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I live in a college town.  This past week the students returned.  They are different from me.  They were programed early in this century.   Their early life experiences result in them seeing a different set of things as significant than I do.

Significant ObjectsIn their book, Significant Objects: 100 extraordinary stories about ordinary things, Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker make a compelling case for how we place value on items based on the stories attached to the items.  Depending on when you grew up, you collected a unique set of stories about the stuff around you at the time.

Each August, Beloit College publishes their annual Mindset List.  It is created each year as a guide to the entering freshman class.  The class of 2017 was born in 1995 and for them Java has never been a cup of coffee, and Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at a parents’ weekend.  The list tells the story of their early years. They grew up on Wi-Fi, have always had a Social Security number, and getting a cell phone was a bigger rite of passage than a driver’s license.

thinkeagle_webIn a few weeks, Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore will host their annual thinkAbout in Washington, D.C. They are the authors of The Experience Economy in which they describe the shift to an experience-based economy.  Those attending will no doubt be challenged to see the city through the prism of the stories it holds for all Americans. The city is full of iconic objects with stories that pre-date many of us.  These stories transcend when you were born or where.  They are the stories we share.

As you look around your life, there are likely to be a couple of sets of significant objects.  One set with stories that make them significant to you alone … just open “that drawer” in your desk or dresser.  And another set that are valued due to the stories shared with others.

  • What are the objects with shared significance? 
  • Which set of objects would you take with you in an emergency?