My fridge is filled top to bottom with refrigerator art—drawings made by my granddaughter, depicting life as she sees it. The pictures usually include all the people important in her life—her parents, her siblings, my wife and I and, often, the family cat or the dog she hopes to one day have. Sometimes there’s a car in the picture, or a boat; sometimes trees and blue skies and a bright yellow sun.
Its not Picasso or “Group of Seven” quality, but each piece still requires a knowing eye to see the magic—to see what the artist saw and was trying to portray. My granddaughter’s art is as true an expression of her thoughts and emotions as any famous or accomplished artist. She was using her talents and gifts to the best of her ability, for someone else’s appreciation (mine), and she was doing it with a great sense of pleasure. Every time one of these pieces made it to the fridge, it filled her with a great sense of pride.
These were the thoughts on my mind as I waited to board a flight to Mexico, where I was going to make a series of presentations to try to gain business traction for a company I was helping launch. I miss my family when I travel now, far more than I did when I was younger. My life’s priorities have changed, and I sometimes find myself asking the questions “do I still want to work?”, “how hard do I want to work?” and “what work do I want to do?”
On the plane, with the headsets on, I reflected on it further and realized it comes down to a singular question that almost everybody asks: “What work could I do that has meaning?” People ask this question as they seek out their first career, and then throughout that career, but for most of their working life, ultraistic aspirations have to take second place to the primary objective of economic survival. And so it was with me, until recently.
I checked into the hotel, reviewed my notes and tweaked my Power Point presentation. My enthusiasm for what I was doing—launching this new business—was rising. We are introducing an innovative product to the market that will be a helpful tool for progressive manufacturers that want to do more than just survive; ones who want to thrive. We are creating employment opportunities for talented and creative minds. We are creating a company that others will help build and one day (hopefully) carry on, creating economic wealth and security for many people along the way.
When I thought of things this way, I realized that I am using my talents and gifts to the best of my ability, for the appreciation and benefit of others, and that it gives me both a sense of pleasure and pride doing it. This new little business venture, with all the tasks that need to get done and objectives that need to be accomplished—this is nothing less than my refrigerator art. Right now it may seem like stick drawings, and perhaps it needs to be viewed by a knowing eye to be recognized, but it is an expression of my values, thoughts and emotions, and it is a reflection of my hopes and dreams.
The presentation was well received and I spent the rest of the day discussing various applications with several talented and imaginative people. I left their office with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, and this additional thought: whether an engineer, entrepreneur, sales person, administrative assistant, or production worker—whatever your vocation is, we are all creating refrigerator art—something that uses our talents, pleases our teachers and mentors (or perhaps our Creator), and is done for the benefit of others.
This column originally appreared in the September 2013 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.