The Idea Dude


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What if?

I like to think I'm a lifelong optimist. I have to be if I want to continue being a web entrepreneur. I believe in ideas, people and opportunity. If you put the three together, good things can happen. And when it does, the fireworks is a joy to watch.

Nevertheless, as you get older and the scars grow deeper and more plentiful, there's a part of me that becomes more cynical. And it's hard to fight because you have this gravity called experience that changes your gut feeling about things.

Being both cynical and optimistic is necessary. Cynicism stops us from doing stupid things and optimism gives us the inspiration to try things and give life a chance. The problem in both is whether that cynicism or optimism is driven by naivity.

An example of naive optimism would be to buy a lottery ticket and then proceed to buy a new house because you figured someone has to win and you're a good person so it should be you. It sounds pretty stupid but we start companies the same way. ie. we are smart people and we have great ideas so if we started a company, there's no question we will become the next Google.

On the other hand, there is naive cynics. These are so-called self-style 'experts' who discredit potential great ideas and opportunities only because they can't see it happening. They have very little basis for their decisions and usually they and their followers are fooled by their credentials, their position and perhaps because once upon time, they predicted something that happened to come true.

We can't predict next year's weather with any degree of certainty and we don't expect anyone to, yet we believe our economists who predict interest rates in the next 5 years, or stock analysts who tell you to buy and sell stock. Life is not linear, if it was, it would be predictable and boring. As my son reminds, if everyone was rich, then everyone would actually be poor. Wealth is a relative thing.

Age makes us cynics because our experience gives us the right to make judgement on things we know very little about or worse still, because we know too much about. Children are optimists because of what they don't know. Everything is possible and pigs can fly. Is innocence simply a euphemism for naivity?

I know I get less excited these days about gadgets, computers, technology and it concerns me. I have to stop myself and ask why? I have to remind myself that what I know is usually based on my history and is no proxy for my view for predicting the future. If something didn't happen in the past doesn't mean it won't happen in the future and vice versa. The best and worst thing that happened was to know that there is much that I don't know because it creates insecurity and inaction.

I still believe in ideas, people and opportunities. The difference now is that I realize the three are necessary ingredients but by no means the guarantee to success. Many successes (if not all) have some randomness as the catalyst. What does it mean? Dream like it's going to happen but don't sell the farm.

Recently, I had a great dinner with someone who had moved to the West Coast. During our conversation about some of the things he was doing, he stopped and looked at me and simply said, "I can see the cogs are running in your head". I knew right then, I had not lost my sense of possibility. For that I'm truly grateful. Without possibility, there would be no meaning in life because we would not have outcomes to look forward to.

It would be way cool, if I remembered on my death bed to utter two words, What if?, not said because I looked back at my life with regret but said because I was looking forward to next journey.


Blogger Unknown said...

the sense of possibility - so important. we need to go to great lengths to preserve that.

btw, love the term "naive cynic"! did you coin that?

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ooops, idea dude. this last comment was by me, isabella, not my friend jerry (who was using my computer).

3:23 PM  

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