Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Ethos of Success

As some of you know, after decades of doing one sort of thing, a year or two ago I set off to do something quite different, and am acting like a hi-tech entrepreneur as if I was 20 years younger. Yet old habits refuse to die, and at times I revert to them: When in need of understanding a new situation, read a book or three.

So I just read Guy Kawasaki's The Art of the Start. Lots of fun, and I warmly recommend it, even if you're not starting anything but appreciate a wry and self deprecating take on how the world works. Actually, while this blog deals mostly with my old persona, not with the entrepreneur me, I'm blogging about it because on a level Kawasaki probably didn't have in mind, his manual for getting up and running is also a commentary on a specific but very important way of life, and it addresses some of the themes of this blog.

The world of innovators is about people adding value to the world, he tells between pages 3-215 (that's the whole book). It's also a world where getting bruised is merely a way of figuring out how to do your thing better. While he has an entire chapter on "Being a Mensch", he isn't into feeling sorry for oneself. The whole victim thing, surely one of the most powerful emotions around and perhaps the single most potent one in international politics, is summed up on page 117:
Your goal shouldn't be to 'retain control' and 'avoid getting ousted'. Your goal should be to build a great organization. There may come a time when you should be ousted. Deal with it. Would you rather have an inferior organization that failed, but that you were in control of until the better end?
Deal with it. Make the best of what you have, and pick up and move on when necessary. The world would be a better place if everyone lived that way; it's no coincidence the folks who do often seem to control the world, or at least their segments of it. It's not a conspiracy, a cabal, nor even the machinations of the hegemonic power brokers. It's a way of life that optimizes the possible rather than bemoaning the world's imperfections and injustices. Simple, isn't it?

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