But That’s Not My Job, Part II

Dec 6, 2010
This article is part of a series about Opinion.

We’re all part of a species of bipedal primates in the family Hominidae that are supposed to possess a highly developed brain, bipedal gait, and opposable thumbs.

Lucy” appeared in mankind’s historical timeline as long as 3.6 million years ago.

Humans (that look like you and me) arrived on the scene much later — starting maybe as long ago as 200,000 years — originating in southern Africa. About 70,000 years ago they began to colonize the planet, reaching the Americas as recently as 14,500 years ago.

You and I are called “homo sapiens.” It means “wise human.”

That wise part remains (mostly) to be seen.

Many seminal events have occurred in the history of mankind. The use of fire (early Stone Age) and mastery of the wheel (credited to the Sumerians) have to rank as two of the greatest technological innovations driving progress in human civilization. I’d argue vehemently at this point that the printing press is probably one of, if not the next greatest innovation. It allowed for ideas to spread.

Not a whole lot happened between that communication marvel (circa 1440) and the arrival of the last two centuries. Nobody is arguing here (yet) that there haven’t been inventions that changed the world during those times; here are 101.

But as far as moving mankind along in the scheme of things, I’d have to name fire, the wheel, and the printing press as the major forerunners to where we find ourselves today.

An idea is much like fire; it sparks in the imagination. The wheel is a vehicle for moving things along, much like the printing press allowed for ideas to move along.

I’m going somewhere here. Pay attention to the word “idea.”

If we can agree here that man’s existence until recently has been mostly short and nasty, alleviated somewhat by the use of electricity and the magic of medicine, we can forego the argument some would bring that many men today still live brutish and dark lives. It depends on your perspective.

I took the open air bus ride (recommended) around Washington, D.C. when I was there to speak at Sourcecon in September.

The bus idled for a while at Union Station waiting for new fellow wanderers to get on, and I got off and walked around. At roof level Union Station has six allegorical statues and four murals between them with corresponding inspirational themes representing “The Progress of Railroading.” The statues are:
  • Prometheus, representing Fire
  • Thales, representing Electricity
  • Themis, representing Freedom and Justice
  • Apollo, representing Imagination and Inspiration
  • Ceres, representing Agriculture
  • Archimedes, representing Mechanics

All of the murals were fascinating to read but one really caught my attention (and, as you may suspect, fired my imagination). This was the mural dedicated to Archimedes, Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer.

It stated:


“…make the very ether carry human thought.” When I read that I was excited and amazed to think that in 1908 such a prescient remark would be carved onto a major building in our nation’s capital. Sure, the telephone was around (just) then, but the thought of ether? It gives me chills to think that the application of this remark reaches into our world today.

As this series is intended to revolve around what we can each do to relieve some of the misery we find around us, I want to remind you that I asked you to pay attention to the word “idea.”

Each of us is blessed with a thinking mind and a will. One of my favorite writers, Oscar Wilde, said, “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”

I want to encourage you to think dangerous ideas.

I want to help move you out of the status quo.

I want to challenge you to put your ideas to action. You’re going to have to be willing to work hard to do this.

Are you willing to work hard?

I want you to calculate the risk of your idea. Once you do that I want you to place your bet and act on it.

I want you to keep acting.

Napoleon Hill said, “Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes.”

Your idea may be the beginning of your great fortune.

“Fortune” has a couple meanings. It can be financial but it can also be emotional. My wise friend Sandra McCartt pointed out in a comment in the first part of this series that an unemployed accountant she knew who had started a concierge service for older people who do not or can not drive was finding himself in a position where he “may not get rich but says that his clients are so much more grateful and his life has a bit more meaning than it did when he was grinding out financial statements five days a week.”

That kind of reward is every bit as important as the few dollars that accompany it. In fact, I argue that it’s MORE important. I believe that it’s the extraneous stuff you learn doing the things you wouldn’t normally dare to do that lead to other and usually greater opportunities.

Your old mechanic arts control new forces.

Ideas build upon themselves quickly.

Opportunities amass.

Notice that the accountant Sandra is reporting on is starting something slowly. He’s starting something small. I would bet that in 2-3 years that accountant’s simple service will begin to morph into other things. I’d further bet that in five years his business model will look completely different than it does today.

This is how it happens: You start with something you can do; something you want to do. You do it and then you watch as opportunities arise. They will, I promise.

You’ll surprise yourself. I promise.

A room with a closed door usually has windows. Open one or two.

Your desert will rejoice and bloom as the rose.

You don’t need a lot of money to do this. You don’t need a lot of experience.

You do need GUTS.

You do need an idea (vague ideas are okay!) and a will to act upon it.

Do you have both of them?

What are your ideas? Let’s talk about them.

We’ll continue this series, but in the meantime I want you to think about ideas. I want you to think about the special advantage the Internet is giving us today regarding ideas. The Internet may be the next big thing (behind the printing press) that changes mankind’s prospects.

I want you to think abundantly — with hope.

Hope is in the ether all around us.

Capital isn’t that important in business. Experience isn’t that important. You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas.–Harvey S. Firestone

This article is part of a series about Opinion.
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