Tag Archives: Bill Strickland

Dreaming Too Small?

            I started reading my third copy of Bill Strickland’s book today.

            It’s my third copy because I’ve given away my first two copies to people I thought would benefit from them.  This is my fourth or fifth reading of the book.  I don’t come back to it repeatedly because it’s extremely well written—in fact it’s ghosted (and as I’ve personally discovered, if as a ghost writer you write a book up to your own standards, it becomes much more your work than the work of the person to who it’s attributed . . . if you know what I mean).  I keep coming back to Bill Strickland’s book because it reminds me to believe in myself.

            The book I’m talking about is Make the Impossible Possible (published by Doubleday).  It’s the autobiographical account of Bill Strickland’s incredible life from sullen Pittsburgh teenager, to ceramic instructor, to CEO of Manchester-Bidwell (a prep school and training facility for disadvantaged people), to winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant, to internationally known entrepreneur.  Along the way he became an award winning artist, a trusted community leader, a commercial airline pilot, an expert orchid gardener, a producer of Grammy winning jazz music and founder of multiple training institutes.  It makes me tired just thinking he did all those things.

            Still, even as a fellow who has three professions at the moment, I value his book not because it justifies my overfunctioning.  His book is important to me because of one of the great principles he espouses: if you are not achieving your dreams, perhaps it’s because you’re dreaming too small.  How many times have people told you that you bit off more than you could chew or that you were neglecting other people and responsibilities?  And how often was it the very people who wanted more of your time, attention and talent who told you that?  Our selfishness is seldom blessed by the people who have personal expectations of us, is it?  Yet it is precisely our willingness to be selfish—to go off alone with our notebooks or word processors and let our imaginations take wing as we dream and write—that makes us each uniquely who we are.

            Another of Strickland’s marvelous principles has to do with “flow.”  Flow is a concept from jazz music, where one musician takes a beat and begins to play it.  The other musicians follow in, not really knowing where the music will take them, but when they get it right, they know it.  This is a different way of describing what the divine Julia Cameron calls “synchronicity” and some spiritual people call “serendipity.”  What do you think about the idea that there is a river of creativity out there waiting for you and when you find your way into that river and get carried away by the flow, you become your truest self?

            I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Strickland’s book, one I have taped to the computer carrel where I do a lot of my creative writing:

            The sand in the hourglass flows only one way.  Don’t waste precious time chasing someone else’s definition of success.  Live your life with purpose now.  Look for the things that inspire you, trouble you, make you feel most alive, and trust in those things to shape your future.  They will give you all your heart could ever wish for.  [from Make the Impossible Possible, p. 127, Bill Strickland]  —Mike Simpson, publisher,  Second Wind Publishing, LLC

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Synchronicity

            Are you familiar with the term “synchronicity?”  Sometimes it is called “flow” or “swing” or even “being in the zone.”  In times past I’ve referred to it as “the cascade effect.”

            Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve probably experienced it.  It’s the experience of things suddenly falling into place; of a series of coincidental happenings that seemed to propel you on your way to achieving something important of which you had been dreaming; of “being in the right place at the right time.”  And did you ever notice how this synchronicity somehow happens in those areas where you are most passionate and creative?

            Recently I’ve read two books that each deal with the notion of flow or synchronicity.  The first-which I blogged about recently-was Julia Cameron’s famous The Artist’s Way.  I was so enthralled with her book that, when a friend suggested to me I should read the second book, I thought, “Gee, I feel sorry for any author whom I’m going to compare to Cameron.”  That was before I read Bill Strickland’s autobiographical volume Making the Impossible Possible.

            Strickland, a 1996 winner of the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” in a serendipitous way through his writing built upon the new insights and awakenings spawned by my reading of Cameron’s book.  The two books “held hands” for me in a miraculous fashion.  When you are as old as I am, you have long since stopped believing that any new idea or new book is going to come along and fundamentally change anything about your way of looking at life.  In the last month I’ve been wrong about this twice!

            Why is this important?  Well, honestly it’s mostly important only to me . . .  unless you also want to enter into some entirely new venture that is actually a passion you’ve suppressed for decades.  When I started Second Wind Publishing, I felt almost as if I were skulking along, sneaking about and doing things that were probably totally irrational and doomed to failure.  It never dawned on me, honestly, that starting a new publishing house might actually be a fulfillment of “my destiny” or of what some divine force in the universe intended me to do.  Both Strickland and Cameron would say that the synchronicity I have experienced over the last year is direct evidence I’m moving in a direction the universe intends-growing, learning and creating as I go along (oh, and by the way, always with the help and guidance of wise co-workers and colleagues).  The great irony of this for me is that I’m a dinosaur: creaky old, irrelevant and obsolete.  Of course, being that I am all those things, I suppose, means I shouldn’t delay any longer to live out the passion I’ve felt for writing from my earliest childhood.

            I’d like to close with a quote from Strickland’s book, a quote that encourages all those of us not to wait, but to get started fulfilling our dreams:

            “The sand in the hourglass flows only one way.  Don’t waste precious time chasing someone else’s definition of success.  Live your life with purpose now.  Look for the things that inspire you, trouble you, make you feel most alive, and trust in those things to shape your future.  They will give you all your heart could ever wish for.”

-Bill Strickland, Make the Impossible Possible

 Mike Simpson, Second Wind Publishing

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