The Idea Man


I realize, and reluctantly admit, I can't do a lot things I used to do. Age has a way of sneaking in and stealing our capabilities. But here's something cool--age also brings us new stuff and opportunities, like: the benefits of experience, richer insights, depth of relationships, a pace that allows us to be more observant, to drink a little deeper from the cup of life.

I wanted to find something credible to back me up on this idea of us "mature" dudes having an essence that makes us vital in a very significant way. So I searched the ancient scriptures and found Joel 2:28, which basically says that while the young girls and guys get to prophesy and have visions, us old guys get to dream the dreams. What would the world be without the dreamers?"

You know that color that has always been known as "baby blue"? The color for little boys? Well, I am hereby announcing the official color for us Men Of A Certain Age (drum roll; trumpet herald): COBALT BLUE! Be careful about making assumptions about cobalt blue when you see a just printed sample of it. You really have to see it in glass, porcelain, watercolor, etc. to get a real sense of the depth and mystery of this color. Same for us older guys. Over time, that baby blue has become much deeper with a certain mystique about it.

So what brought on this defense of aging, or as I like to call it: living the Second-Coming-Of-Age?

Kathleen The Muse

Kathleen The Muse

If you've followed this blog for awhile, you've heard me mention my muse, Kathleen. Kathleen and her sister are owners of an amazing business called Braid Creative. As a service of their company they broadcast an e-letter with helpful tips and inspiration for young, creative entrepreneurs. I will readily admit that I am neither young nor entrepreneurial, but occasionally I feel creative, but can I call myself creative?

As I've said before, Kathleen as a muse can be very challenging--in a good way. With her, you don't get by with anything. You can only do so much talking before she begins to expect results. This blog, About Pops, for what it's worth, wouldn't exist if it weren't for her challenge to me.

Anyway, a few days ago, she sent this e-letter (I've edited it some): 

HAVING A GOOD IDEA IS NOT ENOUGH | from Kathleen Shannon

You all know that Tara and I are sisters, right? Well, our dad often tries to make a bid for a position in our family business as our “idea man”. He outlines his job description as having a space in the corner of our office with a single bare light bulb and chain hanging above his elementary school-style desk. He might have a pen and yellow legal pad for notes and sketches. Any time he has an idea he pulls the chain, turns on the light bulb, and declares his idea – it might be an idea for our own business or an idea for our branding clients. Then it’s our responsibility to capture his ideas and do what we will with them. 

As ridiculous as this may sound a lot of aspiring creatives and young freelancers have the same dream job as our dad. They’re so great at coming up with good ideas they basically want their job title to be “idea guy”. But having a good idea is not enough, because guess what? Most people have good ideas – what makes a creative stand out from most people is their ability to make it real. Sitting in the corner of a room with a light bulb hanging above your head does not make you creative. Being able to bring the idea into the world as an actual service, offering, or product is what makes you creative. (Sorry, dad!) 

See what I mean? When it comes to muse-like encouragement and inspiration, she cuts even her dad no slack. But a few days later, overcome with pity, remorse, or something, she sent this (somewhat edited):

I’M NOT A CREATIVE… | from Kathleen Shannon

A couple weeks ago I sent out an email saying that just because you have ideas does not make you a creative. That being creative means you’re able to take action on your ideas to make them real. I used my dad’s dream job as our “idea man” as an example and you guys… I really hurt his feelings.

So it was a Friday afternoon, just after I had sent out that letter proclaiming that having a good idea is not enough, and I was hanging out with my sister after work. My parents stopped to pick up my sister’s kids for the night and my dad comes in the house with a big frown and sideways glare in my direction. He also had a bloodshot eye which made the whole thing that much more intimidating. He gruffed at me, “I never said I was ‘A Creative.’ I never said that.” 

And then I felt like a terrible person. While I was kind of just poking fun at his expense and obviously didn’t mean harm, I realized I had made a big mistake. 

Because the truth is… Everyone is creative. It’s just another label that either you identify with or you don’t. My dad is truly brilliant. He’s kind of a big deal at his government job in air quality and has his masters degree from the University of Hawaii in earth science. But beyond that he tells really funny stories and writes limericks for his retiring buddies. He makes a mean deviled ham and eggs on toast. He is a state champion at catching bass and can remember where the fish are biting at lakes he hasn’t been to for years. If that’s not creative, I don’t know what is.

Yes Kathleen, sometimes you have to look deeper and longer at us cobalt blue guys, but it's worth it.

So maybe on the surface we look like whimsical old relics, living off the stories of our virile youth years. But as I said, the scriptures promise us the dreamer role--the Idea Men; "So we've got that going for us, which is nice."

Recognize that line? It's a classic from one of our Second-Coming-Of-Age brothers: Carl Spackler (played by Bill Murray in the film treasure, Caddyshack).

Here's the text and the clip from the film. 

Carl Spackler: So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas.
Angie D'Annunzio: A looper?
Carl Spackler: A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28.