Chance. Well, chance the rapper. At least that's the short answer. The long answer is a little more complicated. And it began with a GQ article called "How Chance's life became perfect" - it's funny how such a sad situation could make for such a beautiful opportunity. And how such a negative aspect of his life could have such a positive impact on mine. And on our company's, for that matter.
I never listened to Chance's latest album until after I had to kill a few minutes waiting for a meeting and happened to read through the aforementioned article. This was the week after Olympic Trials and the world didn't seem to hold the same brightness as before. In fact, it was clouded with darkness. And it most definitely didn't have a pinkish red-orange #ff6a71 hue.
Chance refused deals from most major record labels. Why? "He wanted to do it his way". He would rather sell merchandise and give his music away for free than go the normal path. "Who gets inspired by the normal path?" Some people, no doubt. And that's a viable option for many lives. "But how many are intrigued by that one sheep that runs the opposite direction?" Everyone. And that isn't dependent on some measurement of "success" - people watch that one no matter what.
Chance saw his music as a movement ahead of seeing it as a product to be labeled and packaged next to all others. Who doesn't take a record deal from Kanye West? Someone who has a larger purpose running underneath their hustle. Probably the same kind of person that would leave Harvard. Or someone who refused to accept an outcome as their fate. The same person who believes they are good enough to build something when others said or implied they couldn't. What rapper can make a living selling tee shirts? They need a deal. Right? They need to have a chance meeting with some famous rapper and rap for him on the streets of Toronto. Right? A lot of humans would tell you that you'd have to be crazy to believe otherwise. To believe that you could make it from where you are would be crazy. But there's an inherent appeal to this kind of crazy. Because it's what inspires us. And it's a little existential.
I believe the appeal of this approach is the result of two characteristics that can be fostered by any person, team, or product. But like anything, they aren't always incredibly evident and in many humans I think they take a backseat to what 'they' tell you. However, I know they can be cultivated and molded, even when they are initially invisible.
The first is a belief in something greater than ourselves. A religious sort of appeal that makes you believe your effort is moving something or someone forward that you couldn't move alone. It brings purpose to the struggle. Swimmers know this well. As do triathletes, runners, lone warriors. Chance relayed that to me in a story about his struggle to break an addiction that hindered his creative talent. His Grandmother said a prayer over him that initially convinced him that his rap career was over. "Whatever is not of you, God or Universe, let it disappear from Chance"
"God hates rappers"
Chance thought the prayer killed his shot at being a rapper. But eventually, it became a freeing concept - if it didn't happen as Chance planned, then it wasn't meant for him. The drugs, the mindless pursuits - those disappeared. Rap took root. And look at the impact chance is having now. Without a deal. It started in belief. And a freeing one at that - what is meant to happen will. One must let go of everything else.
The second characteristic is a recognition that humans have a relentless tendency to give up too soon. "Most people don't have the stomach." John Flanagan, one of the greatest coaches I had a chance to work with, showed me first hand that I was always faster in the water on an effort immediately after one when I thought I had given everything I had. We always have more. Screw the limiter.
Chance had too many opportunities to give up. But what impact would he have had? He had countless offers and multiple shots to go the normal "I'm a successful rapper" path or even down a more crime and drug ridden path. But what story could he have told on his death bed? Sorry, grandchildren - I couldn't hang and I decided to ignore that voice in my head that said I was better than I thought. I couldn't handle the loneliness when no one really believed in me. I couldn't just sell tee shirts because I decided I wouldn't have the impact that I thought I could deep down unless I quit. Yeah. Thanks Grandpa Chance. But no thanks. You're better than that. And you taught us to be better than that too.
As Ryan Gosling tells Steve Carell in Crazy Stupid Love, "You're better than the Gap". Maybe it's ironic that the Gap was started in part by a Cal Berkeley aquatic athlete back in the day. The point is, though, that you're better than the gap and the world knows it. In fact, the Bodbox knows you can be just as great as anyone in the world. But it's about choices. And making choices that most might not have the stomach to make - but robots don't struggle with that one.
Oh, and our color scheme is based on that of Chance's album art and some of his old web pages.
Chuck + the robot.