Some of you may remember the famous Volkswagen ad from 1959, Think Small. It was a counterculture campaign introducing a new small car, the VW Beetle, during an era of the largest cars ever to grace the American highways. This was one of the first advertising examples of embracing the virtues of small.
I just got back from my first trip to the Grand Canyon, and as anyone who has been there may have experienced, I was struck by the vastness, the peace and just how small I felt.
In pointing out a key aspect of the rock cliffs, my Colorado River guide explained how our minds play tricks to create proportions that makes us feel larger than we are. A rock formation from the river will appear dramatically smaller than it actually is.
Isn’t that how our culture (and certainly our advertising culture) is designed? To make us feel like a big, important, one-of-a-kind individual who deserves special recognition? We are made to feel like the center of attention and the star of our own movie. We make ourselves feel big with watches, cars, houses and designer everything—feeling exclusive makes us feel bigger.
Feeling small is something most of us avoid at all costs. We want to feel significant, understood and known. Not necessarily famous, but at least recognized.
The beautiful thing about feeling small is that we are reminded of the awesomeness of the world—and of the grand canyon that exists between us and our understanding of it.
The older I get, the more I understand how little I know. And I love that. I love the freedom of feeling small, being part of something small and having a deeper, more meaningful, small circle within which to live. One of the great benefits of youth is the promise of the future. One of the great beauties of age is being able to relax about the future—tightening the circle and enjoying the small.
It took one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World to open my eyes to the beauty of feeling small.
For me, it’s a big idea to think small.