By Trent Rentsch
People don’t fall off Segways. I, of course, did.
The Segway tour had been a gift from Lori’s Dad, so even though I’ve always wanted to try one, there was that ever-present fear of looking stupid in front of my father-in law. Worse, he was going into the tour an experienced rider. It seemed a combination destined to leave me and/or the poor machine broken in a gutter.
The good news was that we seemed to be in an entire group of Segway rookies. Even better, the tour company was very good at teaching a group of rookies. After going over the basics, each one of us was given the chance to climb aboard and gain our Segway Legs before setting us loose on the sidewalks of Raleigh.
For those who have never ridden a Segway, a brief description. You step on a platform book-ended by two oversized tires, grabbing onto the t-bar in front of you, and thanks to a dizzying array of electronics, scientific alchemy, and invisible levers & pulleys, you are perfectly balanced without any aid from your body’s natural balancing instincts. The only glitches in the system, in fact, are your body’s natural balancing instincts. When you step on, your first inclination is to shift around, trying to avoid falling over. Because the digital sensors and/or gremlins in the Segway treat any body movement as a signal to move forward or backward, you find yourself standing on the world’s most expensive rocking chair until you catch a clue. After several minutes of soothing words from the Segway Rider Whisperer, I realized I was actually fighting my carbon composite steed, and more or less got onto letting the wheels be, well, my wheels. I “glided” back and forth across the shop, eventually even managing a few wobbly figure-eights around cones, and grew, dare I say it, comfortable on the thing. Ahh, there’s nothing as humbling as a false sense of security…
When my “handler” deemed me competent enough to avoid at least the majority of larger obstacles we might face on the tour, she held the t-bar so I could easily dismount to give the next rookie a chance. Something else you need to know about Segways… the back of the platform is completely open, with nothing to hinder the rider from stepping backwards off the machine, cleanly and safely. Why I decided on a side dismount is anyone’s guess, but for future reference, I wouldn’t recommend it.
The crash was both loud and humiliating. There was a resounding chorus of gasps, and when I looked up I saw a roomful of nervous Segway rookies staring down at me. At that moment, I was reminded of the scene in Batman Begins when Dr. Wayne asks a young Bruce, “Do you know why we fall?” Of course… so everyone else would be comforted in the knowledge that they weren’t ME.
Luckily, the only real damage had been to my pride, and I eventually got back on-board, and rode the beast nearly 4 miles around downtown Raleigh without another “issue.” Along the way, I even managed to learn some new things about the city I have been calling home off and on for the past ten years. All missions accomplished… including looking stupid in front of my father-in-law… again…
There is a dimension that is well known to man. It is a dimension smaller than a bread box and as useless as doggy dentures. It is the middle ground between Creativity and mediocrity, between success and abject failure, and it lies between the pit of man’s boredom and the summit of his exhilaration. This is the dimension of zero imagination. It is an area which we call the Comfort Zone. Spend too much time there; not learning, not growing, and you will get sick of your Creative. Stay there long enough… so will everyone else.
There are, of course, many projects that require a traditional handling… solid writing with a direct message, coupled with a sincere voice and a well-mixed underscore. Many projects require this, but if you’re treating all of them that way, it’s time to take your own Creative ride.
Write a script for a “hot sale” without using the words “hot” “sizzle” or “melting.” Or, make it a “cold sale.” Pick a piece of music you always skip in your hunt and build a spot or promo around it. Create all the zips, pangs and explosions for a promo completely a cappella. Use only the audio plug-ins you never touch for a mix down. Try to reproduce “your sound” without any plug-ins at all. Ask everyone in the office to do their impersonation of a walrus in front of a mic… then use them all in a commercial.
We can sit in our studios and crank out the same thing over and over… maybe even make a living out of it. Or we can push and grow and learn. It might not be comfortable; we might learn some painful lessons along the way. But at the end of the day, the Creative inside of you will be a hell of a lot happier. Jump on; enjoy the ride… bruises and all!