Roadside Minions are motivating mentors

Roadside Minions are motivating mentors
July 30, 2023 Beth Nyland

Last week my husband took his camera on an image-seeking adventure across the plains. Since starting his full-time gig as a professional photographer earlier this year, he’s experienced a full range of highs and lows.

On the best days, he’s exhilarated by the hunt for a new vista, proud of a sharp and well-composed image, and uplifted by his conversations with clients and art-lovers.

On the worst days, he’s discouraged by a too-sunny morning (his signature look needs a sky full of clouds), disappointed by a lackluster shot, and frustrated that his marketing efforts haven’t generated more business.

Go back and read those emotions and their origins.

How many of these highs and lows ring true for you?

  • Exhilarated by something new
  • Proud of good work
  • Uplifted by collaborative conversations
  • Discouraged by circumstances
  • Disappointed by work that doesn’t measure up
  • Frustrated that effort doesn’t always lead to great outcomes

Um, that’s my year in a nutshell. Sometimes, I experience all six of these highs and lows in the course of a single business day.

Jim was having such a day last Tuesday, in the midst of his week-long photo adventure. He was cruising country roads, lost in thoughts of imposter syndrome. (What am I doing out here? Who do I think I am? Does anyone care about this other than me? Is this all a waste of time?)

But he had his eyes open. Just in case.

And wouldn’t you know, those eyes spied something weird and wonderful. In a landscape dotted by “tootsie rolls” of hay, five bales stood on end. Drawing closer, he discovered that some creative soul had transformed those bales into a delightful work of cartoon art. Minions! Made of hay!

Hay! That’s fun!

Jim sent me this photo just as I was tying up my own workday of highs and lows. My initial response was a smile, then a little laugh. So funny. So clever. So unusual.

The longer I looked, the more ideas and emotions began to stir. I knew this landscape. I grew up on a farm that produced hay. I live in a rural community where these bales are a common sight. And for more than a decade I’ve worked in the ag industry as a communication consultant.

Because I felt a brainstorm brewing, I set a timer and started to write. Here’s what came out of my head and onto the page:

Farming is serious business.

And seriously unpredictable.

Try as they do to control what they can, farmers cannot dictate weather patterns or market prices. With crops like corn and soybeans, they work all year toward harvest. That moment of truth that reveals how the year’s efforts pan out in terms of crop yield and financial income.

In the face of stressors like these, a few funny Minion faces are a remarkable gesture of optimism.

The artist who turned these bales into cartoon characters must have had a blast.

The property owner who commissioned the work (or created it) clearly has a tremendous sense of humor.

And I can just picture the way every passerby smiles and maybe stops to snap a photo of this roadside delight.

That’s fun.

Do you work in a serious business that’s unpredictable or stressful? What remarkable gesture of optimism could you orchestrate to change your outlook and that of everyone around you?

Have a little fun!

I shared this observation on social media and got a good response. That’s nice.

But you know what’s even better? Since last Tuesday, those hay-bale Minions have made many appearances on the landscape of my cluttered and sometimes-stressed-out brain. I’ve mentally adopted them as a mascot for myself and the Story Mode business I share with Jill Pollack.

The Story Mode motto is #RefuseToBeBoring.

We take this phrase very seriously.

  • In our workshops, we use humor and surprise to create an atmosphere of fun.
  • In our content, we choose words and images that are business-as-UNusual.
  • In our conversations with coaching clients and one another, we move in unexpected directions with what-ifs and yes-ands.

We have serious fun.

This does not mean we are never discouraged, disappointed, or frustrated. We experience hardships and challenges just like everyone else.

But we keep reminding ourselves to keep our eyes open. Just in case. Because we never know when something weird and wonderful will be around the corner, and we’re determined to make hay when the sun shines.

How might the Minions motivate you?

Jill and I have spent the past few months building the Story Mode Circle, a learning community where we’re showing people how to make business better through storytelling and creativity. One strategy we recommend is timed writing exercises like the one I described here.

Story Mode tip: When you feel your mind whirling with thoughts, grab a pen and WRITE. Get those inner ideas out into the world where you can work with them.

We’d love to show you what we’ve built. Maybe you know a person or team that could benefit from our #RefuseToBeBoring approach. Maybe even you. Contact me if you’re curious. I promise the conversation will be one of the highs in your up-and-down day.


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