I had just finished presenting my one hour keynote presentation “SMASH THE BOX” where I was talking to the event planner when a gentleman from the corner of my eye caught my attention. The gentleman was about six tables away and slowly approaching the two of us talking. He was a man with a big presence in that he was two to three inches taller than I (I am 6’2”) and quite a bit heavier as well. He ended up being a couple of feet from the two of us and I could tell he didn’t want to intrude so I took it upon myself to introduce myself when there was a break in the conversation.
As I shook his limp hand this man of great stature spoke in a very soft voice and said: “You know being positive (thinking outside the box) isn’t always a good thing… Look at Steve Jobs (he refused the standard care of treatment for pancreatic cancer) and this ended up costing him his life”. He then raised his finger and pointed at me saying: “Think about it”. As I soaked in his comment I began to talk but the gentleman walked away and left me speechless.
As he was walking away the event planner happened to be his manager and she said to me that was the most words she has heard him say in the 5 years she has been supervising him.
During my presentation I reference many innovative thinkers that include Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Melissa Mayer, Meg Whitman and Eric Schmidt. This gentleman singled out Steve Jobs which is interesting in and of itself. As I reflect back on our conversation a couple of aspects stand out to me:
First, he was right Steve Jobs choosing alternative care of treatment rather than “traditional” treatment for his pancreatic cancer most likely shortened his life. Steve Jobs did admit later in his life that if he had it over he would have chosen the standard care of treatment. So Steve Jobs thinking “outside the box” did not work on his cancer.
Second, I felt a sadness for this man and let me explain where this feeling comes from. As a speaker my goal is to share the message of SMASH THE BOX which inspires audiences to experiment and explore. I feel (just a hunch) this gentleman has lived and is a living a life that is void of these two ingredients. That is where the sadness comes from thinking this man has most likely missed out on a lot of creative moments in his life which includes work, professional and personal. Know by no means do I know whether or not he has lived a creative life and he very well may… but where I am going with this is to fear experimentation and exploration saddens me greatly due to the affect it has on one’s quality of life.
Third, as my presentation of “SMASH THE BOX” evolves I find more and more audiences are craving creative thinking. The idea they can embrace mistakes, think bold ideas and operate in an environment free of judgment is inspiring to them.
In Closing, this gentleman made an impression on me and I truly am grateful he mustered up the courage to talk to me after the presentation. What I would have liked to have said to him in regards to Steve Jobs is this: Steve Jobs “SMASHING THE BOX” did shorten his life, but the affect he has had on the world and continues to have is extraordinary.