Need Perspective: A world where we are more likely to challenge ourselves and be exposed to new ideas & people will be a better one
We celebrate entrepreneurs and an idea who’s time has come.
Let’s also celebrate Heroes, doing the right thing, before it’s the right thing, because it’s the right thing.
"The great heroes of human rights combine the fearlessness of a martyr with the creativity of an explorer or inventor…The first one to stand up for the truth faces the biggest challenge, but creates a model for the second and third, who benefit from his example.” -Peter Thiel
Adversity may never be fun, but it could be familiar.
A few years ago, I decided to take on a project, which was a ‘reach’, and with low odds of success.
It was a roller coaster. It came with few highs - and many lows, long periods of disappointment, rejection, and facing the prospect that this may have been exercise in futility and I should just get back in line.
I drew inspiration from my hero, the late Dr. C. K. Prahalad, who knew to value himself.
The Prahalads arrived in Ann Arbor with $18. Maybe because he had nothing to lose, Prahalad didn’t play it safe. He became known on the Michigan campus as a maverick who avoided publishing in the traditional journals in favor of venues that he thought would have more of an impact. He ruffled feathers. As an assistant professor, he was approached by a major company with an invitation to consult — an opportunity that every young business academic yearns for, especially if he has two young kids. He agreed, but he demanded $1,000 a day. Shocked, the client withdrew the offer. Gayatri was horrified. “We need the money,” she gasped. But for Prahalad, it was a matter of getting the respect that he felt he deserved. A month and a half later, another company sought his services. This time, he asked for $3,000 a day. And he got it.
I think what makes the low points in these ‘reach’ experiences especially hard - and like you, I’ve definitely faced easier and worse - is the feeling that you came very close, and the seemingly *boolean* nature of it all. One turn along the way, and you either win big, and don’t win at all.
This brings us to purpose. I draw inspiration from the incredibly humble Dr. Desh Deshpande,
"To me, being an entrepreneur is like a little kid, a four-year-old who first goes to play soccer," he says. "That kid is not excited about which way he kicks the ball. It doesn’t matter; usually he winds up scoring the ball on the wrong side anyway. So winning and losing, I think, is a score that other people keep. A true entrepreneur is one who just loves playing."
Today, adversity hasn’t become any more fun, but feels a great deal more familiar, and is a stepping stone on the path to good things.
I had a minor epiphany, and realized how excited I am about “Optimizing the Second Derivative”, an idea my friend Shashin introduced to me.
In many parts of our life, we can’t plan for or control short-term outcomes, or the long-term value they lead to, but we can do our very best at setting up an environment for learning, growth and being challenged. For example, if you can’t wait for a significant life milestone (and may be tempted to compromise for immediate gain), consider the power of process, and invest in the people and ideas that are a good path to get there.
Some of my favorite mentors (now friends!) believed in me ahead of my potential. I think that’s easy to forget. I’m beginning to think that in the spirit of being critical, or objective, we lose the chance to be unreasonably optimistic about our team, our friends, and the people we’re rooting for. It saves so much energy, and oddly works!
dis·crim·i·na·tion /disˌkriməˈnāSHən/ L. discriminatus
Due to undertones of the other, adverse meaning - prejudging based on attributes (c. 1866) - we tend to miss the crucially important and original definition (c. 1620) of discrimination:
Recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.
To truly value the team member who’s going the extra mile,
To truly value a person in your life who treats you how you’d like,
To truly value something you’ve been meaning to do,
And the next time you hear ‘Every little bit counts’, or ‘Something is better than nothing’, don’t miss the smell of indecision.
Peter Thiel and Seth Godin are two people who really get commoditization.
I wrote about this in July: "If you’re in a marketplace, you’ve already lost"