I started reading my third copy of Bill Strickland’s book today.
It’s my third copy because I’ve given away my first two copies to people I thought would benefit from them. This is my fourth or fifth reading of the book. I don’t come back to it repeatedly because it’s extremely well written—in fact it’s ghosted (and as I’ve personally discovered, if as a ghost writer you write a book up to your own standards, it becomes much more your work than the work of the person to who it’s attributed . . . if you know what I mean). I keep coming back to Bill Strickland’s book because it reminds me to believe in myself.
The book I’m talking about is Make the Impossible Possible (published by Doubleday). It’s the autobiographical account of Bill Strickland’s incredible life from sullen Pittsburgh teenager, to ceramic instructor, to CEO of Manchester-Bidwell (a prep school and training facility for disadvantaged people), to winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant, to internationally known entrepreneur. Along the way he became an award winning artist, a trusted community leader, a commercial airline pilot, an expert orchid gardener, a producer of Grammy winning jazz music and founder of multiple training institutes. It makes me tired just thinking he did all those things.
Still, even as a fellow who has three professions at the moment, I value his book not because it justifies my overfunctioning. His book is important to me because of one of the great principles he espouses: if you are not achieving your dreams, perhaps it’s because you’re dreaming too small. How many times have people told you that you bit off more than you could chew or that you were neglecting other people and responsibilities? And how often was it the very people who wanted more of your time, attention and talent who told you that? Our selfishness is seldom blessed by the people who have personal expectations of us, is it? Yet it is precisely our willingness to be selfish—to go off alone with our notebooks or word processors and let our imaginations take wing as we dream and write—that makes us each uniquely who we are.
Another of Strickland’s marvelous principles has to do with “flow.” Flow is a concept from jazz music, where one musician takes a beat and begins to play it. The other musicians follow in, not really knowing where the music will take them, but when they get it right, they know it. This is a different way of describing what the divine Julia Cameron calls “synchronicity” and some spiritual people call “serendipity.” What do you think about the idea that there is a river of creativity out there waiting for you and when you find your way into that river and get carried away by the flow, you become your truest self?
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Strickland’s book, one I have taped to the computer carrel where I do a lot of my creative writing:
The sand in the hourglass flows only one way. Don’t waste precious time chasing someone else’s definition of success. Live your life with purpose now. Look for the things that inspire you, trouble you, make you feel most alive, and trust in those things to shape your future. They will give you all your heart could ever wish for. [from Make the Impossible Possible, p. 127, Bill Strickland] —Mike Simpson, publisher, Second Wind Publishing, LLC