Leadership – The impact of beautiful art


“We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for.”

~ David Foster Wallace

Early morning, awake and reading a lovely book by Matt Haig called “The Humans“. As I read, I am stopped and mesmerised by this beautiful quote in the book from David Foster Wallace.

When “DFW”s masterwork of a novel, “Infinite Jest” came out, the sheer size of the hardback book was epic, yet I voraciously devoured all 577,608 words of it (most works of fiction are well under 100,000 words), mesmerised by the genius of DFW.

Yet, with all of his ability to captivate with a magnum opus, somehow when I read this short sentence it stops me in my tracks. I am not thinking, rationalising, something about it simply stops me in the beauty and depth of expression made so concisely.

What does this say to me about how we humans receive and interpret information?

What can leaders and others who have as their key role to understand, communicate, engage, enrol others learn from such art?

A few days ago I wrote: “Beauty in Brevity” and reflected on how I was similarly stopped in my tracks with the beauty of some portraits in an art exhibition, as well as by a quite exquisite sentence in an email that captured the essence of someone’s deep study and writing on a topic.

Writing, art, the light in the evening, the wind on our face. All of these sensations are available to us when we are present and out of the trap of busy-ness and our over-processing minds.

For leaders, a key is to take ourselves out of that space and focus upon engaging ourselves and our people at a deeper level, then communicate, with brevity, our message through words, images and ultimately feelings.

Earlier in my writings here, I wrote: “Cogito Ergo Sum, or Sentio Ergo Sum ?” and mused:

Cogito Ergo Sum – I think, therefore I am


Sentio Ergo Sum – I feel therefore I am

Are we rational beings driven by our thoughts, or are we led by our feelings?

If the latter, consider this for a moment. Where in our education system are our children taught to listen to and learn from their feelings? At what age do we, as adults, start to focus on our own self-knowledge and self-awareness?

If we are indeed led by our thinking, then our systems and culture serve us well…

I then shared three powerful and emotive video clips, and after each of them I’d wonder if anybody who watches them would still believe in the binary idea of what classical economists call  “the rational man”?

When we engage others with something they feel deeply, it bypasses the rational mind and becomes embedded in them.

One of my favourite posts on this site is of three commencement/graduation addresses by Steve Jobs, Tim Minchin, David Foster Wallace. Today I give you again the beauty of the act of love that is the nine-minute video interpretation of DFW’s commencement speech, “This is Water”, created by “The Glossary“.

Watch it, then do consider what it makes you feel and the power of embedding such messages in such an emotive way.

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