Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Dream of the Big Tomato

He was a winsome lad of some thirty summers.

There. The first line has been posted and the blog is ready to be cranked up. This is my first post in this blog. I've attempted blogging before and each attempt has been quietly laid to rest after a while because its coverage was somehow limited to some facets of my personality or experiences that I've felt needed to be highlighted. Never again! This shall be a catch-all for the myriad of my experiences and the many hues of the colourful personality I am. Meaning book reviews, family bliss (or blitz), work, management, technology, the world of consulting and outsourcing and not least faith and worldview.

As I said, he (yours truly) was a lad of some thirty summers when he read the book 'Me, Myself and Bob' by Phil Vischer, the redoubtable polymath who breathed life into Bob, Larry, Junior and countless other talking vegetables in 1992. Yep, I'm talking about 'VeggieTales'.

For those who know VeggieTales and have been curious enough to do a Google search on it, Vischer's name should not be new. His innovations in Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) as an animator and use of this new form of animation in the early nineties to create talking vegetable characters telling Bible stories, singing songs and teaching life lessons to kids of all ages made his company 'Big Idea' a household name. The book chronicles his life, mostly focused on his years with Big Idea, its meteoric rise (growing 3300 percent in 4 years!) and its fall circa 2002-03, right down to the post-fall period giving us a glimpse into "what we have learned today".

This book warms the heart like very few, especially the accounts of personal hurt when employees leave the company or were laid off under extremely daunting circumstances and when Big Idea is sued to the point of being rendered penniless by lawsuits and subsequently sold. The lessons come later in the book after the narrative has progressed past the heartwrenching details of the lawsuit, layoffs, personal tolls in the form of stress-related illness and strained relationships with dearly loved employees. Most amazingly, Vischer recounts each incident that led to the fall of the company summarily in 2-3 pages and asking himself and the readers who could possibly be blamed for it all. He puts forward suggestions that the reader knows he will only withdraw shortly. Sure enough, the finger points to himself. This was a truly humble and humbling account and those who would see only pitfalls here (as I read a former employee's review- I doubt he/she had actually read through the entire book) should beware lest they be guilty of what Vischer isn't in this narrative- unforgiveness. If anyone had a reason to be bitter and look for someone else to blame, surely it was he. After all, highly experienced executives couldn't see the disaster about to befall Big Idea, much less this kid from Iowa who just had a big dream. No, he graciously excuses his employees and even empathizes with those fans and employees whose bitterness and anger he says portray their dream betrayed, just as his was.

Vischer sums up his lessons towards the end and these too are insights that entrepreneurs would do well to listen to. Not just entrepreneurs, but kids. Kids with dreams. These are not the words of a management guru who is paid to research, but those of a man who has been there and learned them in the fire. Amazingly again, this book ends with an about turn on dreams toward the waiting arms of God where one is content to just wait on Him and realize He is enough. When CS Lewis makes statements like 'Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world', we all attach meanings to it from our experiences. Hearing others' stories makes see that much more of truth. Suffice it to say that this book has an ending that makes sense. This is not like an Arundhati Roy or Sartre in the vein of 'I laughed so hard till I cried'. There is meaning and hope in the end. But that's your to find out. 'Nuff said, no more of this and no more giving the contents away. Get the book on Amazon, order it in your local library or see Phil's website for more information:

Those of us from Chicagoland, Phil lives right here, in or near Wheaton, I think.

1 comment:

alma said...


Well, the good thing about having an enthusistic reader at home is that, you really do not have to read anything! However, being a fan of VeggieTales myself, the next on my agenda is to get my hands on the book, before the fine starts kicking in!

I hope this time the Blog takes off...good luck and all my support.