I can’t think about career day without remembering that scene in “City Slickers” when Billy Crystal’s character (a radio ad executive) is asked by his son to speak to his class at Career Day…if you remember how that scene plays out, Billy is in a dark period of his life which is manifested by his lackluster presentation on the benefits of his profession. He describes “selling air” which his son and fellow first-graders find extremely boring compared to the heavy equipment operator that preceded him. Career Day, in my opinion, is professional validation in its purest form. If you don’t wear a uniform, carry a gun or fight fires, your career choice may not be viewed as exciting or interesting as the other adults in the room. That type of honest feedback from an eight-year-old can be debilitating. Having felt the shame of this type of professional categorizing in the past, I was determined this time to make my career of choice appear as magnificent as humanly possible. I envisioned being the king of the hallway discussion as classmates compared their future employment options.
As I considered my strategies, my diabolical mind prioritized my options of enticement. The idea of a superhero outfit, preferably spandex, emblazoned with a large CNP (Captain Nonprofit) crossed my mind. I considered a modified tool belt cluttered with sports paraphernalia, orange cones, stop watches and a clip board….my thoughts moved on. I found myself mired in the throes of professional jealousy as I plotted and schemed the many ways I could win the hearts of my young audience…and then it hit me….the key to cornering the market on Career Day success is imagination. It was as obvious as the look of intrigue on the faces of the young people as they imagined themselves in their future careers. Imagination drives everything….but it’s more than that. Imagination is also a skill, and as such, represents a trait that can be valued by a future employer. Imagination cannot be taught at an institute of higher learning. It was my quest to root out the imaginative powers of these teenagers and present them with the professional opportunities that this hidden skill possesses. Imagination, in my opinion, is an innate characteristic. Imagination develops at a young age when it is nurtured by friends and loved ones that appreciate and promote creative thinking.
The imaginative person is not without his or her critics though. There is no certification process necessary for the simple-minded scoffer who sits on the sideline and discounts any idea that breaches the bounds of normalcy. When a young person realizes they possess a vivid imagination, they can become labeled by others as either a “scatterbrain” or a “big thinker”. The young “scatterbrain” looks at opportunities and voices his or her thoughts in the form of creative options meant to improve on the mundane or typical approach. When these creative options are explained, they typically make even close relatives shake their heads and wonder what side of the family tree this person fell out of. In contrast, the young “big thinker” presents imaginative options in such a way that the audience naturally responds in a manner that suggests, “why didn’t we think of that…and aren’t we lucky to have that kid in our family?”…therein lies the difference.
Let’s take a look at a quick case study. Following the traditional Sunday services, two young families decide to try out the new smorgasbord that just opened on the south side of town. The crowd is large and the mixed smells of 212 different items (all for $7.99 per plate) cause the young imaginative kids to come up with creative ways to thwart the excruciating line and minimize the time until they get their hands on the individual molded plastic serving trays.
The “scatterbrained” one describes a strategy that involves scaling the Plexiglas sneeze guard, body blocking a trio of seniors and trapezing the warming lights in an attempt to capitalize on the lime jello cups. This strategy results in a reprimand from his parents followed by an apologetic look at the eavesdropping couple in front of them. The “big thinker” strategy, meanwhile, includes informing the manager about the significance of an ancient family holiday that strangely falls on this day. Undoubtedly, due to its obvious importance, this day warrants safe and efficient passage to the front of the line.
As a young person, I can remember my own mother saying to the next door neighbor that, “imagination has a strange way of growing over time…and if you’re not careful it can get away from you.” I remember the peculiar look on my mother’s face as she looked at me and rolled her eyes…it was the same look she had some years later, when I showed her what was growing in my college dorm refrigerator…a mix of disbelief blended with an underlying glint of disturbance.
As a nonprofit professional, I have found imagination to be a critical part of my approach to ensuring a certain level of success. Imagination promotes interest, promises intrigue and stimulates participation…all of which are necessary when trying to entice the health-seeker to engage in a fitness regimen and dismiss a sedentary lifestyle. I have learned that imagination has no age restrictions or statute of limitations. Just because you’re an adult does not make you immune to the creative enticements of the master imaginator. For example, a health-seeker is uniquely susceptible as the imaginative fitness trainer exposes them to the benefits of the out-of-body experience of a 30-mile treadmill walk or the near state of euphoria one will find at mile 47 on the recumbent bike. The imaginative trainer will paint a picture of fitness grandeur unsurpassed by mere mortals who have dared to navigate the fitness floor stage.
Now, the litmus test for imagination prowess comes when the health-seeker reaches that crucial point where fatigue meets questionability. As the health-seeker struggles for breath, their knee joints scream for mercy, the “scatterbrained” trainer all of a sudden becomes an object of loathing with little or no credibility. At that point, the health-seeker abandons trust and treadmill as fast as humanly possible leaving only a memory of a New Year’s resolution wadded up in a sweat-stained gym towel. The “big thinker” trainer then recognizes the significance of this pivotal crossroads and jumps in with an imaginative breakthrough that keeps this individual on their path to wellness.