Planting Seeds of Change

March 14, 2011

Recently, while driving to a meeting, I started thinking about healthy food. How can the average American (if such a person exists) avoid eating GM (genetically modified) fruits and vegetables inundated with pesticides and fertilizers? My first thought was to buy organic. I often do, even though it’s more expensive, but many households can’t afford it. During the summer, I frequent outdoor markets and buy from local organic farmers. This is fine during the warm months and I enjoy meeting with the farmers and supporting them… but it’s also expensive. Besides, what do you do about the rest of the year?

Back in the day we used to have a garden. While it takes time, gardening is a viable solution to the current alternatives. And what isn’t eaten during the growing season can be shared, canned and frozen. As I drove, I envisioned my family working with me… everyone pitching in and reaping a bounty of fresh produce. I imagined sharing with my neighbors and… then reality struck! I live in downtown Chicago, and there’s not a lot of arable land on the 28th floor!

Soon I found myself in the suburbs, driving down a residential street. An elderly couple stood in their yard talking to a couple guys in uniforms… and then I spotted the lawn chemical truck in the driveway.

I remembered spending money on lawn chemicals when we lived in the suburbs. Why do people spend time and money growing, cutting and maintaining grass? Who came up with this idea? Is it social conditioning, tradition… perceptual blindness? My questions triggered a rush of ideas and visions… I had a flashback to my time spent in Germany. The cemeteries I had visited there were so beautiful and the locals took such pride in creating and maintaining them. I began to envision suburban neighborhoods filled with beautiful gardens… like a Monet painting composed of fruit trees, herbs and vegetables. Visions of crop circles, corn mazes and rows of fruit trees, and beautifully designed vegetable patterns of all shapes, colors and kinds raced through my head. My brain was crystallizing with interconnected concepts and possibilities. The benefits of replacing worthless grass lawns with beautiful functioning gardens seemed endless… Read more

Seeing Beyond Labels

March 8, 2011

Carol waited for me to leave the venue before introducing herself. I had just spoken to a business audience at a corporate event. But to Carol, my message struck a personal chord and she wanted to let me know—just not in front of her peers.

You made me cry, she said, but quickly added, tears of joy.

During my speech I had explained how our focus creates our reality. If we focus on trouble, we’ll find it. If we focus on happiness, it will appear. I also shared how labels influence our perception. When we label something a problem, it becomes one. These labels act as filters to enhance our perceptual blindness.

My speech ended with a story about a kid who quit school in 2nd grade. He didn’t actually quit attending—he just stopped participating. He was smart—but didn’t do well in school. Based on his free spirit, unusual views and pointed questions, some teachers and adults labeled him as a “problem.” This label stuck and became a self-fulfilling prophecy up until the end of high school. Then an unexpected event took place—one that would forever change his life. To the amazement of many, the “problem” kid not only attended college, but was accepted into a competitive program and graduated first in his class. From there, the boy who quit school in 2nd grade founded and built a multi-million dollar visual communications firm, became an internationally recognized designer, and attracted a client roster that read like the Who’s Who of Business. After twenty consecutive years of growth, he sold his firm and became a best-selling author, creative consultant and public speaker… and I’m honored to be speaking to you tonight, I concluded.

What happened? What changed my life? Read more