Wait! What? It Has a Toothpick?!


Can one covet what one already has?

My Swiss Army Knife. I was in Boy Scouts; hiking and camping in the mountains of Oregon when I was given mine. For boys of a certain era, I believe, the possession of such a wonder was almost a rite of passage, a coming of age, the precursor to Mountain Manhood. Owning one made one Cool…and able to accomplish anything.

I could whittle with the best, open things, pry things, cut kindling or meat or rope. I could do it all, and was sure to carry this instrument with me at all times; Be Prepared.

One evening, over an actual campfire with a group of guys, as we cooked and ate our burgers, all with our Swiss Army Knives attached to our belts; one of the guys got some gristle stuck between his teeth.

“Anyone got a toothpick…” he asked. Two of us looked uselessly at each other, thinking “Who packs toothpicks for a camping trip?”

The fourth guy reached for his SAK, pulled out the toothpick and silently, smugly, handed it to him.

“Wait! WHAT? Yours has a toothpick!!?”

“YOURS have toothpicks…” he quietly said.


Who knew?!

Life Lesson: One ought never to assume one knows everything about anything; no matter how familiar one is with that thing…or how familiar one believes one is with said Thing.

Working with people – be this on a creative or production team or in virtually any context – one can easily come to assume (See Exploration of Assumption) one knows everything relevant about one’s teammates or those whom s/he is directing. This is never so. People can almost always surprise us with another layer of creativity, another applicable experience from the past to apply to today’s problem, a deeper understanding of some thing or other which can miraculously expand horizons or enrich an experience.

Keep asking questions, keep minds open; as a project unfolds through its process, see to it that the atmosphere is open for contribution, innovation, exploration of possibility outside one’s own experience, vast or otherwise.

Likewise, being familiar with or “knowing” another’s Body of Work can make one an expert in what that person has done; but not an expert on that person or what that person can do.

Be open, expect surprises, seek them out. I speak from show and experience production: I’ll wager, though, that this dynamic applies in almost any business or academic context.

You’ve worked with scores of designers, legions of creatives, producers, technicians. They’re all different…and can each and all surprise you.

I’m just saying that simply because someone has “Art Director” on the business card, s/he may or may not work as other Art Directors work…not all Creative Directors live in a cloud of their own reality (though, some…) and not all Producers are…well, you know.

It’s a good rule of thumb to approach afresh each person on one’s teams…each time…to see what’s new, what characteristics may have evolved since last contact and what amazing and valuable properties may have been there all along without your awareness.

Keep exploring, remain ready to learn at all times and keep people around you who can surprise you with what they can do and how they can inspire you. I have been newly inspired in the past few weeks, by people I had inadvertently mis-evaluated based on my experience of them.

I offer, too, we should guard against forgetting that people evolve just as we, too, explore, discover, learn and grow ourselves.

Don’t be the last one to know about the toothpick. Explore.

(Though, people who cannot tell a joke will probably never be able to tell one. Physics.)


Interested in a refresher on The Original Five Tenets? Good tools to keep one fresh, inspired, inspiring…

“IMHO: Creating Compelling Experience” is a free downloadable eBook on the tenets and methodologies we use to…create compelling experience. Find it in the iBooks app on any Apple device or in iTunes at this link.

5 thoughts on “Wait! What? It Has a Toothpick?!

  1. “…can make one an expert in what that person has done; but not an expert on that person or what that person can do”
    That’s a keeper. The scary part is allowing people room to succeed or fail. I was terrible at that as an art director. Give them room, though, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

    • …and thank you again, Ben, for keeping it real. I’m glad you read these and grateful for your participation in and adding to discussion. Of one thing I think we are lucky; that being realizing what asses we may have been when younger, accepting that with humility and stepping up to share and teach as we continue to learn… Thank you.

  2. Eyerything you write about has such inspiration and is so meaningful.. You bring so much passion and knowledge to all of us who are fortunate to be” your friends” as well as others whose lives you touch. With much love and Many Blessings, Rose

    • Thank you, Rose; the inspiration is in the people around me, you who from so far away who keep me close in their thoughts and whose warmth and caring nurture from afar.

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