I lost my grandfather last year.

He was a great man. A real “man’s man” type of guy. A mix of Johnny Cash, Bill Gaither, and Ted Nugent. He took me to the Upper Peninsula to hunt, ride 4-wheelers through swamps, and drown brand new trucks in rivers.

I learned, probably more inherited, my perspective in life from my grandfather. He was a self-starter. He owned gas stations, property, car dealerships, and a host of other businesses he started from the ground up. He had a great enthusiasm for life and seemed almost addicted to the risk it took to become successful.

One of his great lines that we spoke of at his funeral was, “There’s no romance in a straight line.” I first heard him say this when I was 12 years old while helping him with some landscaping. At the time, all it meant was it would be annoying to place bark down because there were a bunch of curved edges. Yet as I grew older, I finally realized what he was teaching me.

We often get hung up on what we think the right path is. We think we’re in control of our lives, our business, our projects. We think we can map things out, and if we’re diligent, all should go according to plan. Our only concern is getting from point A to point B.

I personally have a strange dichotomy I work within; I travel between being the guy who wants to organize and control a process versus being the guy who understands I can’t control all the variables. I try my hardest to execute everything in a straight line, only to end up frustrated or anxious that things aren’t going as anticipated. I now realize anxiety sits hardest on my shoulders when I put the weight of the world on them.

We think we can map things out, and if we're diligent, all should go according to plan.

But where is the romance in that? If projects and business (and life in general) went exactly as planned, the special spark that makes things truly unique and beautiful wouldn’t exist. Most of the great moments I look back on, even the painful moments, are unplanned and spontaneous. The moments I didn’t plan. The moments requiring personal growth. These curves seem to give life the most meaning.

They say life imitates art, and the further I go in life, the more I begin to understand this. We, at TBX, straddle the line between art and design. Design has rules. Design has goals. Design has constraints. Art, on the other hand, is flexible. Art takes courage, risk, and vulnerability. Art requires a person to suffer through their deep subconscious questions.

On a daily basis, my team straddles this line in their work. Design is the easy part. But it’s when they extend themselves toward art that I become especially proud of them. When they are willing to try something different. When they put their egos aside and become vulnerable enough to place themselves on the line and look at things from another angle. Or, when they take ownership of a process they’ve never tackled before. This is when everything stops being linear and the romance comes into view.

I’ve learned, rather inherited the belief, that it’s only when we stretch beyond the linear and embrace the curves that we experience the truly meaningful moments in life. Thanks, Grandpa.