We are tacitly taught that we exist and just are. We have been taught that all people are true to their own genes, environment and nature. We are conditioned to be objects. We are taught to be “Me,” instead of “I.” When you think of yourself as “Me,” you are limited. The “Me” is always limited. When you believe how others (parents, teachers, peers, colleagues, and others) describe you, you become that. You might want to be an artist, but others might tell you that you have no talent, training, or temperament to be an artist. The “Me” will say, “Who do you think you are?” “You are just an ordinary person. There is nothing special about you.”
There is a Japanese masterpiece film IKIRU about the life on an old man that captures the essence of what it means to be a “Me.” Ikiru is a civil servant who has labored in the bureaucracy for thirty years. He determines his self worth by how others see him. He thinks of himself as an object and spends his life preventing things from happening. He is a widower who never remarried, as his relatives told him he was too old and unattractive to remarry. He is the father of an ungrateful son who despises him because he is not rich. He does not strive to better his career as he has been told by his supervisor that he lacks the education and intelligence to be anything more than a clerk. In his mind, he pictures himself as a worthless failure. He walks bent over with a shuffling walk with defeated eyes.
When he is told that he has terminable cancer, he looks back over the wasteland of his life, and decides to do something of note. For the first time in his life he became the “I,” the subject of his life. Against all obstacles, he decided to build a park for poor children in a dirty slum of Tokyo. He had no fear and felt no self-defeating limitations, he ignored his son when his son said he was the laughing stock of the neighborhood, he ignored his neighbors who pitied him and begged him to stop. His supervisor was embarrassed and pretended not to know him. Because he knew he was going to die, he no longer cared what other people thought. For the first time in his life he became free and alive. He worked and worked, seemingly without stopping. He was no longer afraid of anyone, or anything. He no longer had anything to lose, and so in this short time gained everything. Finally, he died, in the snow, swinging on a child’s swing in the park, which he made, singing.
Ikiru became the subject of his life. He became joyous instead of miserable; he inspired instead of being indifferent, and he laughed at himself and the world instead of feeling humiliated and defeated. Ikiru “seized the day.”
Michael Michalko is one of the most highly-acclaimed creativity experts in the world and author of the best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), and Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Genius).
Michael has provided speeches, workshops, and seminars on fostering creative thinking for clients who range from Fortune 500 corporations, such as DuPont, Kellogg’s, General Electric, Kodak, Microsoft, Exxon, General Motors, Ford, USA, AT&T, Wal-Mart, Gillette, and Hallmark to associations and governmental agencies. In addition to his work in the U.S., Michael speaks and provides workshops in countries around the world.
As an officer in the U.S. Army, he organized a team of NATO intelligence specialists and international academics in Frankfurt, Germany to research, collect, and categorize all known inventive-thinking methods. His team applied these methods to various NATO military, political, and economic problems and produced a variety of breakthrough ideas and creative solutions to new and old problems. After leaving government service, he was contracted by the CIA to facilitate think tanks and using his creative-thinking techniques.
Some of Michael’s creative-thinking techniques that were refined by his government and corporate practice were published in his best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), which the Wall Street Journal reported “will change the way you think.” Women In Business lauded it as “one of the most important business titles of the decade,” Success magazine described it as a “fun-to-read book which helps you to create and act on ideas,” USA said “believe it or not, this wonderful book will have you challenging the seemingly impossible every day,” Executive Book Summaries praised it by saying, “What we need is a compendium of ways to solve problems. And that’s exactly what you get in Thinkertoys,”and Entrepreneur acclaimed it as “required reading for anyone in business.” The American Management Association called it “the most significant book on creativity published in the last twenty years,”
He is also the author of Thinkpak (A Brainstorming Card Set), which is a novel creative-thinking tool that is designed to facilitate brainstorming sessions. Michael’s latest book Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Geniuses) describes the common thinking strategies creative geniuses have used in the sciences, art, and industry throughout history and shows how we can apply them to become more creative in our business and personal lives.
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Thank you for being with us today, Michael.
Elizabeth Melton Parsons