An Interview with Brad Montague
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Brad Montague: encourager, New York Times bestselling author, illustrator, and creator of Kid President and The Kindness Project, who will be speaking at The Fellowship this November. I learned so much from him about storytelling and the power of imagination — I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
Q: Brad, you have your hands in so many amazing things I’m not sure I could quite describe what you do. How would you describe what you do? What’s the unifying thread throughout all of your work?
A: You could say I am an encourager. I seek to create positively disrupting experiences that help people feel vital to this world and find joy in their everyday work.
Q: We both share a passion for telling stories. Why do you think that sharing stories is important? Can you tell me about the impact you’ve seen storytelling have?
A: Through storytelling, I’ve been able to demonstrate what it looks like to imagine a better tomorrow. I genuinely believe that the things we imagine have an effect on the life we live. It causes us to approach each moment with wonder and curiosity for the things we don’t know. American novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson, inspired me with this quote, “all writing is the result of paying attention.” The more we pay attention and search for the good all around us, the more we are inspired to create from a place of joy. It’s only then that our creation impacts someone else and causes them to do the same, and that’s my goal with storytelling.
Q: One of my favorite quotes of yours is, “May your day be full of magic and may you not be too busy to see it.” Any practical tips for leaders and learners alike to make sure they aren’t missing the magic in their day?
A: Corita Kent, who was an artist back in the 60’s, was known for doing this exercise where she’d give people a small square to look through, and let them pay attention to the little glimpse they see. It would open their eyes to see things they had never noticed in a room before, with a fresh perspective. They would walk away amazed, and with a renewed outlook that would allow them to see the rest of the world in a new light. I think that is one of the most practical ways to make sure you don’t miss the magic: slow down, allow yourself to pay attention to your surroundings and be in awe of the world around you. When you take time to delight in those small details, you will find beauty and inspiration everywhere you go.
- Along those same lines, in your book, Becoming Better Grownups, you share that children “described adults as people who work a lot, talk about work a lot, complain about work a lot, and miss things because of work a lot.” Is it possible to find a balance between responsibilities and playfulness (regardless of whether or not we have children)? How can we reframe the way we talk about work and responsibilities?
A: I’ve asked kids in all 50 states what they thought of adults and it all came down to a common theme: adults are busy and boring. This saddened me. Kids are always watching our every move, and, especially when they are our own kids, they are looking to see if we have joy in what we are doing with our lives. One of the most compelling experiences is to watch someone bring life to the world through their work and feel joy as they’re doing it. To me, one of the ways I make this possible in my own life is by looking at my to-do’s and deciding what is actually necessary. I complete the tasks that are necessary, and I play and have fun with the to-do’s in my life that are not essential.
Q: The book you’re releasing later this month, The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination, is a children’s book but what do you think executives that care about culture building within their organizations could learn from this book?
A: I believe one of the biggest problems in today’s culture is we have forgotten how to imagine. Imagination is one of our greatest resources, but so often we misuse it because we imagine the worst-case scenarios and we worry. The goal of this book is to help executives and cultural leaders imagine a better tomorrow and see the world through a fresh, brighter lens just like a child. It’s then that leaders can put their minds to a successful future, because they’ve imagined it themselves, therefore they will live it out.
Q: You spoke to a room full of organizational culture enthusiasts at The Fellowship this past November — and more are reading this right now. As a storyteller, what words of wisdom feel most essential to pass on to these leaders?
A: I want every leader to know it is worth it. Imagining is worth it. The effort it takes to look for the best in the people around you and in your current situation is worth it. I want leaders to actually believe their dreams matter. If they believe it, and they imagine it and are intentional in their every day, they will live out those dreams.
So thankful for this conversation with Brad Montague and this gentle reminder to pay attention to the beauty of what’s around. No matter where we are there is always an opportunity to see the good and imagine a better tomorrow.
P.S. If you haven’t yet heard of The Fellowship, it’s an event I founded back in 2018 to support culture builders in their effort to build and sustain cultures of enduring greatness. Learn more here and claim your spot today!