By Callie Oettinger | Published: April 22, 2011
The Domino Project team should go with a YES sign—if it ever considers ditching its domino symbol.
The NO sign greeted everyone entering the retirement community my husband and I lived in just out of college.
We were young, broke, starting our first jobs and planning a wedding, so my husband’s grandmother pulled a few strings with the condo board, and—BOOM—there we were, in our early 20s, at least 60 years younger than the youngest retiree in the community, every day facing the NO sign in South Florida, the land of sun and fun.
I can’t remember everything on it, but some stand-outs:
NO Commercial Vehicles
NO Loud Music
NO Backing In
Then there were all the unwritten NO’s. . . .
There was a group of women who spent a few hours a day standing in a circle in the pool, talking. I can still see their faces in my head, after my husband soaked them. The concrete around the pool was hot that afternoon, so he ran from his chair to the water and hopped in, thinking more about his feet than the women. As he emerged with a smile, he was met with anger from women who have their hair done once a week, hair sprayed into place above their sun visors. His refreshing dip gave them a bad hair day, which they accessorized with scary attitudes and evil eyes. I thought we were going to get kicked out.
Note to self: NO hair-wetting at the pool.
I used to wish for a YES sign. The Domino Project team became the YES sign.
Everything is YES.
Have a new idea? YES, let’s hear it.
Want to try something different? YES, let’s go for it.
Scared to do something new? YES, let’s work through it together.
YES. YES. YES.
Being honest here: There were a few NOs, but they came from me, Steve, and Shawn.
NO. We don’t like the cover. It is a depressing image. Where is the color and the title? And the words on the inside, what’s up with all the funky large type all over the place? That’s not how books are done. And it is really cool that General Electric is giving the e-book away for free, but why aren’t people able to download it right away? Why are you making them wait? Wouldn’t it be better to share as much as possible as soon as possible?
In movies, this is where the scene freezes, and the narrator shares a little insight about what’s really going down. In this case, the narrator is the Domino Team and the narration goes something like this:
We could put an image and a title on it that everyone expects, which looks like every other book, blends into the mix and doesn’t stand out and looks “normal.” Or we could put an image on the cover that’s realistic, of someone really doing the work, showing that work is hard, but—as only Van Gogh can do—peace can be seen in the hardness. We can give people an image they don’t expect, something that will make them think.
Funky large type:
We’re not underestimating the reader, assuming they need us to point out the pieces of importance. We’re mixing things up, offering a little more interest to each page, so each page is a surprise, rather than a block of unknown words.
Early access to free e-book, sponsored by General Electric:
Giving access to the Kindle edition before the book is available penalizes non-digital readers. On the day the book and e-book publish, thousands will receive the free eBook the same morning, as will many of those who pre-ordered the book. And those who want it, can buy it then, too. Having all of these people looking at it the same day, encourages a lot of talk and sharing.
The Domino Team was right.
I find myself staring at the image on the cover—just staring, lost in the work of the image.
And I find myself flipping through the pages, liking how things are changed up.
Pretty amazing for a new book and a ten-plus-years-old book that was shared via word-of-mouth reader support and online interviews —no traditional media or ads. Something else isn’t it?
There are tons of people on the team, but I want to talk about the one I’ve worked with the most—Ishita Gupta.
I can’t imagine a world without Ishita. She makes everything better. Here’s why:
When I don’t understand something, Ishita has patience and explains it to me.
When I push back and disagree, Ishita listens and then we have a conversation and find the best way forward.
When I’m late on getting something to Ishita, she gently nudges, never screams and/or sends angry e-mails.
When she takes a little extra time to do something, she owns it and doesn’t blame anyone else.
When we have a task to accomplish, there’s no negative competition. We work together.
When she’s cc’d on a ridiculous long strand of e-mails that she doesn’t need to be on, she never complains—never a catty e-mail saying someone is wasting her time and she doesn’t want to be included.
When I need more books to give away, she doesn’t say no, she says “how many?”
When I hear there might be a unique opp for coverage, she says “I’ll do it”—never, “I’m busy and that wasn’t in the original plans.”
She’s Positive. Fearless. Honest. Unique. Wonderful. She’s the real life YES sign.
When you’re trying to DO THE WORK, being surrounded by YES signs makes life good. And when the YES signs aren’t there, you have to go it alone.
I watched an episode of ESPN’s “Year of the Quarterback” special, titled “The Brady 6” the other night. One quarterback that was mentioned, the narrator said he was good when he had the right players around him. But in Tom Brady’s case, he can make things happen without having all the right players. He can get it done even when the NO signs are on the field. And in that interview, he said he fights every day to be there, to be the one.
That’s what DOING THE WORK is about—doing things even when you are surrounded by NO signs and making yourself the YES sign.
I wish Ishita and I worked on everything together, but when we don’t, and I’m surrounded by NO signs, she inspires me and reminds me to think YES, to be the YES sign.
On a more serious note:
April 20, as I was excited about how well Do the Work was doing on launch day, I received news of the deaths of photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros—two individuals who went to extreme limits to DO THE WORK.
I went to high school with Chris’ brother, Dean.
I moved around a bit as an Army Brat, and through all the moving and different people, Dean remained a stand out—Kind. Solid. Good. Funny. Smart. I always admired him, wishing my not-so-solid high school self could have been like Dean. And when we reconnected via Facebook, I was thrilled to see him doing well, to see pictures of his wife and child. But I didn’t know much about him, other than from seeing him at school those years ago and now on Facebook. April 20, I learned he has an older brother—Chris.
As I weighed the joy of pub day against the sadness of Tim’s and Chris’ deaths, I thought about how many people around us are doing the work, which we never stop to consider. I know Chris’ work and we have friends and colleagues in common, yet I never knew his relation to Dean, nor did I stop to consider what he was doing to provide us the images. And when we were younger, I didn’t see their family doing the work that nurtured two amazing sons.
Just as Ishita is a YES sign, so are Chris, Dean and Tim—people who inspire us by their actions, who do what needs to be done, to DO THE WORK.