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Giant Hairball

Notes & Transcripts

You ever heard of the book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball? I had not either until I was working on this message. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to try to “wax eloquent” on the revolutions you can do around feline fur. No, I’m more interested in what the book said than I am in its title. You see it was written by Gordon Mackenzie. For more than 30 years, Gordon Mackenzie worked at Hallmark, eventually convincing the company to create a special title for him: "creative paradox." Along with challenging corporate normalcy at Hallmark, MacKenzie did a lot of creativity workshops for elementary schools. And those workshops led to a fascinating observation that he shares in his book.

MacKenzie would ask the kids upfront: "How many artists are there in the room?" And he said the pattern of responses never varied.

In the first grade, the entire class waved their arms like maniacs. Every child was an artist. In the second grade, about half of the kids raised their hands. In the third grade, he'd get about 10 out of 30 kids. And by the time he got to the sixth grade, only 1 or 2 kids would tentatively and self-consciously raise their hands.

All the schools he went to seemed to be involved in "the suppression of creative genius." They weren't doing it on purpose, but society's goal is to make us less foolish. As MacKenzie says, "From the cradle to the grave, the pressure is on: Be normal."

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