Astonish Me

I read a riveting Fast Company Co.Design article about Alexey Brodovitch, the long-term art director for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, the other week.  Brodovitch was a pioneer in graphic design who would not be confined by perceived limitations. He was brilliant.

Photo credit:

By no means am I a fashionista, or even an art expert… so more than Brodovitch’s accolades and accomplishments, I was captivated by his desire to exceed expectations. In fact, he constantly challenged  his colleagues to “Astonish me.” He saw the expected and went beyond that. He wasn’t satisfied with industry standards. Rather than get caught up in the deliverables, he cultivated ‘bold-thinking’ and visioneered something bigger than himself.

The  article transitioned to a business-focus where the author spoke on how Brodovitchian thinking has infiltrated his experience with big and small design firms. It’s a fascinating article. Near the end, he continues with what he feels the difference factor is:

What sets famous, successful brands apart from obscure, struggling ones can be reduced to one fundamental value: ambition. Not the Porsche-driving, Rolex-wearing, eighties kind of ambition, but the kind that says, “We are only going to be here for a while, so why don’t we invest everything we do with real meaning? Why don’t we make every communication we put out there a gift? Why don’t we stop waiting for ‘the perfect opportunity’ and make this one as perfect as it can possibly be? Why don’t we stop making excuses for our mediocrity and use our talents and our influence to make this package, this commercial, this poster something special?”

Solid, right?

Translating this into our own lives…

1. Be present and engaged with my family. Give them my voice and attention — they deserve it.
2. Are my words kind, affirming, and encouraging?
3. How can I be intentional where I am right now (instead of waiting for the ‘perfect opportunity’)?
4. Live in your gifts.

On top of all this, as believers we have another ‘difference factor’: Christ in us, the hope of glory. We don’t have to rely on our own strength to do any of this. We trust in a God who sustains, loves, and provides at all costs.


How can you astonish someone this week?
Do you have a favorite piece of art? 


41 Responses to “Astonish Me”

  1. Jason Vana October 10, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    Astonish me – I like that. I know I tend to settle for mediocrity too much in some of the projects I do. Time to step it up!

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      Don’t settle. Like that!

  2. kristinherdy October 10, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    I can astonish this week through teaching — I set out to be the most dynamic, involved, present instructor these students will see all week.

    I love stained glass art. The windows of churches are a fascination for me. I love the stories of the Bible and symbols of the church laid out in textured glass. I think it’s beautiful

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      I love stained glass as well. Grew up going to a lutheran school and always loved the chapel time bc of that.

  3. Arny October 10, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    How about handwriting them a letter….lol…nice one huh?…

    I think that would be awesome!

    Starry Night…is cool…

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

      A handwritten note would certainly astonish someone! :)

  4. Michael Perkins October 10, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Love the astonish me line. I read Godin’s Linchpin a few weeks back and it literally changed me. I’m all for giving gives and doing my best to contribute my art.

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

      I’ll have to checkout linchpin, thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Moe October 10, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    I think (and this is going to sound corny since it was the theme at Catalyst)that for me it is being present. Make people know that they matter, that they have my attention. In a world of many distractions, it helps when you are present. Intentionally present.

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

      Intentionally present. Love that. I’ll admit, even though I’m physically there at times doesn’t always mean I’m present and engaged.

  6. Keri October 10, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Duuuude, NICE pop parable!

    For me this idea of being astonishing is being excellent. Approaching my life’s work with excellence, persistence and discipline. Sure, I can’t be perfect at those things, but God certainly does ask me to give my very best. He doesn’t want me to just bide my time in anything.

    I love art, in many different forms. If you consider music art, that is certainly my most favorite kind, next to novels. I also enjoy the visual arts: paintings, mixed media, etc, but I find it harder to garner meaning out of those.

    • Arny October 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

      Music art is definitly my fav too keri!!! lol…

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

      Music for sure. Hard to argue with that! Thx for the comment, Keri.

  7. Larry Hehn October 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Yep, solid!

  8. Cindy Holman October 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Very good Dustin. Live in your gifts – great stuff. I think being “in the moment” is very important the little things are all part of the journey and pass by too quickly is we’re always looking forward to something else. That’s hard for me. I need to relish and live in every moment that’s given to me.

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

      Live in the moment = especially true with kids, right?

  9. Jon October 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    When I think of astonish me , I think about being the person God created me to be. Free of fears/reservations, and just diving in.

    I’m with Keri, music is my favorite kind of art.

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

      Right on, Jon. When we do that we are unique, fascinating and certainly astonishing.

  10. Luther Wesley October 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm #


    The LORD of Glory dwells within me and I am to reflect His LIGHT into the world dispelling the darkness. Our lives should should astonish those around us, it should even astonish us that the Creator of the Universe would condescend to call us His own.

    I must admit that the last couple weeks have been less than astonishing for me. It is good to have a reminder that our God is faithful and true and that His love is astonishing. He never settled for ” industry standards ” and neither should we.

    Thanks for the post

    • Dustin October 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

      Excellent comment, Luther. When you put it that way, you can’t help but be encouraged.

  11. Rob Shepherd October 10, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Love that quote! Great stuff. I tend to wait for the perfect opportunity. Love this challenge.

  12. Jim F October 10, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Good post.

    Astonish me – it certainly keeps away mediocrity and that is certainly an enemy to what God plans for us in life.

    My favorite art – those 3D pictures you have to stare at to eventually see what is really in the picture. Yep that is my favorite art – and truth be told – I can see the picture in them too!

    • Dustin October 11, 2011 at 11:58 am #

      I remember those! Always messed with my eyes… :)

  13. Jason October 11, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Great post Dustin, I’ve recently realized that I want to astonish my family too – it is amazing how hard it is to be present with them… but it is also amazing how far the ‘being present’ goes in showing them their value and place in my heart. For example adventures to the backyard are always astonishing for my sons! What I want to be astonished by is what Jesus has for me right NOW, this moment. Again, I appreciate your thoughts!

    • Dustin October 11, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      cool, thanks for the comment jason – appreciate you stopping by. i can relate to the family part for sure. when i’m with them, being fully engaged is something they truly enjoy.

  14. seekingpastor October 11, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    It seems easy to astonish some people just by being kind to them. Which is awfully sad.

    • Dustin October 11, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      especially nowadays, yes… how true…

  15. chris vonada October 11, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    I loved this one Dustin! We all have a choice to make in what we leave behind, and there is something more important than just the legacy itself… ours is so very small in comparison to His, and we owe Him all the glory. Thanks!

    • Dustin October 11, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

      thanks, chris – appreciate your thoughts!

  16. Brett October 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    It’s funny. I seem to keep hearing a lot of teaching or sermons about God’s sovereignty. Good or bad, I can’t help but relate that to my work in sales. I’m like, ‘You know, I am ultimately God’s; therefore, why not just go out there any time I can and inject my insurance work with some unexpected something here or there. Seriously–why be scared?’ In case it’s not known, there’s very little unexpected going on in the insurance world. Not many agents asking, “How can I astonish this client?” On my white board I have: “What can I add on? What is more than asked for or expected?”

    • Dustin October 25, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      Cool, Brett – thanks for sharing. Relating it to our everyday lives is important – like the way you put that.

  17. jenn October 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    Great post Dustin. I would have to say that focusing on your list would be a good place for me to start this week. Being present, using kind words, being intentional, and using the gifts God has given me.

    I like art in many forms. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite. It really depends on my mood.

    • Dustin October 25, 2011 at 11:43 am #

      Cool – let us know how it goes!

  18. Jon Stolpe October 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Favorite piece of art – The Eiffel Tower! For many during it’s time, it was just an ugly antenna. For many today, it’s a landmark. For me, it’s a memory. I proposed to my wife over 16 years ago at the top of this piece of art.

    • Dustin October 25, 2011 at 11:44 am #

      And the ‘art’ is significant to you. Even better!

  19. Justin October 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    This is beautiful man….”bold thinking” arouse much more in me than the thought of “deliverables”.

    I can astonish this week by appreciating the transformation I see in my family, our children and those I love. God is at work.

    • Dustin October 25, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      >>I can astonish this week by appreciating the transformation I see in my family, our children and those I love.

      YES! Love it man.

  20. Brad Huebert November 2, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    As a pastor, I’ve realized that it’s fairly easy to create a good sermon. Five or six hours, maybe. If I put in another hour or two, a good sermon can become great. Exceptional sermons are difficult. Squeezing that last 10% out may take another few hours of work. In other words, moving from good to exceptional might take twice the work.

    The problem is, mediocrity always whispers that good is good enough, that spending another five hours on polishing what’s already good is a waste of time. God whispers, “If this is for me, if it’s for people who need to hear from me, it’s all worth it. Every last drop of sweat and blood.”

    And it’s amazing how powerful those last few drops squeezed out can become.

    • Dustin November 2, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      excellent comment, brad. thanks for stopping by. I especially loved “mediocrity always whispers that good is good enough”. what a common lie we hear all the time.

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