The Prophets of Innovation (or The 4 Steps by Real Risk-Takers)

These days there are no lack of “experienced professionals” and “entrepreneurial prophets” professing the value, ways, outcomes, means, ends, or any other particular snake oil they are peddling about innovation and its aptly associated sibling, risk-taking. They espouse their version of the truths of innovation about the little guy making a different, or even changing, the world. The philosophize how the evil overlords of corporate <insert country name> need to be overturned and disrupted by the Ubers of the world.

Mind you, there are actually quite a few writers and bloggers and podcasters of innovation, disruptive or otherwise, that I respect and that actually have experience in doing so. These truly experienced few have done more than just write/blog/podcast about it. They’ve done it, in their particular ways. More about them later. But there are others who also do the same soliloquy of innovation and how we must all “fight the great fight” to bring our ideas to the world and leave it forever changed. Yet they’ve never done it. At least not in the way that better demonstrates taking the risks on a truly passionate and sometimes maniacal crusade to bring ones idea to the world. That way being without the cocoon of millions or thousands of corporate dollars. Without the soothing safety of organizational infrastructures that, while may be slow and bureaucratic, offer a significant reduction in the risk of jumping out of the airplane with quite the uncertainty as to whether the parachute will actually deploy. Or even having entered a “startup” at a stage where they are cashflow positive, growing money in the bank, success is certainly not guaranteed but the major hump up the hill is over. Now it’s looking for a few smaller hills to overcome.

It’s not too dissimilar to the old comical adage of the priest giving advice about premarital sex. Father, if you can’t give me real world expertise and perspectives based on your own successes and failures, I’m not willing to be a guinea pig for some textbook. There are the academic (aka I read this in a book, so now I’m gonna teach it) and there are the real world (aka I did it, I probably failed once or twice, maybe even succeeded) ways of telling the story. I’ll take the real-world every time!

Look, I’m not saying that there are not good intuitions from people in the world that could possess particularly gifted views on subjects that for some reason come naturally to them. It could happen. I would rather learn (or avoid the mistakes) from the experiences of others that have been in the trenches, have taken risks, maybe have thrown caution to the wind (such as goodbye paycheck) and given their yeomen’s go at it. Whatever it is.

In my limited experience of having thrown caution to the wind, made sacrifices from financial to professional to family, and can certainly recount my successes and failures alike, these steps seem to make sense to me as well as set themselves apart from the posers of innovation prophesying and philosophizing.

  1. Goodbye paycheck. Sure many people need to pay the bills and it’s noble to try to keep that semblance of sanity if you’re raising a family. After all, good ideas and passion don’t just come from 20 somethings with only the recurring cash need for burritos, craft beer and Uber. But there is a certain mental commitment to your passion when you’re not being recompensed for it on the 15th and 30th of every month. You’re just gonna have to cut back on that $200 a month crossfit gym membership or coming up on the latest Tesla S waitlist.
  2. Living the life…NOT. When one is pursuing their passion of truly changing the world, the late afternoon yoga class and Thursday night book club tend to take a backseat. There is NO 9-to-5 in the world of truly executing on real innovation!
  3. Patience IS a virtue. Yes, you need patience as a real game-changing entrepreneur. No shit, Sherlock. Thanx, Captain Obvious. And other notable quotes of the apparent and evident. Here I refer to your family, friends, loved ones. There will be a certain degree of “damage” to be done to those relationships, unless they happen to be your business partners. In which case, good luck…that’s a topic for a future rant. No, you’re going to see them, have dinners with them, travel with them, go to the brewfest with them a LOT less. They may resent you. Unless they are your spouse (and that’s not guaranteed, take my word for it) they may even sever their relationship with you.
  4. Learn the word NO. I don’t mean learn to say it. This word is unknown to the real innovators. “Can’t” is another one. What I mean is learn to hear it a lot, and at the same time become very proficient and continue the trudge up the hill while on the sidelines everyone is saying you can’t do it, or no you’re not going to make it. Sure those of us in corporate life hear it from time to time. Actually we hear maybe or nothing at all most of the time. But even so, this is not as emotionally taxing to us corporate animals because we simply find the next project to get our names attached to that has been funded.

I’m sure there are others, but in my experience, these are the top 4 differentiators between the real risk takers looking to make the world revolve a slightly different speed and those that have read about those people, and somehow now think they are authorities on the matter. There’s no real punchline here. I’d love to hear about your own opinions, perspectives, flames and generally whatever you have to say on the matter. There’s no magic mathematical algorithm. There’s no magic bullet. And there’s no magic business book on Amazon Kindle. Just sheer will, perseverance and desire. With that said, get your ass out there, take the risk even with no guarantee of reward (at least not monetary) and savor the journey! For every single startup experience I’ve had (some not so successful), the journey and the people are always what engrain themselves in my memory.1

Family Clears It All Up

I’ve spent many a holiday, weekend, vacation or just random time with family members over the years. Early on on my life when I was too young, naive and stupid to really see them for what they are, I criticized and even distanced myself from some of them because of some idiosyncrasy or fault that I didn’t want to deal with.

Well, who doesn’t have faults? I invite you to show yourself but I expect that you’ll be dressed in Jesus Christ garb…and even then HE had his faults! I know I certainly have my faults.

– I’m a little compulsive
– I’m a perfectionist at times
– Have been known to be judgmental and overly critical
– and I’m sure there are other lists that can be compiled

Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I’ve certainly learned of the value of family and why we’re there for each other. I truly now derive happiness from seeing them happy in turn! Whatever it is that makes them happy warm my heart. My sister Lisa has a beautiful daughter, Sienna, and I see how truly happy and complete she is when I see the sparkle in her eye when seeing her watching Sienna.

It’s a deep happiness that goes to her soul and simply reflected through her eyes, smile, and contentment on her face. And THAT makes me happy and desire more of it for Lisa!

We all have to remind ourselves regularly of these little things. But they are oh-so what life’s all about.

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New Look for a New Life

You may have noticed a few changes to the site. This is to reflect my new approach to what articles I’ll write reflective of my new life. It has more to do about the people, places and things I observe that are interesting, shocking, intriguing or worthy of further observation than about business and career oriented topics. In fact, while my career remains important, it is NOT the most important aspect of my life any longer. I’ll write original articles or my re-blog those of others that are worthy of re-blogging and particularly interesting.

What this site not:

  1. A diary.
  2. A product review site…I may write about really cool gadgets or technologies from time to time, just ’cause.
  3. A pity party…there are no victims!

I hope to more actively engage and interact with those of you who come across my rantings and opinions. I would love to hear your own opinions and hopefully you won’t always necessarily agree with my own, but don’t feel shy about agreeing with me 🙂 Since I’m a very visual person, I intend on using more pictures and videos to convey my stories or observations. Probably one reason why I’ve taken a particular interest in Pinterest lately. Though a friend in my running group recently expressed his opinion that Pinterest is not of the most manly persuasion. He can give his opinion but when there are hot women and beer pins and boards on Pinterest, I think the manly checkmark has been attained!

I’ve recently started bringing my social media habits and working out together. I may write my views on some recent experiences with a new iPhone app and the community of people in that network. Until then…

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SHIFT HAPPENS!

This post is from my Facebook friend, Robbie Lauren. It was so thought provoking I thought I’d repost it (with due credit) in my Life, Connected theme for this blog.

SHIFT HAPPENS especially when you least expect it. You may think you are doing everything right and following a path you feel will bring you to a place of happiness and then — one day – a change happens that turns your world upside down. Sometimes change is brought about by external forces and sometimes it comes from within. Regardless of origin, change is often painful and riddled with paradox. When the moment comes – many people are rarely prepared for what happens and often times they become overwhelmed with fear and get stuck dwelling in the past.

The Shift is the Gift The key to embracing a change is to see it as a gift and to see the value in the present moment – no matter how overwhelming it may feel. Yes, that’s right – the shift is a gift and seeing it from this perspective can present significant opportunity. Life has a way of bringing us significant shifts when we need them most. A shift can present the time to examine what it means to live a life of fulfillment or how to achieve balance. The key is knowing the right questions to ask yourself when shift happens. The answers are inside of you and sometimes they just need a little space, time and help to surface.

Purpose is Powerful Your life belongs to you and no one else and living a fulfilling life is a radical act. Maintaining the status quo is for many both the path of least resistance and the antithesis of fulfillment. Listen to yourself – the answers are always inside of you. It’s often been said the quality of life is driven by the quality of our conversations. When you are going through change -what is your default conversation? Do you automatically listen to others or do you listen to the voice inside of you? When was the last time you sparked a powerful conversation with yourself? If you’re comfortable listening to your inner voice, which voice are you speaking with – the voice of love or the voice of fear?

Powerful Questions The most valuable wisdom I’ve learned is the power of the right question – especially during a transition. Powerful questions can ignite the spark to help you transition from living passively to living actively. Powerful questions help get you unstuck and find purpose and fulfillment.

Key Questions to Spark Personal Growth What do I really want and what am I willing to sacrifice? Who I am is who I say I want to be. Who do I want to be? What story do I need to stop telling myself? And what story do I want to begin? What commitment do I want to make to myself in this moment?

Life is Short and You are Magnificent That’s right- you are magnificent! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You have strengths, experience and a perspective unlike anyone else. Be kind to yourself and celebrate the uniqueness of being you. What’s important is knowing yourself, knowing your purpose and embracing the possibilities of the power of this moment.

Thanx, Robbie!