“Business is not about making money, business is about the human condition, and the meaning we get (and give) from being alive.”


corporate hughtrain 1406 culture

I drew this “Market for something to believe in” cartoon in 2004, sitting at a bar, at the end of a crappy day at my equally crappy day job. It went on to be called “The Hughtrain”, named after The Hughtrain Manifesto it eventually inspired.

I consider this cartoon my biggest A-ha! breakthrough moment of that decade. To me, it kinda summed up the whole point of marketing, the whole point of business, from a spiritual and existential level. As Seth Godin later said, remarking on the cartoon,

The point IMHO is this: You can’t drink any more bottled water than you already do. Or buy more wine. Or more tea. You can’t wear more than one pair of shoes at a time. You can’t get two massages at once…

So, what grows? What do marketers sell that scales? I’ll tell you what: Belief. Belonging. Mattering. Making a difference. Tribes. We have an unlimited need for this.

Even then, I knew I was on to something big. From that moment on, I knew drawing cartoons about the business world could be powerful, could be meaningful, not just snarky and cynical like, say, Dilbert. [Although yes, I’m a huge fan of Dilbert. Scott Adams is the bomb.]

So for the last decade, that’s what I’ve been trying to do: create a new language for business, via cartoons.

Traditionally, art and business have little to say to one another. Traditionally, they are two separate worlds.

Though I never found that to be the case. Both art and business are trying to answer the same questions: What matters? What is possible? Now that we’re here, what should we do? Why should we care?

It’s this sweet spot that both art and business share, that gapingvoid tries to nail. Business is not about making money, business is about the human condition, and the meaning we get (and give) from being alive.

Work is only truly rewarding when you can engage with it at a higher spiritual level. I’m not saying doing your job should be a religious experience; I am saying that being successful is really, really hard unless your work engages the higher parts of one’s nature.

The ones who can pull this off, have a huge competitive advantage over the ones who can’t, regardless what profession you’re in. Life is unfair.

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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.

Len Schlesinger
Former President, Babson College

"There are only two daily newsletters that I look forward to opening and reading every time they show up to my inbox: Seth Godin's and gapingvoid."

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