“Of all the ways to create [meaningful] work one is more crucial to our time than all the others. It is crucial because it has been most roundly neglected during the industrial era. I am speaking of ritual.”
Matthew Fox: The Reinvention of Work
In his book on the craft of writing, novelist Stephen King describes the ritual he goes through every single morning before he sits down to write. Steve Pressfield does the same thing in his book The War of Art.
Mark “the bird” Fidrych was one of the most popular baseball pitchers of all time, but not just because he was a great pitcher. The fans loved him because of his unquenchable enthusiasm and genuine love of the game – and because of his rituals. Including talking to the ball. When he was asked if the ball ever talked back, he would reply, “The only time that happens is when it’s going over the fence, it yells back to me that I shouldn’t have thrown that pitch.” How could you not love such a guy? (Want to know more: check out The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych by Doug Wilson.)
Rituals can also have enormous identity-shaping power for organizations: each of the eight legendary business leaders described in my book All Hands on Deck: 8 Essential Lessons for Building a Culture of Ownership used rituals to craft and shape organizations whose cultures have stood the test of time. In building IBM into one of the most successful organizations in the history of the world, Tom Watson Senior ritualized virtually everything – the white shirts, the sales approach – they even had an IBM song book and salesmen (back then they were all men) would start their days with the IBM Fight Song, much in the way that Sam Walton built the early Wal-Mart culture by having people start their days with the Wal-Mart cheer.
Having little rituals, such as starting your day with a full-throated lion roar, and at work gathering a group every day for that day’s promise of The Self-Empowerment Pledge, can revitalize and reenergize you and the people around you.
And the best time to begin rituals in your life and your work is often when your world has turned upside down.