Last Tuesday I had the honor of being part of one of the most inspiring events of the year when Cue Ball managing partner Tony Tjan welcomed a few hundred brilliant people to the ICA to share and discover inspiration.
From Hugh Herr who helped Boston Marathon victim Adrianne Haslet-Davis dance again, to Steve Callahan who survived 76 days adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in a life raft and lived to tell us about it, to renowned attorney Ken Feinberg who has handled some of the highest profile cases in the country- the overarching themes were purpose and integrity, and how imperative it is that we continue to live by those principals and teach those virtues again and again…and again.
Another group of speakers included best-selling author and art historian Sarah Lewis, Artichoke Co-Founder and Director Helen Marriage, Chineasy Project Creator and Founder ShaoLan Hsueh, and accomplished architect, urban designer, educator and theorist Moshe Safdie. They all spoke passionately about the importance of creativity, authenticity, and the greater, overarching purpose of contributing to and appreciating a strong community.
When I wasn’t introducing brilliant mind after brilliant mind, or speaking to the audience myself, I sat rapt throughout the day as I listened to them talk about who they were, where they came from, and what they did – and how important it has been for each of them to maintain an elevated level of integrity, creativity, and authenticity while they doing it.
Toward the end of the evening as the event came to a close, it became obvious to me why all of the themes that were woven into the day continued to resonate with and inspire me…
It seems to me that purpose and integrity, creativity and authenticity, and a strong sense of community are really the soul of all of our collective existence and should be honored as such. However, being the proprietor of a clothing store that has been in the same family for generations, I have seen throughout the years how those principals have changed and how big business is essentially trying to push them off the track.
These days, people, places and companies like mine, who continue to operate with those principals, can find themselves overlooked, no matter what their contribution is to their community. Unfortunately, the attention often shifts to things that seem to be “bigger” and “better,” even if they’re not. And it’s important to recognize that one “big” thing is usually trying to put everyone else out of business and is slowly eroding the very fiber of our existence.
I understand as well as anyone that our society is geared toward speed and accessibility, but technological advances don’t necessarily move things forward or truly help us evolve. All good things don’t necessarily come easy – they take time, energy, commitment, purpose and appreciation.
All of this made me think of Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, and his presentation at Cue last year where he shared his desire to make Las Vegas the most community-focused large city in the world. Staying aligned with his idea to make the original Zappos headquarters a place where local business could thrive and employees could stay connected, Tony created the “Downtown Project” which has allocated $350 million to aid in the revitalization of the Downtown Las Vegas. He is inspiring people to follow their passions and create a “vibrant, connected urban core.” Sure, he could just start businesses of his own, but of the $350 million allocated, $50 million is being used to invest in small businesses that he knows are the very things that keep a community alive. Ironically, it’s not the internet, and community is not clickable. As a matter of fact, if we’re not all careful, the internet is going to be the very thing that takes it all away.
Sadly, there will be a generation who won’t experience having their feet measured before buying new shoes, or the smell of fresh bread baking at the bakery, or the controlled chaos of the butcher shop with people standing in line clutching their numbers and waiting their turn in line. It’s these experiences that help people learn and grown and evolve, because you have to actually put forth effort, not just click a button, to get the things you desire. When you go online for everything you begin to lose your senses – you can’t see or touch or feel anymore. I’m fearful that the current and younger generations will never experience – they will only know how to consume.
But I found faith again last week while sitting among these like-minded people who were also thirsting to spend a day celebrating the principles that have laid the foundation of what we all do as individuals. We came to one place to celebrate our collective purpose so we can continue to contribute to the evolution of humanity.
Do me a favor – don’t consume something if you don’t appreciate it. Take the time to look at how things have evolved, and are evolving, and appreciate them.
It’s not the history or heritage of Louis that makes us who we are today, it’s our continuing evolution. If we don’t move forward, we’ll lose it. And losing it is not an option.