As a teenager, Jim preferred the company of his television. But he was also fascinated with art. He would spend hours on his grandmother’s Mississippi porch, where she taught him to paint, and to see the magic in the world around him.
Soon, Jim married his fascination with television to his creative hobbies: While still in high school, Jim was lucky to join the crew of a Saturday morning television program on WTOP-TV as their resident puppeteer. The following year, while a freshman at the University of Maryland, he was given his own show on the local NBC affiliate. It was only five minutes long…. Though it did air twice each day!
Sam & Friends was a phenomenal venue for Jim’s creativity. His engaging storytelling, his custom made puppets, and his unprecedented grasp of television’s capacity for illusion soon had Jim appearing as a guest on The Steve Allen Show, The Jack Paar Show, and Today. This national attention would continue through the 50s and 60s, until Jim was asked to create a cast of characters for a new program that would launch in 1969.
You probably remember Jim Henson. You certainly remember those characters: Ernie. Bert. Oscar. And of course Cookie Monster and Big Bird.
“Follow your enthusiasm.”
This was always Henson’s exhortation to those around him. “Find those parts of your life you enjoy most. Do what you enjoy doing.” His commitment to passion is echoed by many great entrepreneurs: “A business has to exercise your creative instincts,” said Sir Richard Branson. “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” said Steve Jobs. “If you can dream it, you can do it,” said Walt Disney.
Yet in times of economic uncertainty, to ‘follow your bliss’ can seem impossible folly. Abandoning it is worse.
There are plenty of examples of organizations that launched and thrived during periods of economic recession: Hyatt. Burger King. CNN. MTV. Even the vaunted GE was launched at the end of a six-year period of recession, in 1873. Clearly, success persists, regardless of the environment. It just requires more focus.
Focus on customers, especially the best ones. Those that are already working with you, buying from you, or donating to you have demonstrated their loyalty. Protect it. Preserve it. And you’ll profit from it.
Focus on your market. Many of your competitors will go quiet, hoarding their limited resources. Now’s the time to increase your market share. Shout when the others are whispering, and earn prized new customers.
And focus on your team. They’re worried, and they’re looking to you for guidance. Your confidence will be contagious.
During times of economic uncertainty, when words like ‘deflation,’ ‘recession,’ and even ‘depression’ are bandied about frequently, leaders inspire confidence by sharing a vision of a better time, a better business, a better world. You must be “the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational….” Dare we say it, “muppetational!”
Perhaps John Lennon said it best: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
Will you Imagine? Will you share your vision? Will you aim, strive, and achieve?
“It’s time to get things started!”