Embracing the Unexpected

Reflection is something I really enjoy and do rather frequently. There’s something about revisiting old memories with fresh eyes that I find fascinating and satisfying.

One memory that frequently pops into my mind from my high school days is the time I received a Magritte art book as a prize for my achievements in mathematics. This really threw me. Had there been a mix-up? An art book for a science nerd like me seemed so out of place. But, as it turned out, that’s exactly where its magic lay.

René Magritte’s surreal art, blending the absurd with the profound, opened up a world I had never even thought to explore. He had a way of making people question their reality through his art. His famous work, The Treachery of Images, showcases this brilliantly. It features a painting of a pipe with a caption, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ (‘This is not a pipe’), reminding us that an image or a word representing an object is not the object itself. This unexpected push to see things from a different angle, to find beauty in questioning and curiosity, was far more than an art lesson; it was a call to open my mind and break free from conventional thinking - something that’s become a cornerstone in my career.

Even though I no longer have the art book itself, the impact it had on me remains. It’s like it left me with a blueprint on how to look at the world: seek out the extraordinary in the ordinary, be inspired by the unconventional, and always be ready to embrace the unknown. These lessons have greatly influenced my approach to technology and leadership, constantly inspiring me to imagine the impossible, challenge the status quo, and seek new paths.

I’m super thankful for that teacher who, with a gift that seemed so odd at the time, opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking. It’s a lesson that’s truly stuck with me, shaping how I see the world and tackle problems.

How about you? Have you ever received a thoughtful gift that ended up changing your perspective way more than you’d have thought?