Month: March 2017

Cape Fear

When it comes to self examination for almost all aspects of life, there are those we can take head on, and those that constantly are put off till tomorrow.

The ironic thing for me in particular, is that in my head I constantly think about the changes I have made. Lifestyle, diet, alcohol, caffeine, meat, dairy all have been either altered or removed from my life. And due to this, there has been one area of my life that I deemed almost immune from being adjusted or ejected.

Self medicating, for all intensive purposes, has always been an escape for me. It started as a way to change the mindset or thought process I was currently in. Then it modulated to the goto when dealing with stress, or the only thing I could lean on to assist me falling asleep.

Soon the lens in which I viewed smoking changed again, as it was the last piece of lifestyle that I could hold on to. I felt I had no choice in the other changes, but this was still fine to be left alone from criticism and reversal.

No one told me to go vegan, no one said stop drinking, stop using caffeine. I made these choices because I felt they were in the best interest of my health. But Mary Jane’s flowers were somehow not a problem worth addressing. So what is the cause of continued avoidance to address this?

Fear. Fear of being sober. Fear of giving up something that I “think” I need. Fear that I wont beas happy without it. Fear that once I give up this crutch I have nothing to fall back on as an excuse. Why I didn’t start that business, why I didn’t go out with friends, why I didn’t have the courage to go talk to the girl who caught my eye.

Beneath every addiction is an underlying story of the true issue at hand. Its time that I found out what is really causing this dependance and change my relationship with smoking.

Inspiration or Innovation

Time is a teacher. With age, fundamental shifts in my perspective have emerged that I neither anticipate nor ask for and that, ultimately, highlight how little I know about much of anything. Examples abound, but one such shift took place while viewing a 2005 Bezos recording about “taking on the challenge” of entrepreneurship.

We’re hopefully in agreement that Bezos is one of the greatest businesspeople in recent memory and, even in February 2005 — when Amazon was priced at roughly $35 (you do the math) — it’s apparent that he excels at something so common among the brilliant: namely, making complex ideas accesible to the layman.

His resonating point concerns how people approach the generation of new ideas. To many, myself included, the easiest way to frame or define idea generation is by attributing a new thought or concept to inspiration — the proverbial “light bulb” going off. We all have ideas, and chalking this up to some random inspiration multiplier that functions slightly differently from one person to the next makes it easier to rationalize that some will inevitably have better ideas than others.

Bezos describes this as people seeing a problem that annoys them, which then motivates them to find a solution; inspiration strikes to offer solutions to the annoyance. For as long as humans have been conscious enough to be annoyed, these moments of inspiration have spawned the creation of tools, technology, art, acts of charity, WD-40 and so on. But far more frequently, inspiration yields little more than a moment of self-congratulation and a passing “I should write that down” which we quickly forget once we’re confronted with the menu at Starbucks.

How Bezos continues is what struck me:

Sometimes you can work this from the backwards direction and, in fact, in high-tech I think a lot of the innovation sometimes comes from this direction. You see a new technology or there’s something out there, some new understanding in the world, and you work backwards from a solution to find the appropriate problem.

The process that Bezos identifies is the opposite of inspiration. He points to the conscientious and active channeling of brainpower to identify an annoyance before it strikes — in my mind, innovation. Where inspiration is fleeting and self-indulgent, innovation is pointed and educated. Understanding a market takes time, particularly from the outside looking in. To further bet on this market by inventing and investing in solutions to problems or annoyances that have not yet emerged: that’s vision, that’s insight, that’s innovation.

It takes but a few moments to connect the dots between recently notable founders and markets they upended through conscious and calculated innovation. Daniel wasn’t a record producer, Brian didn’t run hotels, the Jennifers weren’t dry cleaner franchisees. In each case, the market silently screamed for attention and they tuned in to the frequency before anybody else cared to actively listen.

Why so personally pivotal? Because it’s easiest to explain the success of our innovators by attributing it to a moment of inspiration that the divine weren’t kind enough to impart upon us personally. It acts as both an excuse — “well, the idea didn’t come to me” — and an exemption — “…so I didn’t do the work”. A naive avoidance of giving credit where credit is clearly due which also serves as a method for conveniently excluding ourselves from the ranks of the exceptional.

As a person who closely guards the idea journaling habit, this perspective gave me pause. The “billion dollar partnerships” formed over a few pints, the woodshed inventors that tinker for a lifetime, the silent genius that keeps her ideas hidden from the world are legion. While I doubt it was his intention, in just a few sentences Bezos sent a chilling message: maybe the majority of our most successful doers find themselves there because it was their exact intention. The partners wrote the business plan, the invention left the woodshed, the silent genius chose not to keep silent.

Waiting for the mythical “right idea” is just that, a myth. An individual with an authentic passion to change the way we humans interact with our world, despite best intentions, may wait on inspiration for a lifetime. But the hard-won progress of innovation, that’s available to us whenever we’re ready to hunker down and do the work.

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