The internet is a blizzard, with every snowflake unique and striving to be noticed. Jobs move, industries change, and fear rises. We feel as though there’s never enough. Not enough work, resources, room. We begin to race, believing poverty’s breath is steaming behind us. The spikes come out of our front wheels and we swerve, demolishing the competition.
In the US, there are more people earning a living today than there were people living 100 years ago. My grandparents’ generation saw more change in the job market than the world had ever seen before. My grandpa himself was pushed out of a job by progress. He didn’t complain. Grandpa retired early and continued doing what he loved, making money from hunks of metal.
Change can be stressful, but we thrive when we ditch competition for Collaboration, Compassion and Celebration.
This weekend, I immersed myself in the energy of entrepreneurs. I ended Thursday as a judge for a chili cook-off, where I learned about 36 Degrees North. That’s a place where entrepreneurs can rent a cubicle to work. It sounded like hell until I heard more. The place hosts Lunch and Learn sessions, a Creativity Power Hour and workshops on data science and other useful concepts. The workspace is collaborative. Entrepreneurs can use their own strengths and draw on the strengths of others, rather than try to do everything alone. This is the first principle of wisdom—use what others already know.
In our first coaching session a year ago, Kim White, CEO of My Sexy Business, said, “I don’t believe in competition. Collaboration is way more effective.” Friday night, we explored the Darryl Starbird National Rod and Custom Car Show together. If you’ve seen our Facebook Live video, please accept my apologies for all the giggling. I get that way around gorgeous cars and Kim. Blame Grandpa. And Kim.
Expo Square held hundreds of shiny classics, rebuilt to look exactly as they would have in the original showrooms. Near the rodeo were scraps of metal quilted together to make vehicles Mad Max or Tank Girl might have driven. In the center, on the carpet, were dome-topped dragsters from my dreams. Happy sigh.
Everywhere, people were sharing ideas, appreciating talent, and selling their wares. Because of car shows, my stepdad Jonathan Books developed the Opti-Shield. He’d noticed a problem with the position of the water pump and Opti-Spark in the General Motors LT-1 engine. Through conversations at these events, he found the trouble extended to 9 different car models. He developed an easy to install, patent-pending part which protects the Opti-Spark from shorting out due to water pump seepage. Collaboration. We go further when we let down our guard and talk to people.
Do all those show car owners earn their living with their passion? Nope. I get myself into a right funk when I gaze critically at my passion and say, “Why aren’t you supporting me?” Writing is my love. Just like the guy who spent hours painting the Batmobile, it brings me more joy than money can buy. But the skills I’ve developed in my various writing projects have made me marketable in unique ways. If you put your mind to something and pick the brains of others in the process, you increase your employability and your enjoyment of life. And sometimes you become Darryl Starbird.
That Batmobile? It was finished as a fundraiser for a 9-year-old boy with cancer. Since then, it has raised money for cancer research and put a light in the eyes of many more boys. And me. It has ejection seats, dude. And shoots flames. Oh yeah.
Saturday afternoon, I watched a movie about the builders of much bolder vehicles. Hidden Figures told the story of three women who made history while helping John Glen get to the moon. I went with the girls from Mentor My Sister, a mentoring group begun by Jennifer Owens. I won’t give away the whole movie, because it’s well worth watching. I will say Dorothy Vaughn impressed me. While trying to advance herself, she learned her whole team was soon to be archived. She found a need, taught herself to fill it and then taught her team so they were prepared when progress came. Her compassion earned her a place in history. Our projects might be driven by interest at first, and we keep going a little longer when we think they’ll make us money, but there are boring parts to every project. Our experiments may cost more than they make. Compassion and a sense of larger purpose keep us pushing forward, and make us better people in the process.
Saturday night, I attended an art show at Cottage Art Gallery. Artist Ann Rea says that art sales are built on relationships. She must be right. I attended, at the invitation of the owner, Todd Sparks. I dream of owning one of Todd’s breathtaking pointillist paintings, but I bought some fun clay candies. Why do I need inedible M&Ms® and Skittles®? When I entered the Cottage, I met Mary, the candy maker. A moment into our conversation, I mentioned Wisdom – Better than Wishing, and Mary walked me to another artist’s piece. Andrea Walker had written a poem which would be perfect for the Advent book I’m planning. Only after Mary had shown me something she appreciated which wasn’t even her own work, she began to talk about her passion. I watched a short cartoon she’d created and heard how she’s dreaming of an internship with Pixar. I told her meanwhile, she should check out 36 Degrees North and all the entrepreneurs in Tulsa who need her skills for their ads. As the gallery was about to close, I asked Todd why he’d opened a gallery. He said, “I did a show by myself and thought, What’s next? Do I keep having shows of my own art and invite the same people every time? That won’t last long. I invited other artists to join me. They bring their friends, and the place fills up with interesting people.”
Thanks, Todd, for inviting artists to celebrate each other.
The world is what we make it. If you’d like to promote Compassion, Collaboration and Celebration over competition, order my newest shirt. Order one for that teenager in your life who needs encouragement to lead others out of the pettiness we learn in high school.
While you’re there, check out the other items in my store, BallofLightDesigns.