IMG_2847 Madison Ave. Mad Men. Image and reality. True stories and sort of true stories and not-so true stories. 

Last week I was in New York City, very close to Madison Ave, thinking about the stories of our lives. Where do they come from? Who tells them? Should we believe them?

Having watched most of “Mad Men”— falling, falling, falling as they do —I was intrigued by another story, this one of a company called “FiveStone,” which offers a different way to imagine the meaning of the marketplace. As their website puts it:

“For 14 years FiveStone has inspired and supported a generation of innovators working to solve the world’s biggest problems. Our partners share one thing in common: the guts to take the unconventional path bringing forth human flourishing, dignity, and sustainability in all areas of their business. We assist those efforts through crafting unique stories, discovering new opportunities, and designing brands that transcend the visual.”

Brought into being by Jason Locy, a Virginian now living in Brooklyn, his company tells stories about ideas, about organizations, about businesses, doing their best to tell the truth about the way things are in a way that is imaginative, compelling, and engaging. Not spinning, but instead listening carefully and then creatively offering windows into what honestly is, even as every one of us dreams of what might be— doing something that is rare, but is at the heart of the best stories, always. 

The day before I got there he was in Detroit at work for a client whose work is to bring renewal to debilitated schools. Nothing very romantic about that, but seeing his labor as written into the calling to seek the flourishing of the city— wherever the city may be found —he has drawn his team of creatives around what the schools are doing, what still needs to be done, and what help they need to accomplish their vision. 

IMG_2848One shelf in their office is devoted to Tegu Blocks, another client, whose hard work and global vision has brought into the marketplace a toy that children love. (I know, being the grandfather of two that love their Tegu Blocks!) All kinds of creative play is possible with a little help from a magnet built into the colored blocks of every different shape. As their website tells their tale:

“We believe that every child possess the unhindered ability to build, create, and imagine. And they aren’t only creating towering block structures and backyard tree forts, they are building their futures. Inside each Tegu block we pack the power to dream about that future.”

The day before I was with the leadership of the Praxis Labs, another client of FiveStone, whose own remarkable vision and creativity is drawing together entrepreneurs from all over the world who want their labors to both do well and do good. (Tegu Blocks is one of those efforts.) And some will know of the work of Q, the yearly and more gathering of people in the cities of America to think about and work on complex questions at the heart of our common good; they too are a client of FiveStone. 

Watching “Mad Men” as I have over the last few years, seeing Donald Draper fall and fall and fall some more, seeing how very hard it is to imagine the life and work of Madison Avenue to be anything other than SPIN (with a capital S), it was a grace to enter into another way to be human, seeing that it is possible to live and work and have one’s being right in the middle of Manhattan, and at the end of the day, still stand, with one’s integrity intact— knowing that all of us have flourished more fully because of their good work.

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

Meet Steve