The Richard Scarry Theory

Allison Kooser
2 min readAug 27, 2015

I’m proud of a lot of things in my work life. Awards. Accomplishments. My victory in the office cookie-baking competition.

But if I were to boil my legacy down to one thing, to one singular piece of brilliance over my (admittedly short) career, it is this: The Richard Scarry Theory.

It’s simple, really. Here’s how it works:

Pick up a Richard Scarry book. You know, the ones you read as a child. Look at the little city. See the little animal-people. Ok, internalize.

Got it?

Now listen close…

If an animal in a Richard Scarry book does not do your job, you cannot have a work emergency.

The end.

It’s really that simple. Are you a firefighter, a policeman, a doctor or a teacher? Great! Richard Scarry books are littered with your esteemed professions and there are absolutely emergencies in your lines of work that must be addressed immediately at the risk of actual human survival.

But if you are a consultant or a marketer or a finance person or a writer like I am, you do not have an emergency.

A priority? Sure. Time-sensitive assignments? Of course. Critial tasks? Yep. But at the end of the day, these are not emergencies. And when we stop pretending that they are, I think we’ll all be a whole lot better off.

There is so little that actually requires truly immediate attention, but with phones in our pockets buzzing incessantly, we are expected to be on-call and ready to respond to “urgent” requests at every hour of every day. It’s like the pagers doctors carried a decade or two ago, except that those were for actual doctors who were performing actual surgeries and delivering actual babies.

We get sucked into the whirling ball of stress that is the office fire-drill, forgetting that the term comes from responding to something that is literally on fire.

So take a deep breath. Your work matters. It’s valuable. But it’s not a matter of life or death. Richard Scarry’s Busytown did just fine without an Online Community Mananger or a Digital Strategist or a Lead Design Creative Account Copywriter Consultant Brand Executive.

High-fives to all of my fellow digital creatives. Let’s keep doing good and beautiful work. Let’s work hard and well. And let’s stop creating made-up emergencies for ourselves and one another. What do you say?

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Allison Kooser

Non-profit people-raiser, youth director, cookie baker, community development enthusiast, book worm.