To be present in every situation is a gift.
There was this guy named Elias who had a hard time deciding what to do with his life. He didn’t care too much for working on his dad’s farm in Kansas. He heard that there was money to be made on construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, so he worked on the railroad in Colorado for a while. He worked with a guy named Walter Chrysler, who would also go on to do other things with his life.
When he was done with the railroad job, he was a fiddler in Denver for a time. He gave it a shot at being a mailman for a while, in a little town called Kissimmee, Florida (near what is now Orlando). He was handy with tools and became a carpenter, and eventually a contractor. He worked on a project in Chicago in the early 1890s.
It was kind of a big deal at the time; it was the “1893 World Columbian Exposition,” “Columbian” because it was a year after the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ bumping into this continent looking for China.
Do obstacles stop you, define you or inspire you?
Chicago was struggling to get all the buildings and preparations done to host what would later become known as “The World’s Fair.” The workers and even some of the planners and organizers were laying sod on the grounds on the night before the Exposition opened.
A fire had swept through the grounds, and a tornado had done considerable damage to buildings as well during the construction, and at times, there were questions about whether the big event might ever happen.
The big, beautiful white buildings were a sight to behold, and many dubbed it “The White City.” Chicagoans were proud of it, and rightly so. The fair attracted people who came from all over the world to see all the attractions.
There was a major exhibit that boasted of the latest developments in science and industry. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is the only surviving building.
The pride that Chicagoans felt was evident everywhere, but nowhere was it as pronounced and frequent as in the daily newspapers. After a time, the rest of the country’s newspapers grew a bit fatigued from the constant bragging about the gargantuan event taking place on the shore of Lake Michigan.
Because of the continual chatter, Chicago was dubbed “The Windy City” — not because of any meteorological or weather-related realities, but because all the locals never stopped chattering about their beloved exposition, and people assumed that the town got a bit gusty from all the hot air being generated.
Don’t let anyone pigeonhole your genius. Maybe you need to step outside the lines and make it on your own.
A guy named George had a pretty good idea for something that he wanted to showcase at the exposition. He tried and tried and tried to get the organizers to see his “new, big thing…” Finally, George gave up and set up his contraption just outside the grounds of the big fair, so he could take advantage of the traffic going in and out of the fairgrounds. George’s large rotating cars were carried round and round, carrying — get this, 60 people at a time — in each car! They are now a staple of every fair, firemen’s picnic, and local festival.
His name was George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. Yup, he was the inventor of the Ferris Wheel. He knew of the principle of “Go Big or Go Home.” Can you imagine how big that first Ferris Wheel was?
Daniel Burnham was the head of the architectural firm that was responsible for building the “White City,” and he had no end to problems of handling such a gargantuan task. The exposition got delayed several times, missing the 1892 anniversary of the Columbus trip, and there were political snafus, fights, and intrigue on many levels.
There was a cranky, irascible young architect who couldn’t seem to get along with anyone and had grandiose ideas of his own. He was fired, but he turned out okay. Frank Lloyd Wright was not ruined by being canned from Burnham’s firm.
Our friend, Elias? He worked on construction of various parts of the “White City.” Years later he regaled his children with tales of the beautiful, magical buildings and the people wandering the grounds of the Columbian Exposition with rapt attention.
Elias Disney’s stories inspired his sons, Roy and Walter, to become storytellers of the first order.
Knowing that everything is temporary helps us to endure tough times, embrace the good things, and live life with a little more urgency.
What stories are each of us telling about some of our life experiences, mundane jobs, goofy coworkers, and projects that filled us with wonder and awe? Someone within hearing range of your story might just be a Walt Disney. Will one of your coworkers be a Walter Chrysler? (I’m not saying that you have to be named Walt…)
Do you know any extreme geniuses like Frank Lloyd Wright? (Shout out to a renowned Wisconsin boy, though most of us are a tad nicer than FLW…) As for ourselves, sometimes we have to earn our chops doing all kinds of other stuff before we find our groove.
My dad has a lot of great sayings. One is “Everything is temporary.” When we’re not doing headline-making, heart-singing, soul-gratifying stuff — what are we learning? How can you change that reality into something that does make your heart sing?
When you do get that gift of doing “it” with energy and focus and people that you love, are you thankful, humble, and present?
The book, The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, gives life and rich detail and texture to the story of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition. He has researched this down to the most minute detail and the book, entirely factual, is well documented with footnotes and references to sources; it reads like a mystery thriller by any master storyteller.
To say that I recommend it is kinda like saying that oxygen can be pretty good for you.