What does it mean to be successful.  Some measure it by acclaims, status, social recognition and well appointed through awards.  But is this really success or is it simply a response by our peers to a level of notoriety that only they can appreciate?

ImageAs a very young pre-school child I knew that I was gifted with a good mind.  While my grandmother and parents encourage me to be inquisitive and to dream, this was something that I had to develop and is not something that one can teach (or command) someone to do.  I remember thinking about how societies should stay within their borders and become self-sufficient and how every action resulted in a reaction (Newton’s 3rd law).  It was later in life when I was able to write, read and discern the differences in colors that I realized that my thinking was a bit different that all the rest of the children that I hung out with.  Later in life I realize that my thinking hasn’t changed all that much.  It is not the mainstream, it’s not uniform and consistent with social norms, and certainly it may be a bit confronting to others that have spent a career doing one thing whereas I have had multiple pursuits in life.  Each one of these pursuits were with a fervent intensity that even single disciplinarians are seldom found having.  These words are not a boastful claim but a matter of present reality as to my life.

I have found myself taking great interest in learning new things.  To be able to reach down deep into the depths of my knowledge to eek out similarities, inconsistencies and to bootstrap all of these things into an ideology.  I often find that these change as new facts are presented or as norms shift in the crazy world we live in.   To those cautious and often silent onlookers it appears as a every changing landscape, met with skepticism and often responded to in a defiant manner.  To accept and to embrace would mean to step outside the well worn path and to open up new possibilities.

The word of the last decade has been innovation but as we have learned innovation is not a science that can be taught.  It can be discussed and examined but you can’t encourage creative non-traditional thinking from the mainstream of society who prefer to norm rather than the exception.  Over this period of time what was born out of innovation transitions to a state of consistency.  Such everyday aspects (internet, email, social networks, cell phones) were at one time seeds of innovation.  These seeds have grown and become a piece of everyday life.  How many of us would feel comfortable not having connectivity using any one of these outlets?  Have we forgotten how we interacted and communicated prior to their advent?  The ability to revert is not easy because we have replaced and embraced, having ventured beyond include and explore.

Let us go back to my original point of this post and that is non-traditional behavior should not be met with opposition.  Even though one must be cautions of ‘wolves in sheep clothing’ there are non-traditional thinkers who should not be overlooked.  You are depriving yourself of the innovative behavior that you may not possess and it is highly possible that you are depriving yourself of a key to unleashing your own free thinking.

As people in society seek the magic answer behind those success stories we are overlooking those that offer something even more spectacular.  Maybe its because we can understand success and accomplishment, but can’t comprehend how someone who hasn’t risen to that level could ever be taken seriously.  I think back to a comparison between Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie (of Unix/C fame).  One man was highly successful financially and in business, while the other showed exceptional brilliance and contribution to computing.  Maybe the difference is aspiration.  Having known both I can tell you that while one wanted fame and the other excellence, they both desired to make a difference to society.  In their own and unique way they both achieved excellence.  What may be the untold story remains a question of legacy.  Were their acts such that they will endure a long and every lasting social impact?  

I really never wonder about whether I will be successful.  I feel that I have reached that point where success has been achieved in so many ways.  Business, technical and even personal my story is rich with color, humor, despair, frustration, confusion, bewilderment, and contentment.  But my last chapter isn’t written yet.  I sometimes lament and get a bit uneasy that to start another endeavor means that I may never get to see it reach its potential.  But then I realize that neither of these individuals (Jobs or Ritchie) cared…. they lived each day as though it was their last.  They took every opportunity they could and ran with it and it wasn’t the product that was their fame but the attitude by which they lived life.  Unfortunately this can not be duplicated or emulated, it has to be hidden inside of you.  Hidden in the same place as where my non-traditional thinking and drive exists.  Sitting there and waiting for it to be pulled out and put forth in a way that society can accept, embrace and make use of.

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