As a working artist, people assume that what I'm most proud of is the creativity of my work and the many inspiring invitations on display in my showroom—the front of the house part. And yes, there's truth to all that. The "what" of our work is pretty compelling.
But in terms of what I'm most proud of, the reality is something less obvious and swims beneath the surface. It's a back of the house kind of thing.
What I find most compelling is the "how"—the cooperation that the work represents. Cooperation permeates everything we do. It's the way we approach each day, how we conduct ourselves, how we work with our clients and with each other.
I think this way of working, this idea of cooperation, is why we have so many long-standing clients and employees. The good energy that cooperation brings shows in our work. You can feel it in your hands.
My circle of cooperation extends to what others might consider competitors. In my mind we're really comrades swimming in the same sea. Our day-to-day working lives are probably more akin to each other than anyone else we know, and we likely have more in common than less.
The power of professional cooperation is potent and, to me, the mark of civilization. It's been many years now, but when my mother-in-law passed away suddenly in Idaho, a full day's travel from our home in Chicago, we had to drop everything and get there to be with family. Most projects were just fine and could be tended to by my staff, but there was one critical job that really needed to be handed over to someone else.
I was grateful that day when I reached out to a so-called competitor and asked if she could take over for me, and she said yes. The feeling of being part of a professional community was comforting. Someone had my back and I would do the same.
Cooperation trumps competition every time. It opens the door. It makes room. It adds another seat at the table. It brings more color, texture, and nuance to our lives. It makes for a better world.
There are many fish in the sea, it takes a village, and we're all in this together.