I had one of my usual circuitous, yet brilliant, conversations with someone from my team this week. You know those dialogues that starts going in varied directions but then comes full circle as we start to see how these different directions connect? I love those! During this particular discussion, we touched on a range of subjects — from human insights, to NYC traffic, to learnings from the recent election. We also somehow got to the topic of the late and much-missed Bill Cunningham of the New York Times. For those of you unfamiliar with him, he gifted us with wonderful images and videos of the people of NYC. When we got to the topic of Bill, we must have spent 20 minutes just gushing over how great he was — all his great work, his sense of curiosity, and his humble but so-uplifting attitude. Even his intro music to his videos makes me smile wide!
Despite Bill’s simple, unpretentious personal style (he rode an old-school bicycle everywhere, wore something akin to my father’s ordered-from-Sears office uniform everyday, and never tried to hide his Boston accent), he had a deep but fun appreciation for others’ sense of it. You could feel his energy and absolute love for people. The streets were his playground and canvass. The people of New York were his subjects, the camera his tools, and his columns and quirky, lovable slide shows were his masterpieces. People loved getting photographed by him — you can see it in all of their broad smiles — and fashion designers looked to his work for a sense of current looks. Essentially, he peered into the mini-world of street style and elevated it for us. Bill gave the people of NYC an extra dose of dignity. He shared the amazingness of people’s everyday behaviors. And he saw style as a way for people to express themselves. Bill would say things like: “Everyone can put fashion down and that it doesn’t mean a thing. But it does! Because each morning when you get dressed, when you go out, it just lifts your spirits!”
You can imagine why Bill’s work should be celebrated in this blog. We are all about embracing beauty. But I’m celebrating him for whole other reason. And it’s this reason that he randomly made an appearance in work conversation about the election and human insights. (Note: our brains don’t just leap to random thoughts for no reason. We may not consciously realize the connection at first, but our brains do!) Bill surfaced because he represents EXACTLY what we all need to do post election: be humble, observant, celebratory of others’ cultures. While he was not a fashionista himself, he could see and, more importantly, appreciate, the beauty of others. While he didn’t put a lot of creative effort in his own wardrobe, he took such pleasure in others who did. He recognized the small but brilliant behaviors we express to give our selves happiness, meaning and fulfillment. And we ALL do this in different ways. We just need to start appreciating both ourselves and others for it.
So what does this all mean, really? What is Bill actually teaching us …especially with regard to the election results?
I think it’s something like this: no one is totally stupid, wrong or misguided for living the way they do or thinking the way they do. We have to stop looking inwardly and crying in our soup. I’m not saying we shouldn’t protest changes in government that we don’t agree with, like Trump’s pick today of Exxon CEO as new Secretary of State. What I am saying that we have start looking outwardly with a keen eye and respectful, considered mindset. We need to be more observant and try to understand and appreciate the brilliant behaviors that we so often overlook in others. We don’t do things for no reason — whether its wearing chevron stripes or voting for Trump. We have to give others the respect Bill gave every person on the street, i.e., observe, dig deep, learn and understand, and even appreciate others. And by doing so we not only grow but we also give others a sense of dignity.
Oh another thing we learned? We can’t forget to have a bit more fun with what we and others wear too, of course! 🙂