The engineer Buckminster Fuller is often cited for his use of trim tabs as a metaphor for leadership and personal empowerment. In the February 1972 issue of Playboy, Fuller said:
The official newsletter of the Buckminster Fuller Institute is called "Trimtab" and there's a reference to the name carved in a stone at Fuller's grave.
At age 31, R. Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller found himself penniless (with a wife and small child to support) after he had lost all of his and a good deal of others' money in a failed business. Reflecting on his experiences, he discovered that he had been happy, effective and prosperous in direct relation to the number of people in whose interest he was working at any given moment.
Maximum happiness, effectiveness and prosperity, he reasoned, could only be achieved by working for ALL people, everywhere. A true scientist, he made the rest of his life an explicitly documented, public experiment designed to test this hypothesis, and seems to have done very well, indeed.
He is probably best known for his geodesic domes, but he also invented all kinds of other things that do more with less. His goal was nothing less than the total eradication of scarcity (and the conflicts created by the politics of scarcity) on this small planet, which he dubbed 'Spaceship Earth.' A true visionary, he once said, "I just invent things and then wait for humanity to discover the need for them."
The author of numerous books and articles in his lifetime, and countless patents and technical designs, he offers this in the opening of his last book, titled Critical Path. Sometimes the challenge of writing an invitation, trying to discover just what it is that we really want to happen, approaches the poet's challenge.
We all see things differently. Seeing is sensing. Hearing is sensing. Touching is sensing. Smelling is sensing. What each of us happens to sense is different. And our different senses are differently effective under ever-differing circumstances. Our individual brains coordinatingly integrate all the ever-different faculties. The integrated product of our multifold individual sensings produces awareness. Only through our sensings are we aware of the complementary "otherness."
Awareness of the "otherness" is information. The complex of successively experienced informations produces interweaving episodes -- and the complex of special-case-episode-interweavings produces the scenario that our brain's memory banks identify as our individual being's "life."
The way only-our-own, individual integrity of being responds spontaneously only to our own exclusive sensing of any given otherness episode is what I mean when I use the word feeling: How do I feel about life? How do I feel about it now? ...and again now? Our feelings often change. What do I feel that I need to do about what I am feeling?
One of the many wonderful human beings that I've known who has affected other human beings in a markedly inspiring degree was e.e. cummings, the poet.
He wrote a piece called "A Poet's Advice," which I feel elucidates why "little I," fifty-three years ago at age thirty-two, jettisoned all that I had ever been taught to believe and proceeded thereafter to reason and act only on the basis of direct personal experience. Cumming's poem also explains why, acting entirely on my own initiative, I sought to discover what, if anything, can be effectively accomplished by a penniless, unknown individual -- operating only on behalf of all humanity -- in attempting to produce sustainingly favorable physical and metaphysical advancement of the integrity of all human life on our planet, which omnihuman advantaging task, attemptable by the individual, is inherently impossible of accomplishment by any nation, private enterprise, religion or other multipeopled, bias-fostering combination thereof.
Fuller also offers the following, as if to remind us that writer's block is no longer an excuse -- or even an option. Can you imagine getting such a letter as a ten-year-old? ...and so good that we've still got some time left to work...
Each year I receive and answer many hundreds of unsolicited letters from youth anxious to know what the little individual can do. One such letter from a young man named Michael -- who is ten years old -- asks whether I am a "doer or a thinker." Although I never "tell" anyone what to do, I feel it quite relevant at this point to quote my letter to him explaining what I have been trying to do in the years since my adoption of my 1927-inaugurated self-disciplinary resolves. The letter, dated February 16, 1970, reads:
The political and economic systems and the political and economic leaders of humanity are not in final examination; it is the integrity of each individual human that is in final examination. On personal integrity hangs humanity's fate. You can deceive others, you can deceive your brain-self, but you can't deceive your mind-self -- for mind deals only in the discovery of truth and the interrelationship of all the truths. The cosmic laws with which mind deals are noncorruptible.
Cosmic evolution is omniscient God comprehensively articulate.
From Critcial Path by R. Buckminster Fuller. © 1981 by R. Buckminster Fuller. Published by St. Martin's Press, New York.
If you knew what you were doing, it's going to probably open up some very great treasures, but those don't belong to you. When I find myself being introduced to many audiences, because I do really meet thousands of them, I am often, usually, being introduced in very generous ways, and being called names like genius. I am in a hurry to point out that everybody is born genius, and that if there is anything important about me at all it is that I am a demonstration of what an average healthy human being can do if he's dis-embarrassed of the nonsense that he has to earn a living and really commits himself to what the Universe is trying to do!
I am now so confident, having been going through this for almost a half century. I assure you the getting on was very difficult. It's a big slow cycle and there's no place where you can ever say, "I am being supported now for what I did there." It's completely disconnected. It's simply a matter of acting in integrity, and you find somehow or other that you get on. [...]
Therefore, at this point in my life, I don't feel I'm being precious to a young world when I say you can really forget altogether about earning a living, provided you really commit yourself to the other man. If you're doing something that's going to make you feel good, if you're playing ego.you would like to make some important.no, don't do this. You can only do this if you really commit yourself truly, syntropically, to the idea and synergetically, it has to be everybody or nobody. It's really out and out.
I've introduced to you lots of patterns tonight, and I've been trying to explore principles. I think I've had enough experience with what I'm talking about to say I can now eliminate this as being just a coincidence about this. But I'll tell you, in learning to be able to say that, I had to make many, many mistakes. Any number of times, when I did get cold feet or somebody else getting cold feet on my behalf, saying, "Come over and take this job --" things always went wrong when you went over. You had to commit absolutely to the complete deep end or it doesn't work. So you have to work with an incredible faith in the integrity of our Universe.
--R. Buckminster Fuller