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Use Symbols to Inspire Breakthrough Progress

Jun 11, 2008
After starting the 400 year project (how to help the world make improvements at 20 times the normal rate from 2015 to 2035), I looked for ways to help inspire people to work on the project. Let me share with you my experiences so you can know what to do when leading your breakthrough project.

Art is one of my passions. I began collecting original art while still in college and have been fortunate enough to occasionally indulge my tastes for abstract lithographs, aquatints, paintings, and sculptures since then.

Naturally, then, I liked the idea of creating visuals to help communicate the project. My good friend, the artist Tobi Kahn, kindly agreed to produce two commissions that would serve as important visual expressions of making 400 years of progress in only 20 years.

The first commission is informally called The Seven Days of Creation and expresses God's work as described in the opening passages of Genesis. The work comprises seven individual acrylic paintings on small boxes.

The images sweep from the front onto the four wide sides of the boxes to increase your sense of seeing painted sculptures. In addition, Tobi has an amazing ability to take a painting and make it seem three dimensional by raising the depth of the paint on some sections by nearly a quarter inch.

Even if the work hadn't commemorated the start of the project, Tobi's great art would have been inspiring in and of itself.

With Tobi's help, we also used a photograph of the seven images to create a note card that we shared with everyone involved in the project. In the spirit of encouraging creativity, we also developed a tradition that these works are hung at different heights to add to viewer interest and inspire creativity. Intrigued by that concept, Tobi later did a major show where he hung dozens of paintings in similarly random-appearing fashion. It was stunning.

Later, I began to think about what purposes the project should advance. Clearly, making 400 years of progress in improving personal appearance shouldn't have the same emphasis as eliminating painful, lethal diseases. I wanted to create a focus for our thinking about improvements so that our modest activities would not become too diffuse to be effective.

Those initial purposes were defined as health, happiness, peace, and prosperity. My thinking was that without health there is no sound foundation for a constructive life. Once health is in place, it's much easier to grasp for happiness. Enjoy enough happiness and there would be the possibility of feeling peaceful and acting peacefully towards others. With that peace in place, one could expect that cooperation and prosperity could be effectively pursued.

Unfortunately, many people start with pursuing prosperity as their focus and never get around to health, happiness, and peace. So the order of focus is important.

Working with Tobi to select among images that he designed by the dozens, the second commission resulted in four medium-size paintings on wooden boxes, one for each of the four purposes. As before, we created greeting cards based on these four images and shared those cards with the steering committee and our clients. Unveiling the second commission was also the centerpiece of one of our semiannual project review meetings.

These works continue to adorn our project Web site and remind people of our purpose and activities.

Be sure that you take the time to create and make important symbols available of your breakthrough projects. You'll be glad when you do!
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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