Friday, May 27, 2011

Why We Don’t Care if Michelangelo Shopped at The Gap

[I tore this story from a page my past – but its message, as potent as paint thinner, I believe.. is legacy...]

I attended a rather uninspiring marketing conference some years ago. In fact, aside from wresting the urge to yawn, I’d spent the better part of two days, gazing at the tips of my shoes. About noon on day three, I decided it was time slip through the between-presenters-crack and head out for an early flight. As I stood to gather my bags and mugs and flashlight pens – a fluttery British accent, called out from center stage.

“Please don’t leave,” he said. “This is my very first public speaking engagement. And, well, I don’t want it to be my last”.


By the deafening chuckle that ensued, you would think he had taken a giant ostrich feather and tickled the entire audience under the chin. It actually did seem a bit funnier when I realized that he was not exclusively speaking to me, and that, in fact, several people had stood in hopes of catching that earlier flight.

Hm. Well he’s telling the truth, I thought – which, I must admit, is a daring way to start your very first speech. I dropped the bag next to my chair and plopped back in it.

This better be good blue jeans.

What proceeded for the next fifty minutes was a finely choreographed waltz-of-words. This young Brit swept the doldrums so deep into the outfield – they didn’t return until at least 9am the next morning. He was a complete natural. He had the trifecta of public speaking – a progressive topic, passionately delivered, with a healthy dash of comic timing. He held the attention of over four hundred marketing managers - whose average age was his, times two, plus three – right in the palm of one hand.

And, I, for one, was very glad I’d stayed.

During the break for lunch, almost needless to say, he was swarmed by a mob of conference goers. Would he be writing a book? Where could he be found online? Nearly every attendee wanted more.


In the lobby coffee shop, there was a gathering of a different sort. A table of red-faced businessmen, were saluting the crowd (now encircling the young man), with the backs of their heads. They’d flipped their ties over their shoulders and were now sipping down a few $14 bottles of Pellegrino and punctuating each sentence with a flail of their arms.  Doesn’t he own a suit? Why do these kids today think the rules don’t apply to them? If I were his supervisor, I’d fire him on the spot! Obviously they had not listened as he explained that he is self-employed research consultant. And, frankly, I’m not sure if they even heard a single word of his ingenious retail revelations.

It seems these “supervisors” were pretty miffed at the fact that this marketing whiz-kid could inspire an audience of their peers, gaining oodles of admiration and respect - perhaps even enlisting the first several hundred sales of his new book - all the while, dressed in a white t-shirt and blue jeans.

As I stood in the middle of this dichotic scene – freethinking, entrepreneurial blue jeans guy, with a mosh pit in tow, to my left, and twelve piping hot messes in suits, to my right – one and only one vision came to mind.

The Sistine Chapel. Yep.

Picture this. It is Rome, 1512. Michelangelo has just breathed in the first full view of the Sistine Chapel. He is quivering with humility – as he is overwhelmed by his own creation. He warily opens the chapel door because, he knows…the moment has arrived. It is time to share his gift with the world. A small crowd gathers outside. Moments later, an onlooker climbs to the top of a large stone and shouts, “Great painting but where did you get those shoes?”


It is 1903 in Kitty hawk, North Carolina. Orville Wright is running alongside his brother Wilbur;   his imagination bursting through a cloud as the magic of cast upon the world...for the very first time. Suddenly he stops and says,“Darn it all, I forgot my tie! Sorry Wil, I’ll be right back.”


It is 1975. Harvard University. A young man has been glued to a keyboard …for three days straight. He is driven by one and only one thought:  a design that had blossomed in his own mind will change the face of humanity forever. With certainty, he knows, that the future of the world is sitting on the edge of his desk.
Hm. Have you ever wondered...if in the midst of this unforgiving intensity...he was wearing a sweatshirt  from The Gap?

In your wildest imagination, have you ever wondered what any of these people were wearing? Silly question right?

But, do you know why?

Because what they were wearing meant absolutely nothing.

What they were creating meant absolutely everything.

You go blue jeans guy.

Genius comes from within,


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