The Art of Strengths Coaching

V is for Living The Vital Life rather than The Vanilla Life

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Gordon Mackenzie, author of Orbiting the Giant Hairball, inspired many people to revitalise their creativity whilst working with corporations.

He believed it was vital to retain the juiciness of life. If you don’t watch out, he said, life can become like one of the peaches you find in supermarkets. From the outside it looks perfect. When taking a bite, however, the peach tastes like concrete.

People work best when they generate their creative juices. This comes from living the vital life, rather than the vanilla life. Let’s explore how to make this happen.

The vital life

What is the vital life for you? One person wrote:

The vital life for me is:

Doing creative work … Cooking fresh food … Listening to jazz … Mountain biking … Skiing … Walking by the sea …Meeting friends … Getting enough sleep … Driving with the roof down.”

Gordon Mackenzie encouraged people to stay fresh. Spending 30 years working for the Hallmark Card Company, he managed to orbit successfully around the hairball of organisational bureaucracy.

He wanted people to continue to explore. One chapter consists of just one sentence:

“Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s licence.”

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe what the vital life is for you.

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The vanilla life

Different people have different versions of this kind of life. One person said:

The vanilla life for me is:

Sitting in boring meetings … Staying in soulless hotels … Eating tasteless hotel food … Spending more than 3 nights a week away from home … Listening to negative people … Flying on business trips … Spending a day without music.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe what the vanilla life is for you.

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Living the vital life in the future

“I am fed up with plain vanilla,” said one person. “Providing it doesn’t hurt people, now and again I want to add a bit of tutti frutti.”

Gordon Mackenzie died in 1999, soon after the publication of Hairball. He urged people to continue gaining enriching experiences. The final sentences of his book are:

“If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you.”

Gordon created his masterpiece and lived a vital life. He certainly wasn’t vanilla.

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If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things you can do to live the vital life in the future.

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