Did you watch last years hit, It by Stephen King?
I didn’t! Quite frankly, I terrify easily and don’t find that enjoyable. What I did captively watch was the genius marketing around the movie – posters, trailers, billboards of red balloons tied to city sewer grates.
The ads reminded me of my own fascination with red balloons – stemming from images of innocence, love and hope – certainly things not associated with Pennywise the Dancing Clown!
My love for crimson balloons began in high school, when my grade 10 English teacher had us watch Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) – a film adored for its visual and narrative minimalism. The Red Balloon is a beautiful tale of a brilliant coloured balloon and the muted young boy who befriends it. This short film creates a beautiful relationship – intuitive, genuine, earnest and wonderful – between a balloon and boy. The film has very little dialogue but it’s unforgettable that the balloon is constantly rejected by everyone but the young boy. The boy is the only one that the balloon allows to hold its rope! Trust.
Why was this film so unforgettable?
The genius of The Red Balloon is that it's a metaphor for childhood itself. In childhood, the world around is a glorious place that can only be sullied by the people who have lost their youthful perceptions. I remember, in the film, kids wanted to destroy the balloon, mobs feared it because they didn’t understand its magic, and others envied it because they wanted what they didn’t have.
What does the film tell us about today?
In a way, this is the dilemma of exuberance as we get older: discouragement can seem like it’s everywhere, people are afraid of what's new, and we can struggle when the people around us become successful and we’re stuck.
How can it help us professionally?
Challenge, change, uncertainty, aversion to risk – all hold us back as we get older – we can become complacent and dejected. To be honest, avoiding this type of cynicism and despair has been a huge, everyday challenge for me – but one that I take seriously. And one that the red balloon metaphor has helped overcome. It makes me focus on things that are exclusive to me, things that cynicism and despair would ruin. Things that make me feel like I’m the only one who can hold the rope. Finding and celebrating these cherry red balloons has gradually built my purpose in and out of the office. While, consciously finding new ways to discover more balloons has unlocked passions, opened the door to relationships, and provided the heartbeat of many conversations.
Here’s the important thing – take some time for reflection – introspection will allow you to watch cynicism and despair detach and float away. You become more hopeful. And most importantly, you can be fearless in pursuit of what makes you happy.
So, while marketing departments spend billions to try to make us feel like kids again, I keep trying to find balloons in my personal life that remind me there is always hope in exuberance. Keep a firm grip on your balloons – stay forever young.
Need more red balloon metaphors?
Feel free to post a comment on what this image means to you ... letting go or chasing?