The Properties of Imagination
Imagination by Mehdinom (Own work) or CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
A few years ago, I read J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech about the power of imagination. It stuck with me to this day.
If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, I highly recommend it, even if you’re not a fan of J.K. Rowling or her novels (ie. Harry Potter, The Cuckoo’s Calling, etc.). In her speech, she talks about the role imagination played in shaping her life and in forming complex emotions like empathy.
When I think about it, imagination plays a huge role in the day-to-day operation of Fire and Steel as well.
On the surface, it’s pretty obvious: imagination is the backbone of creativity. It helps in decision-making when it comes to design, development, and stocking new products. However, I thought about it more lately and I realized it has a much more profound impact on this business than just that.
Like J.K. Rowling mentioned, imagination has a role in forming who we are.
My love of swords began with imagining I was a ninja. Mind you, I wanted to be many things growing up, but I think seeing kick-ass heroines in cartoons made me want to be a sword-wielding superhero too for a very short time.
When I was younger and thought no one was looking, I would roll around, punching and kicking the air on my parents’ front lawn. It was pretty embarrassing finding out my oldest sister was watching and laughing at me all along.
Upon starting this business, I thought I’d be interacting with more weirdos like me – and I say that with affection. In truth, I was surprised to meet a lot more people from completely different walks of life. I had to learn very quickly how to interact with people completely different from me.
When people come to buy something from me, they don’t just come to buy a sword. I often have the privilege of having a conversation with them too, which I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. Sometimes people open up to me about their lives: How they’re having a rough day, what they do for work, how they just became an uncle or an aunt, or wackier stories. I live those moments with them when I imagine myself in their shoes. I ask a lot of questions. I daydream a lot. Sometimes I feel like I’m floating above myself and see myself living other lives.
Though I don’t have data to prove it helps in sales, I genuinely believe that if you try your hardest to understand someone, to empathize and imagine how they’re feeling, they will reciprocate. When you make the effort to care about someone – even a complete stranger -- they make the effort to care about you in return. I feel like the best sales people aren’t the ones who offer the best products and prices necessarily (though of course, this certainly must help), they’re the ones who understand how to make real human connections.
I basically spent the past week brainstorming ways to improve sales and have come up with many solutions. But at the core, if there’s no understanding of people and no understanding of the way empathy works, everything else just falls apart.
I realized the key is imagination and the property of how it’s reciprocated. Everything else is built upon this foundation: When imagination is shared, it’s also returned.
I also thought about its role in my worst moments.
Over the years, I’ve had times when I’ve wanted to give up. There are a number of reasons for this: Things weren’t panning out in a way I predicted, results of my efforts were too slow, my first convention was a flop (you can read about it here), something wasn’t designed properly which would make me have to return it, people weren’t taking me seriously, the reasons were numerous and this probably deserves an article itself.
It would’ve been easier to say, “Screw it!” and then just go back to the wonderful world of working in a lab somewhere.
During these moments, I would imagine what my perfect day would look like for me personally and for Fire and Steel. My perfect day for this business is pretty simple: All I’d want is one conversation that makes someone smile or think and one item sold that makes someone happy. I’m happy to say I’ve had many days like this.
When I’m on the brink of giving up, I draw on these simple moments, imagining them as my tomorrows instead of my yesterdays. And I hold these images close to me.
It’s enough to push me to keep trying.
Imagination is the foundation of hope. It floats. As long as I have the mind to dream of a better day, no one can take it away from me.
Imagination helps me expect more from myself and dream bigger. It helps me plan for the future. My business began with a desire to deliver new products to people in North America. I could keep selling things online and doing conventions and festivals, but I imagine a life where I’m doing more than this. I want to expand and share my love of this with others through other avenues.
Imagination is eternal and is one of the building blocks to doing better and striving for more. Dreams don’t die. Imagination doesn’t either.
When J.K. Rowling talked about the power of the imagination, I didn’t realize how pervasive it was. I thought a lot about its properties and have realized, it’s at the core of every business: every decision, every sale, every bad day, every big dream. It’s easily reciprocated. It floats and is eternal, ubiquitous and free.
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