“The power is within us. Now all we have to do is teach ourselves how to believe it.”

Rob Taylor over at Rackspace sent me the picture above.

His nine-year old son wearing that Rackspace t-shirt I did for SXSW 2011.

“Life is short. Make it amazing”.

The kid just liked it, Rackspace or no Rackspace.

“I want life to be amazing,” he told his father.

Yes, even nine-year-old kids want their life to be amazing. Of course they do. Why wouldn’t they?

This is much bigger than Rackspace. This is much bigger than the Internet or web hosting or cloud computing or whatever it is that Rackspace does.

And it’s ESPECIALLY much bigger than gapingvoid or cartooning.

I may not be the most talented or famous or disruptive artist since Picasso. That’s fine; you’re not either.

But I’ve always believed, even before I started doing my work seriously, that art- that cartooning- can change lives for the better. Either individually or at a corporate level. Right here. Right now.

And you don’t have to be as big as Peanuts or The Simpsons or Dilbert in order to do so. Especially now that we have the Internet.

And what’s true for cartoonists is also true for your job.

You don’t have to be a rock star or a billionaire. We can all change the world, one small meaningful intervention at time.

Which is what the t-shirt was. A small meaningful intervention. No more, no less.

The power is within us. Now all we have to do is teach ourselves how to believe it.


  1. It’s true!

    How do you think lightbulbs or automobiles, toasters and your favorite pair of sneakers, or fancy phones came to be? It all started with an idea that somebody had. It was that idea (that simple/crazy/fun/random/good idea) that changed the world.

    I believe we all have the ideas and potential to change the world. Sometimes we just need a little push.

  2. oooh, is there a way to buy one of these t-shirts somehow? My son would LOVE one.

  3. Love the message – reminds me what Tyler Kelogg is all about – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeqNZp9a048

  4. Your cartoons have changed my life for the better in many ways. And the actions that I’m able to take – in part inspired by your work – are hopefully changing other peoples’ lives for the better too. It’s very exciting. It’s what it’s all about.

  5. I agree that we are more powerful than we often realize, and that art has the power to help bring out the power in others.

    One of the most inspiring articulations I’ve heard of this idea – and the reasons behind it – was by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, on her audiobook “Your Heart’s Prayer”. I transcribed some of the wisdom she shared and applied it to the practice of blogging in a post on Oriah and Buber, I and Thou: Bringing All of Who I am to Blogging, but I believe it applies to any art form … or indeed, as you suggest, to any job. I hope you won’t mind if I include an longish excerpt below (substituting cartooning for blogging, which is more relevant here):

    When you engage in a creative act, you bring yourself into relationship with that form, and if you give yourself completely to that process – you bring all of who you are to it – what happens is that you are changed, and a work is created – it could be an object, it could be a piece of music [or cartoon] – but something is created, which to the receptive beholder, will give them the opportunity to have a direct experience of the form.

    So when you write a piece of music [draw a cartoon] – let’s say if you’re a composer [a cartoonist] – and you bring yourself entirely to something that is larger than you, and you hold none of yourself back, you create a piece of music [cartoon], which someone who listens to it [reads it], if they too bring all of themselves to it, they are able to directly experience that which is larger than themselves in their own way – it will be different than perhaps the composer [cartoonist] did – but there will be a similarity in terms of what they engage with.

    So my job – your job – as human beings, is to bring all of who we are to every moment.

    I know this because the easiest place for me to do this, in some ways – and it’s not always easy, but the place where I feel compelled to do this, I should say – is when I write. There’s something about writing, for me, which compels me to try to include all of it … to hold nothing back … and I’m changed in the process of writing.

    The other thing that happens is I produce a book [cartoon] that other people come to and get something out of that I never could possibly anticipate. …

    All I can do is bring all of who I am to that writing, and then that allows the opportunity for something else to come in, when someone else, who is a receptive beholder, uses that work … and that’s not me, it’s something that’s larger than me that comes through this.

  6. Hi Hugh, great sentiment. Life is short make it amazing.

    To me that means all aspects of living. Including work.

    In order to make it amazing it may need a credo. Something bigger than myself. Here’s mine:


    I could also say, life is short, make your cartoons amazing. Except, your’s already are.

    Best. Mac.

  7. Hugh, why don’t you put your art on clothes and sell the clothes? I started buying Walter Anderson art on T-shirts years ago. I would buy “Life is Short” for my grandchild and probably for me. You dont have to design the clothes, just the art. You’re doing the art anyway,so why not?


  1. [...] Some perform leadership by relating with other people, creating environments where they can excel and be creative. I call that management. But that is not the only way to be a leader. A leader is somebody who speaks up and says “You’re hurting us, this is wrong”. A leader is somebody who creates Art – something new and wonderful that touches us, each in our own way. A leader is someone who changes the world by performing one small meaningful intervention at time. [...]

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

Seth Godin
Best Selling Author

His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

The New Republic
Lydia Depillis

Last year my State of the College address was 76 slides loaded with data. This year it was 14 cartoons that were substantially more memorable.

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Former President, Babson College

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Tony Hsieh
CEO, Zappos

In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

Brian Clark
  • Seth Godin
  • The New Republic
  • Len Schlesinger
  • Tony Hsieh
  • Brian Clark