My Stand-In Cheerleader: why I don’t pay motivational speakers

In the marketing department of our Central Illinois office, between the buckets of LEGOs and the cabinet of Post-Its, there lies a cardboard stand-in, left over from a trade show long since passed. It’s a silhouette of someone jumping, arms raised and knees bent.

This is my boss. She is a very serious businesswoman who only does business.

I’ll be honest, if you gave this thing some pompoms and school colors, it would have a better shot than me at making the cheer squad. Because of its perpetual sense of enthusiasm I’ve always likened it to a “shadow of glee”; a benign spectre forever over our shoulder, cheering us on through every deadline and creative roadblock.

So you can imagine my dismay when we came to work one morning to find it on the ground — right arm severed — resembling Buzz Lightyear moments after he tried to “fly” from the staircase bannister.

I was troubled by our maimed cheerleader and our thoughts of throwing it away (with the cardboard stand-in gone, I would be the only thing at the office thin enough to blow away with a strong breeze). What I’d miss most about our cheer shadow, however, is what it had come to mean to me as a symbol of where I work. On my first day at BLDD I sat at my vacant desk to see this stand-in across the room. It was one of my first impressions of the firm, that this was a place so personable and excited about their work that they chose the happiest silhouette possible to represent their image. In my tenure with BLDD I can honestly say that my first impressions of passion and excitement within the office culture have only been reinforced, and I’d like to thank this cardboard human for catalyzing those initial feelings.

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A Bachelor’s in marketing didn’t prepare me for this kind of operation, but watching every episode of M*A*S*H seven times sure did.

I’ve decided that you don’t leave a friend behind, especially when they only weigh a few ounces. I’ve Frankenstein-ed his arm back together with staples, tape, cardboard backing, and a black Sharpie to hide the tear. I might not need a cheerleader in my corner to keep me excited about the work I do here, but neither do the Dallas Cowboys, and they have 36.

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