What would a book about an inner city jobs training program have to say to anyone in "corporate" America? That's the question I asked when I received a copy of Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland. I wondered if this was another book by one of those "self-help" gurus who tell you how to achieve more in life. After reading this book, I think everyone should read it to decide how to make a difference in their own lives.
Bill Strickland started out life without much except a mom who believed in him and the dignity of the family. He grew up in a blighted part of Pittsburgh and was probably headed in the wrong direction until he was introduced to art, especially pottery, by an interested high school teacher who took Bill under his wing. From that one introduction came the realization that pottery and ceramics were something he could be passionate about, and it opened Bill's eyes to the fact that others in his situation could be changed as well. So, he opened a small neighborhood center to teach other inner city kids how to throw pots, and that center grew. Now, he did this while attending college, and not long after graduating took over a jobs training program in Pittsburgh that had been completely bankrupted by the previous administration.
Bill Strickland's career and success at Manchester Bidwell has dramatically changed his life and the lives of many other people. His philosophy is to seek the passion that is in people and offer them a dramatically different approach to life and to learning. He felt it was important for people to be treated with respect and to help them find their self-respect and passion. Starting with pottery, but moving on into photography, culinary arts, pharma technology and many other training programs, he has grown the Manchester Bidwell offerings to include a wide array of other training programs. His success was recognized when he was invited into a number of presidential councils and asked to help establish new centers in places throughout the US.
How did he achieve so much? He never let anything get in the way of his dreams, and he often refused to accept the smaller, more logical outcome. As an inner city kid on his first airline flight, he decided to become a commercial pilot. He found out what it would take to achieve his private pilot's license and did so, then realized he'd need close to 5000 hours of flight time to move to a commercial license. While driving home, he noticed a plane for sale. He bought the plane and leased it to a flying school, which covered his loan costs, so he could fly the plane for the price of fuel. Strickland has always looked for the possibilities that made his passions possible.
Why would I recommend this book to you, a reader who is likely already successful in business and in life? Because too often we get sucked down doing less than we dreamed we could do, accepting something less than we wanted, because the "system" or bureaucracy gets in the way. Rather than follow our passion or work to identify a change we'd like to create, we settle for what we are told is possible, rather than what we can achieve. Whether you work in a Fortune 500 company or are self-employed, whether you are a PhD or never finished high school, you can choose to follow your passion and become something more. You can make a significant difference. As Strickland points out, it may not be as profitable or as lucrative, but it can be a lot more satisfying.
The reason I liked this book so much is that it can remind us, the cubicle warriors who dreamed of something more than middle management, that we can change something for the better. While that may be our jobs or our companies, it may also be a company that we start, or an organization not affiliated with our work, but something that ignites and sustains what we care about. Check out Make the Impossible Possible for your team, especially when your team is faced with difficult or insurmountable odds and see what Bill Strickland and the folks at Manchester Bidwell have to say to you.