I had just wrapped up a productive week of work at Salesforce headquarters in San Francisco. I was heading back home. My brain was filled with ideas, my notepad was filled with next steps, and my laptop was full of documents ready for writing, editing and finalizing. I had a long flight to Newark ahead of me, and I was ready to pass the time with work.
As we boarded the plane, an elderly man sat next to me. He had a cane and a small plastic box. Once we were seated and ready to take off, he opened the box to reveal small square pieces of paper, and two wooden tools. One looked like a tweezer and the other reminded me of a small butter knife.
I went about my work. However, curiosity got the best of me, as I kept peering his way to see what he was doing with the paper and tools. He was making origami. He had designed a few ducks and folded various pieces of paper and put them in piles, perhaps to be constructed fully later. Finally I asked him, “Is that origami?” He told me he was an origami champion (he had an origami champion t-shirt on to prove it), and that he had just finished judging an origami competition in San Francisco, and he was on his way to MoMA in NYC to fill a Christmas tree with origami ducks. Meanwhile, as he spoke, he continued to construct his next origami masterpiece.
I learned a lot on that flight. Here are my marketing takeaways from this origami expert.
1. Be meticulous
Hours went by and this man did not stop. He meticulously made 18 origami ducks over the five and a half hour flight, and prepped 30 more for the tree at MoMA. Each one was perfectly folded and crafted. He used the tweezer-like tool to fold, and the butter knife-like tool to flatten the edges. He had a process and it was obviously perfected. Nothing stopped or interrupted him.
2. Share your passion
I wasn’t the only person intrigued by the origami master. A few stewardesses and passengers asked the man about his work. He gladly shared his story, all the while, making origami ducks. He barely looked up as he made a few flowers for me and the stewardesses (pictured above). We were so appreciative, but he thought nothing of it. He was simply sharing his passion.
3. Don’t completely disconnect
At one point on the flight, I said to him, “You know, all I have is technology to keep me entertained. I have my laptop, my iPhone and my iPad. You are disconnected and yet very much involved. It’s great to see.”
He smiled and laughed a little. “Do you see these headphones?” He asked. I nodded. “Well,” he went on, “I am listening to Audible. I love a good podcast every now and then.”
4. Focus on your end goal
We were nearing the end of the flight, and the man had a good size stack of origami ducks. “Wow, I can’t believe you made all of those ducks,” I said.
“I need 30 by tomorrow,” he shared, “I didn’t get enough done.” Although seeming like he might be a bit perturbed by that thought, he still smiled. He knew he’d get the job done, and he knew he would enjoy the road to get there. If we love what we do, we should always feel the same way as that origami master.