I spoke at a national conference in Milwaukee the other day. After the gig, Kim and I took a nice walk along Lake Michigan. Perched on the shore, like a regal, otherworldly vessel prepared to set sail on a grand adventure, is the Milwaukee Art Museum. I have always been awed by the grand majesty of this architectural gem.
It’s breathtaking. Remarkable. Inspiring.
I couldn’t help but think: if something like this is possible, why do boring, bland buildings even exist? And of course they don’t just merely exist — they are the norm. Obviously, this is an extreme example of pretty remarkable architecture. Buildings like this are rare. But that’s exactly my point. Why settle with something so average, boring, and unremarkable?
While in Walla Walla with my dad for another speaking gig, we had a chance to stroll Main Street. It was a refreshing blend of charm and character, mixed with cute restaurants and one-of-a-kind boutique stores. It had energy, historical significance, and it was clean. Even the places that housed your standard real estate and insurance businesses had a more distinct and charming look than those in most other towns. San Antonio has the famous River Walk, and other large metropolitan areas have similar features, but Walla Walla only has a population of about 30,000. If this city can create a vibrant, distinct downtown with culture and vitality, why don’t they all?
If you’re going to go through the trouble of creating something, be it a building or a business district, that is going to be around for fifty or a hundred or more years, isn’t it worth the effort to make it truly awe-inspiring?
Now, straying from buildings and business districts for a bit, let’s look at people and the lives they lead…
I know people who are living inspired, original, extraordinary lives, and I bet you probably do, too. I’m not just talking about the rich and famous, I’m talking about everyday people who, like the Milwaukee Art Museum, stand out in a sea of average. They are happy and optimistic. They ignore the rules that don’t exist. They don’t fit in anybody’s box. To them, life is a grand adventure, not something to be muddled through in a constant state of live-for-the-weekend survival mode. In a word, they are remarkable.
The question is the same: If lives like this are possible, why would anyone settle for anything less?
And yet, from cubicle workers to corporate drones to desperate housewives, millions settle for boring, average, and unremarkable.
Being average is easy (everybody is doing it!). But you deserve better. I can assure you, lives that resemble the Milwaukee Art Museum are not reserved for a lucky, privileged few. It’s a lie that you’ve probably been told so many times (by parents, teacher, friends, and the media), that you might believe it. But it just ain’t true. God created you for greatness. But the choice, as always, is up to you.
Chances are good that you’ll be around for anywhere from fifty to a hundred years. You only get one shot. Isn’t it worth the effort to make your life truly awe-inspiring?
Don’t settle for a boring, cookie cutter life. Build for yourself a soaring, inspiring, remarkable work of art.
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Great post to remind us attitude is everything, Jason. You’re an amazing artist (which I already knew)! At first I thought you’d taken a photo of the museum and written over it. I’m glad you had a day worthy of a lakefront stroll. I enjoyed the Walla Walla link as well. Check out the “about us” page on our website. When we re-did the front of our store, we used a photo from 1915 as our guide.
Thanks, Marilyn! I love the way the front of your store looks — that’s the feel many of the Walla Walla businesses had. It’s much more approachable, interesting, and unique…I like the throwback feel to a time before everything was homogenized and “big boxed.”
Hi Jason: Great thoughts in this post that pose some great, logical questions. I think part of it has to do with expectations. I’ve seen a lot of stories lately about inner city schools that happen to be home to some very amazing and gifted students. It might cause one to think: How does this school have so many gifted, brilliant students when 95 percent of the students in the neighborhood can barely pass a class? It seems to me that certain schools expect greatness from their students…they will not tolerate anything less. I think that is probably how more families should raise their kids. Perhaps we need to expect more from our youth…I don’t know, its just a thought.
In any case, I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum, when they opened the new addition a few years ago…absolutely amazing! If you liked that, you should check out the Modern Wing addition to the Art Institute of Chicago. Thanks for this post that inspires me not to settle for average.
I’ll have to check out the Art Institute soon — it’s been way too long!
And yeah, a big key is expectations. The big tragedy of our school system (and even many families) is that we’ve set the bar way too low.
Great post! I just returned to work after having surgery about a month ago. I was thinking that just making it through the work day was enough. Now I see that my thinking was bland and boring! After reading your post, I feel inspired to do something out-of-the ordinary to make today special and beautiful. The sky is the limit! Thanks.
Good for you, Belinda! The sky IS the limit!
Kristie Ryan says
I really like this metaphor from buildings to life. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day boring routines and not take steps to realize your dreams. It’s not easy, but you definitely have to live life on your terms and not on anyone else’s. I feel like there are so many “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” in this society, it gets overwhelming. I always have to make sure I am evaluating what I’m doing and break free if need be.
You and Kim rock for creating the lives that you want to live!
Oh and I am totally going to Walla Wall someday. That place looks full of character!
Hi Kristie! Walla Walla is definitely full of character — and the scenery in the surrounding area is top notch! Great point about the shoulds and shouldn’ts. I find it useful to every once in a while make a list of all the things in my head that is telling me I should or shouldn’t do. Dragging them into the light of day makes a big difference. Then I try and figure out which of them I can blow up. It’s a very freeing experience :)
The bit about Walla Walla reminds me of a couple things…first of all, try saying “Walla Walla, Washington” ten times fast! Challenging yet fun! Secondly, in the Seattle area at least, Walla Walla is known for its onions and its penitentiary. My first college roommate had come from Walla Walla College to study for a year at Seattle Pacific University. After a year at SPU, he went back to WWC. He is one of the most amazing people I know. At one point in my senior year (I transferred to SPU for my junior year), someone asked me what had happened to my former roommate. I told him he was in Walla Walla…and he didn’t believe me. I later realized the guy probably thought I meant the penitentiary. Oops!
Also, the Sydney Opera House has always fascinated me. That’s on my “must visit” list.