Sunday, March 16, 2014

Failure Coach XXXVII

The artist studio

Alan was hunkering down now. He was writing furiously toward completion of Negative Space. He was working with post it notes, scraps of paper, yellow pads. He learned from the first two books that short chapters would help him down the line when he started breaking down content for inclusion in seminars, workshops and keynote addresses.

His publisher and editor really rallied with support and bundles of research in his last effort, You can’t give 110%. In addition to getting a team of researchers to prepare and fact-check profiles on dozens of athletes from MLB, NFL, NBA and the Olympics, the publisher agreed to pay for statistical analysis based on career data for 100 NFL Hall of Famers. In so many cases it was easy to identify how these star performers were able to overcome adversity and excel. But, perhaps more importantly, to Alan’s way of thinking, so many athletes managed not to exceed their potential as much as they were able to play within their strengths. This was as much a tribute to coaching and studying opponents as it was about prowess. Hard work was always apparent and a given. But what Alan was able to show statistically was that victory was about playing within one’s self. A section of this book was devoted to some of the winningest coaches of all time. The research and statistics, while generally directed by Alan was fast and efficient. In hindsight, relative to his first book and the one on which he was currently focusing, 110% practically wrote itself. Which of course it did not. In reality it was an astounding collaboration that produced a handsome product on the heels of the blockbuster first book.

He was hoping for a different kind of collaboration in book #3. This book would rely on a lot of visualization. He wanted to include reproductions of paintings, sculpture, and photography. He wanted this book to be visually engaging. He credited Daniel Bluestone in part for inspiring this approach. He noticed how books about art and artists were often copy heavy while it seemed the typical reader of an over-sized book about art would be perused but not purchased to be read carefully. Instead such books were for coffee tables. He noticed, that books about art were often sealed shut with maybe one copy available for paging through and skimming. Unlike an Art Book however, his book would not be for your coffee table as much as your office or study. His books were in the aisle marked - Business Books.

And this book would not be available in hard cover. The strategy that started with the Walmart presentation about three book sleeve including this third volume in a sort of trilogy set gave birth to the idea of making this book widely available everywhere in paperback right out of the gate. The creative team on this project included graphic artists and project interns who would secure the necessary permission to use art from various museum collections.

Another portion of his book would talk about surroundings and environment. The premise allowed him to segue into sustainability and global climate change. He would also feature images of landscapes and natural disasters like the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri that took 161 lives in 2011. That tragedy and the billion dollars spent in that community afterwards allowed the author to illustrate how such a radical and focused change could actually result in significant improvements to the community. In effect, that community in completely re-building itself was able to enhance certain aspects of its surroundings or in the language of his premise the negative space. The Joplin Schools Superintendent, C.J.Huff EdD, would be cited for his leadership in the tornado aftermath. Huff acted decisively to reopen school for the entire district just 87 days later. Although insurance money would cover basic rebuilding of Joplin High School, Huff saw an opportunity for something more — a state-of-the-art facility fit for 21st-century learning. Some residents objected loudly to the expense of an upgraded facility. But Huff persisted educating the community about why it was so important to the city and the futures of all students.  

Another example he liked for its story and its visual appeal was the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. The scale the process of sculpting by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, was all about making something remarkable by applying the principles of negative space. Mount Rushmore features 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). Construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents' faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon Gutzon Borglum's death in March 1941, his son took over construction.until a lack of funding forced construction to end in late October 1941. Mount Rushmore is an iconic symbol and attracts nearly three million people annually.

The concept of making the best of surroundings from climate change, natural disasters like the Joplin tornado, monumental sculpture like Mount Rushmore and countless examples of fine art from antiquity to contemporary art would make his point for even a casual reader.

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