘fuck you’ or something, it said ‘yes’.”
You could leave stuff out
Looking afresh at your world might unlock a fortune in worldly riches when you realise what doesn’t need to be there, what you can and should delete.
“What can you get rid of today?” Rory Sutherland poses this question in his book Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense. Sutherland argues that some of the most successful businesses or our age took a pre-existing idea and stripped it down. A fortune was to be made “by removing something the competitor offered rather than adding to it”:
“Google is, to put it bluntly Yahoo without all the extraneous crap cluttering up the search page, while Yahoo was, in its day, AOL without in-built Internet access. In each case, the more successful competitor achieved their dominance by removing something the competitor offered rather than adding to it. […] McDonald’s deleted 99% of items from the traditional American diner repertoire.”
With new eyes
Sometimes the best and simplest ideas are already there, staring you in the face.
Sutherland’s words make me think of the dear departed Douglas Adams, and his wonderful take on the origins of the Sony Walkman, from his 1996 Wall Street Journal interview:
“One of my favorite pieces of technology in recent years is the Sony Walkman. The brilliant idea was that if you look at a traditional stereo cassette player — the deck and amplifier and speakers — you could leave stuff out. And you’d suddenly have, not something that was less good, but was a whole different way of looking at it. So very often you can make a major advance not necessarily by adding something, but just by looking at what’s already there with new eyes.”
Gentle reader: See today and all it has to offer you with new eyes. May today reveal the beauty and riches that were there all along. May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.
- Smiley sticker pics by MJCarty.
- John Lennon by MJCarty.
- Detail from Girl looking up via Wikimedia Commons.