In 1879, Ferdinand Cheval was a postman in France who tripped on a strangely shaped stone and stumbled awkwardly forward. He was 43 years old.
This would not normally be news but Cheval continued to stumble awkwardly forward each day for 33 more years. His was not the 10,000 hours to excellence championed by Malcolm Gladwell. Cheval stumbled forward for more than 10,000 days. The miracle he left behind in his garden is protected by France as a cultural landmark and admired by more than 120,000 visitors each year.
Ferdinand Cheval was our brand of crazy.
Just like you and me, Cheval initially dismissed his strange idea for fear that people would think he was crazy. But when the idea came back to him like a boomerang thrown by an Australian shepherd boy, he said, “Screw it. Let’s do this thing.”
The next day, Cheval gathered cement and wire and picked up rocks while walking his 18-mile postal route.
In a dream I had built a palace, a castle or caves, I cannot express it well… I told no one about it for fear of being ridiculed and I felt ridiculous myself. Then fifteen years later, when I had almost forgotten my dream, when I wasn’t thinking of it at all, my foot reminded me of it. My foot tripped on a stone that almost made me fall. I wanted to know what it was… It was a stone of such a strange shape that I put it in my pocket to admire it at my ease. The next day, I went back to the same place. I found more stones, even more beautiful, I gathered them together on the spot and was overcome with delight… It’s a sandstone shaped by water and hardened by the power of time. It becomes as hard as pebbles. It represents a sculpture so strange that it is impossible for man to imitate, it represents any kind of animal, any kind of caricature. I said to myself: since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture”
In the 8th Psalm, David considers outer space and then asks a question of God:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which you have ordained,
What is man that you are mindful of him,
And the son of man that you visit him?
For you have made him a little lower than the angels,
And you have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of your hands;
You have put all things under his feet…”
The 8th Psalm doesn’t tell us whether God answered David’s question that day, but if he had, I think God’s answer might have gone something like this:
David, David, David… Have you never considered the laughter of little girls or heard the songs of singers singing or read the words of men unafraid or seen the magic that leaps from the heart of every carrier of messages?”
Ferdinand Cheval took his inspiration from where he found it, even though it was ridiculous.
My Christmas hope for you is that you might have the courage to do the same. You, too, are a carrier of messages.
Tell me, what is your ridiculous dream?
Roy H. Williams
The ridiculous dream of this man could have been the script for a Disney movie:
Tom Doyle, his wife, and seven kids started a business around their kitchen table 16 years ago. Their “big idea” was to laminate cards so that high school swimmers could track their progress without the cards getting soggy.
That kitchen-table company, Bag Tags, became the go-to company for event credentials and baggage tags throughout the United States, punching out more than 1 million tags a year for clients like the NCAA, Nike, American Cruise Lines and Genworth Financial.
Join Roving Reporter Rotbart at Tom’s kitchen table for words of encouragement for entrepreneurs who dream of starting small and growing big. MondayMorningRadio.com is where anything can happen.