An attempt to break a world record is stifled by the economy, but that won’t stop Virgil Robinson
This holiday season, Santa Cruz’s Virgil Robinson had hoped to fill shopping malls across America with 100,000 Santa Clauses.
The plan was to break the Guinness Book of World Records’ “largest gathering of Santa Clauses” that was set last year in Derry City, Northern Ireland, where 12,965 people congregated in a jolly mass of red and white. Robinson spent the past two and a half months planning the Dec. 20 event, teaming up with major retail property owners to host and market the gathering. His vision was primarily for a massive Santa turn-out in the Bay Area, but malls across the country were geared up for participation. The feat seemed achievable enough until sponsors began pulling out over Thanksgiving weekend—a bittersweet holiday for the enthused Robinson.
The malls withdrew first, soon followed by the Santa suit manufacturers who had promised discounts to participants. They blamed it on the economy. Nearly a week after receiving the news, Robinson is still distraught over canceling the event but doesn’t blame the sponsors for bearing the brunt of brutal economic times.
“I’ve been agonizing over what has happened,” he says. “When we started planning the event we didn’t realize the economy was going to take this spin. Maybe the universe is saying this isn’t the time.”
Luckily for Robinson, there’s always next year. He feels that this missed opportunity to victoriously claim the world record for largest Santa gathering is an opportunity in itself. “We didn’t have a sufficient amount of time to make things happen anyway,” he says. “Now we have a whole year!” He expects the economy will be more nurturing to a record-breaking congregation of cheer this time next year.
This relentlessly positive attitude is what motivated Robinson to organize the Santa gathering, and many others like it, as part of the Possibility Advocate Society, a networking organization he founded earlier this year.
“What I’m trying to do is get people out of their comfort zone and do something fun,” he says. “We often stop ourselves from doing something because it precedes danger or because people will look at us funny, and that stops a lot of creativity. I do these events to say to members of our group, ‘Laugh at yourself a little bit, it’s okay.’”
The event wasn’t about religion, nor was it about Christmas; it was about “encouraging bold action” – the motto of the Possibility Advocate Society.
The Society began with a T-shirt. While working through a strategy plan for his job, Robinson, who is a “Candidate Advocate” by trade (he provides career-coaching to VPs, directors and managers), became fed up with the constant interference of devil’s advocates and his own internal critic. He felt smothered by the weight of a society that is quick to judge and discourage, and was inspired to create a counterpart: a Possibility Advocate. Largely as a joke, he made a t-shirt that had the term on the front and the definition on the back. Sporting his new shirt on Pacific Avenue, it became clear that the idea of a Possibility Advocate wasn’t just a laughing matter. The large reaction he got from passersby validated his idea that such an advocate was needed, and the Possibility Advocates Society was born.
“I would have never thought that creating a t-shirt, my single and solitary act of rebellion against my internal critic and devil’s advocate, would have lead me down this path,” he says. “Life is full of jokes.”
The Possibility Advocates Society is now an optimistic army in a full-fledged battle against the Devil’s Advocate and its cohorts, including but not limited to the Naysayer, the Dream Killer, the Pessimist, and the Hater. On the group’s website, at meetings and via “fun, silly” gatherings like the nixed Santa Claus convention, Robinson aims to “help people find ways to make things happen.” He believes the world will be a better place once ideas are honored, not shot down.
“When ideas do make it out, as far as verbalizing it to friends or relatives, there is no shortage of people who want to play devil’s advocate,” he says. “We should encourage people to think about why things are possible before they start being a critic or criticizing peoples’ ideas.”
The idea to break the world record for Santa Clauses may be on hiatus until Christmas 2009, but Robinson remains certain that it’s possible. In the meantime, he has planned other chances for the Possibility Advocates to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, including the “largest Afro-wig photo shoot” on March 28 in Santa Cruz.
Visit PossibilityAdvocateSociety.com for more information about the group, upcoming events, and local opportunities to break world records.