Dean Kamen is no stranger to innovation.
He’s also no stranger to doubters and skeptics. People said the Segway was impossible, but Kamen disagreed, and he was right.
“Don’t tell me it’s impossible,” he says, “tell me you can’t do it.” “Tell me it’s never been done. Because the only real laws in this world–the only things we really know–are the two postulates of relativity, the three laws of Newton, the four laws of thermodynamics, and Maxwell’s equation–no, scratch that, the only things we really know are Maxwell’s equations, the three laws of Newton, the two postulates of relativity, and the periodic table. That’s all we know that’s true. All the rest are man’s laws…”
Been sitting on this one for awhile. I’m a big fan of Dean Kamen’s. He just seems like one of those guys who has always known exactly who he is and what he wants to do. I also admire his seemingly endless curiousity and willingness to dive in and make mistakes.
We are now less than one week away from the end of 2009, and the first decade of the 2000’s. As I look back on 2009, there are a lot of great lessons, ups and downs, victories, and losses, but ultimately a significant amount of progress in my life. Life it seems is really about the balance between enjoying and appreciating who and what you have currently, and at the same time continually pushing for growth. Simply said: be truly grateful for the present and think and act big for the future. Easier said than done.
Anyway looking back on 2009 for me I can see a few personal lessons to carry forward:
1.) Talk about it. I wrote about this back in July. This year, particularly in my relationship with Julie, this lesson finally sunk in for me. Communication is not about finding solutions, it’s about connecting with someone else, and generally it makes everyone feel much better. I think we feel better when we open up to another person. And generally it is much easier to find solutions (if that’s what you’re looking for) when you are feeling good and open.
2.) Don’t do something just because you think it will make you money. Sounds very obvious, but man is it a hard one. As I wrote about back in May, I learned this lesson the hard way, spending almost a year working incredibly hard on a concept because I thought it would be a somewhat easy way to make money. I of course was wrong. Building a business is a long process with lots of ups and downs. If you don’t have more interest in the process beyond making money, getting through those downs is going to be rough.
3.) When it comes to business concepts or projects, there is a big difference between a good one in general, and a good one for you. For me at least, just because something seems like a good idea does not mean it’s a good idea for me to pursue. I again learned this the hard way, as discussed in this post. (I may reference this post more…)
4.) Plan for and demand time for thought. Big ideas don’t usually happen when you are checking email, sports scores, listening to podcasts, watching tv, etc. They usually happen when your mind is allowed to think, free of distractions. It’s way too easy to get sucked into the flow of the day and the week, and not give yourself time to reflect. The reflection time is really when interesting thoughts come forward. And by the way, I don’t think time for thought should be all about allowing the big ideas to come through either…it should be just for thinking as well.
5.) JFDI. I just wrote about this. This one is a biggie for me. I’m really good at putting things off, especially tasks or situations that may make feel uncomfortable. I’d rather just push them to a later time and date. There are usually 2 consequences that stem from that approach 1.) Generally the situation / problem worsens with the delays 2.) you feel worse and worse about putting it off. There are definitely situations where a bit of reflection is the right move, but 9 times out of 10 we know what action needs to be taken almost immediately. Act and you’ll get more done and feel better.
6.) Be Optimistic. Sounds simple, and I guess in theory it is. But for me it can be a struggle. There’s a voice in my head that is optimistic about things 70% of the time I would say. The problem is the other 30% of the time it’s very pessimistic. This voice sees the “bad” in my life as permanent and a direct reflection of who I am as a person. That’s a hard one to deal with. In making a conscious effort to notice this voice and brush it aside, it’s amazing how much better life looks day in and day out. Again it’s not easy, and it seems to be a long process, but just noticing the downer voice is a big first step
7.) Be your biggest supporter, not your harshest critic. Similar to #6 above, I’ve really become aware this year of the inner critic. When that voice is strong in my head, things really feel hard in my life. Nothing I’ve done means anything. Nothing I’m working on will ever be good enough. I haven’t treated this person correctly, or said this when I should have, or called this person in a reasonable time. Certainly there are times where that voice needs to come through to make adjustments and teach lessons, but it needs to change its tone. I’m looking for one that teaches, guides, and supports not criticizes. First step is noticing the critic, something I did very well in 2009.
I skipped a few years with this tradition (last one was 2006, which looks very similar to this years), but think it’s a good one to continue going forward. Happy and healthy 2010….
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