Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie

I picked up the book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie, for one reason only – the title! I love the title despite my huge hatred for hair and the grossness of the idea of hairballs. This is a hidden gem written back in 1998.

When I started reading the book I really liked the artwork mixed in with the writing. I really had no idea that the author was a Hallmark Card creator. Perhaps I should start reading the backs of books before I read, but then I would not have delightful surprises like this.

I found the book to be humorous and entertaining as the author, Gordon MacKenzie, shares his story of life and lessons learned from 30 years of work and creative endeavors.

What did I learn from this book?

One of the things that I am working on myself is the fact that I don’t always need to be working. I need to give myself time to learn at my own pace. Our society has overdone it with work, work, work, and no play. In a passage about this issue he states, “A healthier alternative is the Orbit of trust that allows time — without immediate, concrete evidence of productivity — for the the miracle of creativity to occur.” 

This reminds me so much of education where everything needs to be documented. We must have data points on everything. It won’t be long until we have to start documenting restroom breaks. On that same line of thought, we test kids like crazy. Each week there seems to be a test of some sort. How will we ever see growth if all we do is test? What about giving them time to actually spreading their wings to fly a bit?

“If memory served me well, a more common experience, for me anyhow, was to finish a workshop filled with a step one, step two, step three, voila, solution! dogma and return to the world beyond workshops to find a waiting lineup of problems that quickly had me wonder once again: What the hell is going on?”

There is no magic bullet for life. What works for one person does not work for the next. There is no one solution for all that works in life, education, or work. We must take bits and pieces from what we learn and adapt to our model. This is true for teaching students. My son often brings home worksheets where we fill in the blanks. He learns very little, but he has figured out the system to fill in the right answers. However, when asking him about what he has learned he cannot tell you. He is not processing anything, but has figured out the steps to the game of education. In which I am sure he thinks, What the hell is going on?

“Teasing is a disguised form of shaming.”

This quote is a little off the beaten path, but how many times do we tease with best intentions? My hand is raised as I tease all the time.  This statement really struck me as I stop to think about my teasing I realized that there is a bit of shaming in what I say. I must work hard to eliminate the teasing both in my private and professional life. It just does not lead to anything positive, even with good intentions.

These are just a few of the quotes I enjoyed. I took snapshots of his drawings for inspiration, I took away a great presentation idea, and jotted down many notes for myself in my idea book. Many of the ideas are nothing new, but just shared through the lens of someone you don’t normally get to hear from.

I enjoyed the book. I think you will too if nothing else for the stories of Gordon how me might take some of the concepts shared and learn to infuse them in our life and work.

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