Destined to be Different

In 1929 Frank Lloyd Wright designed a group of four towers for St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie, in New York City. The proposed skyscrapers featured an abstract geometric “pinwheel” plan and an innovative “tap root” structure, with the floors cantilevered off a vertical core. However, the project was not built. In 1935 Wright proposed an ideal community, Broadacre City, and exhibited his model of it in New York, at Rockefeller Center. The project removed the skyscraper from the congestion of the city and brought it into the freedom of the open landscape. Again, the project was never built.

In 1952 Harold C. Price, founder of the H.C. Price Company, a builder of oil and gas pipelines, awarded a contract to Frank Lloyd Wright to build a new headquarters building in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Wright designed the 19-story building based on the design originally conceived for St. Mark’s in the Bowery in New York City, but once built on the prairie, Wright called this skyscraper “the tree that escaped the crowded forest.” Everyone else called it The Price Tower.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to see this historic architectural work up close during a tour that included getting to see the inner workings of the building (including the mechanical systems.) I also was able to spend the night in one of the two story suites that were originally designed as apartments. The building is a master piece. It is also very different. Different from the other structures in Bartlesville. Different from most structures anywhere else at the time. Different.

Thursday and Friday I was able to attend the Global Leadership Summit simulcast at Crossing Community Church with over 100 leaders from Kimray. Each year this is two days of fantastic insights delivered by engaging speakers and interspersed with inspiring stories from around the globe. I am always challenged by a number of things I hear, and this year was no different.

Something that De Von Franklin said struck me. He said, “Your difference is your destiny.”

He went on to say, “We often compromise the things that are important in order to fit into someone else’s ideal of our lives that is limited. We exchange our difference for ordinary.” As I listened to Franklin’s presentation, I found my mind wandering back to the time I spent at the Price Tower. What would have happened if Frank Lloyd Wright had listened to the people who told him his ideas were strange, or that his designs couldn’t be built (something engineers often said)? What if he had gotten discouraged and just settled for designing the same structures everyone else was building? So much wonderful architecture and so many things that were inspired by his work wouldn’t exist.

I don’t have to be Frank Lloyd Wright to make a difference. The difference in the way I see the world and the solutions I can create are important. I am unique and therefore the things I am able to do are unique too. And here’s the thing. You are too. You are unique. You have something to offer that no one else has. You were created for a specific purpose and your difference is the key to that destiny.

De Von Franklin talked about a few other things that I found helpful:

Admit you different. Quit trying to be like everyone else and embrace what makes you unique. You don’t have to be unsocially strange, just know that you have a particular view that is important.

Don’t confuse your difference for someone else’s. Another way to say this is, popularity does not equal purpose. Often, staying true to our difference destiny will be unpopular.

Discomfort can be a sign you’re on the right path. How many times in his career did Wright hear someone tell him, “No,” or “that won’t work.” Sometimes resistance is confirmation.

Finally, be salt & light. Ultimately, if we are being who God created us to be, we will do what God created us to do. We are supposed to be salt & light in a world that is bland and dark. We are supposed to be the difference. We are supposed to be what lights the way.

I am grateful to be part of a community that allows people to exercise their difference and seek their destiny. We know that if the people at Kimray are living authentically and being who they were created to be we will make a difference wherever we are, even out here on the prairie. Our difference is our destiny. That is true for us individually. That is true for us as a company. That is the Kimray Way.