Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a world war 2 veteran that was in the Philippines, Japan, and Korea, and we shared experiences each had. while we were in the same areas, each of us had a very different experience. he became a radio signal man because he didn’t like 30 ft. waves in the boat or landing in 5 feet of water. I was merchandising Walt Disney and a George Lucas show. they say with the USA we are good at exporting guns, butter, and entertainment.
when he asked about the George Lucas show, I had to remember how 42 trucks made one stage inside an arena. mind you, I think this was like 1992? and motion lighting was relatively new, the computer was working between digital and analog, and even the articulation of stages was coming into its own with computerization allowing what no human could really do in repetitive, sophisticated, moves, positions, colors and changes.
do I mention that all this technology was a bit ahead of its time for stability, redundancy, and performance? such is an issue when you are ahead of the curve for what will one day be the norm and common. you have an idea where you are demonstrating how it really works, not as a prototype, yet a functioning platform, yet, it still needs some refinement to get to the level where people will forget that a few years earlier, whatever you created, didn’t exist.
if you need a great example of such a technology, think of the mobile phone most people hold in their hands and how they use it. I really can’t stand the technology anymore, but I will admit that it really is an amazing tool we could use to communicate. perhaps my quandary is when I watch people using the phones today, I really have to ask, “what if anything is anyone creating or talking about?” when will software companies stop pushing some bizarre message that you are not cool if you don't subscribe to facebook, want to purchase good through their store, or (snip..the list is too long)
the upside of a mobile phone is it allows either a fast and inexpensive pipeline for people to connect with each other at any time and almost any place on the planet. (remember satellite phones and the cost per minute?)
being able to connect is a great thing. I wonder what we are really saying anymore is the downside of the tool. it appears that no matter what someone invents, man is simply innovative and will probably find more uses outside of its original intention to use it. I keep thinking how many products we get from space and military research, yet, I wonder how much more we could get if we could somehow allow human beings to treat each other with decency and live in peace with each other.
right now, the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning is starting to really take off for the masses. it is pretty exciting to me, but when you have been playing and studying it for so long, you go, “oh that is nice, but it is really nothing new.” we have an immersive audio product that we are building…a real pain in the derriere…because the “new” listening space is not like the traditional “old” one, and the problem is that unless you built the space you will be looking at the problem in the old, traditional, paradigm, that I won’t work so well as a solution to the problem. to me, these are interesting problems, but too much of the world, everyone is looking for some button you can push that grows a money tree with little to no effort.
there are people that have access to such opportunities, and they tend to be the world’s super wealthy. the interesting part of such wealthy is they have to deal at a scale so much larger than what most new ideas need. perhaps this is where I learned the value of time to a person – when you break down bill gates or any other multibillionaires yearly earnings by time (even the time he is sleeping) you will get a number so large and astounding, that you will suddenly realize your time has value as well. time is the only thing each of us that are alive are given equal amounts to. the value of each person’s time is very different. as I think back, the most amazing time I have had on this planet were helping others try to reach their dreams and all the time I spend moving ideas and technologies forward.
then there is the issue of timing on the planet. I think a lot of ideas fail simply because of the timing of the market and the technology. one thing I miss about Zurich is the space called ETH Zurich. it is sort of the MIT of Europe. you also have a very tiny country with a great deal of wealth in Swiss banking that realizes they have to be nimble and work with the private wealth of the super wealthy. this small group of people, dictators, families, trusts, scoundrels & ruffians (how is that for polite?) controls a massive amount of wealth on the planet.
let me ramble for a bit. when I looked at the Swiss banking system and the private wealth groups, I was blown away at how small the market was for these private bankers in terms of clients and people who had that much money for getting into that club. the first world problems of the super-rich would make most of the planet stare at them and ask, “do you have any idea what most of the planet lives like? any clue?”
that digression is over and I guess what I am trying to write about is the discomfort and the odd uneasiness of ambiguity that you will always have with a new idea. the current world economies are starving for any idea that will make them money that they can shove into a distribution system they have created. I marvel at what companies like fed-x, Amazon, and a few others have done in this area and the technology that works behind the scenes to get a whole lot of things sorted, packaged and delivered in a short time. you also have companies that have no problem trying to be the first to be second. this is a term for waiting for another group to spend the money in bleeding edge r&d and then someone reverse engineers and/or copies the idea and brands it as their own “original” idea. (I really don’t miss the games of the top levels of corporate society. when you get out of it and look back, you wonder, “exactly why did I think the “stuff” was so valuable if it sold your soul?”)
if you spend the time in the lab working out the ideas. I think you are more interested in making the ideas reality. it is a puzzle to solve. it also brings me to a place where the word “collaborative” work and “shared” work are common. I think this can work better at an organizational level where you have a lot of folks that are hired guns working on a salary with stock options. what I have found on the entrepreneurial side is you have folks that have done all the steps meeting up with folks with some dreams and the reality of how much work has to go into an idea – be it time, resource, workarounds, and someone thinking “this one solution” never has to evolve or change over time (I have heard this a lot lately – and this is where I thank god for the skunkworks methodology experience, where you have a team who collaborates all the time)
I don’t see the collaborative team methodology working somewhere in the middle all too well…why? because I don’t run into a lot of people that want to work hard or smart these days. I meet even less that understand the value of play in seeking a solution. I meet a lot of folks that want a nice pretty document of all the rules and regulations for reasons of what will happen if an idea doesn’t work (most will fail…it is simply reality in this arena of new idea and product development) and the mindset that I remember an old rock and roll promoter telling me about his job.
“mark, if you can’t take half a million dollars and put it on top of a BBQ grill and light it, and be ok if it all burns up…you should never entertain the promoter's business.”
it doesn’t mean it is ok to burn money (like the old days of silicon valley did) rather you respect the value of money, know how hard it is to make money, but you are ok taking calculated risks with the money as if you do it correctly, lighting that money will simply be the fuse to launch a giant rocket ship that can create great wealth.
I guess that brings me back to my life, and the odd journey between living in the world and what it thinks and thought is a success, and then meeting that old man in the desert who taught me much of what the world is chasing in the physical and material sense is simply foolish. nice stuff, but we it will all be gone one day soon for each of us. what it has lead me to is a place where I have about 10-20 years of decent productivity left and god willing, I will keep my health and continue working on ideas until the day I die.
what I see coming forth is the gelling of not only the ideas with my heart and soul….in a good space and place. but like any good idea, it took more time, money, prototypes and changes to get there.
if there is one lesson I can give to any young person, that is to spend some time inside yourself and follow your heart and passions. not the ones your parents want, your friends want, or society tells you to want, rather, do what makes your heart sing and you will find joy and happiness inside your heart that I just don’t see very much when I walk down the street inside the united states these days.
life is very short, and with that, I conclude my 10 minutes and free advice for this post brainstorm day.