“Discovering My Red Rubber Ball” is a blog series based on my reflections on the brilliant Kevin Carroll‘s book, “The Red Rubber Ball at Work.” In this installment, I reflect on the first theme, “Innovation,” and how my childhood play impacted how I practice innovation in my work today.
Make sure to check Kevin and his books, “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work” and the aforementioned “The Red Rubber Ball at Work: Elevate Your Game Through the Hidden Power of Play.” Both works are short, impactful, and fantastic.
Play is… storytelling.
The girl, short in stature but large in imagination, runs around with her short, uncombed hair.
She rummages through her mother’s closet to find a long shawl to wrap over her hair. Every teacher has long hair, the girl tells herself. She then slips into her mother’s ill-fitted high heels and clucks into the next room.
She stands on the treadmill and looks at her class. The bear, the dog, and the dozen Barbies patiently wait for her instruction. “Turn to page 63,” the girl instructs. She pays attention to her students’ uniform. Green plaid pinafores and crisp white blouses, just as it was recorded in the Enid Blyton novel about the all-girls boarding school she had just read.
She recites the lesson with a loud and demanding voice, “Multiplication tables for 11 is easy! Just double the numbers!”
One page of mathematics at a time, the girl recreates the magical world she once read about.
Work is… storytelling.
The girl… she’s a little older. A little wiser. A little sillier.
But she still remembers that jolt of inspiration literature gave her. She still holds onto that feeling as if it were a sacred text. This memory and feeling saw her through her always-awkward-rarely-graceful teenage years, in and out of college, and now, it is what she clings onto tightly as she enters the post-graduate life.
Now, instead of reenacting scenes from stories that inspire her, she crafts her own.
She records the good days and the bad.
She creates complex characters and abstract scenes.
Sometimes she is poetic, sometimes she’s straightforward.
Sometimes she is powerful, sometimes she is funny.
But every time, she is genuine. Every time, she creates with love.
She doesn’t seek to inspire and change the world. No, she knows she is too small to do so (at least for now).
Instead, she chooses to be honest to herself, speak the truest words she knows, and allow the magic of story guide her pen.
And that… that has made all the difference. That has changed her world.