Optimism Drives InnovationWritten by Kevin on December 15th, 2009
I was inspired by Om Malik’s post a few weeks ago titled “What Makes the Silicon Valley Special”. I have been fortunate to experience the Silicon Valley, and I have to admit that within a few days of being there I could sense that something was “different”. You never had to go too far without being inspired, challenged or motivated. The other thing that amazed me was that everyone had high aspirations; whether in tech, finance, politics or leadership. This is something that I have to admit I miss.
In Malik’s post, he emphasizes that the main thing the Valley has going for it is optimism. I would agree with this, if put in context. There are not too many things that people won’t go after or think are not possible. You really get the sense that you can accomplish anything.
I have to admit that this fueled one of the biggest changes in my life. I never had the sense that I could really do anything before. Sure, people always say you can, but do they really believe it? In the Silicon Valley, you hear it all the time and then you get to watch people do it. All of sudden I am looking at someone who was no different than myself in experience, education or ability a couple of years ago accomplish a huge feat. It makes you start to think – “Why can’t I do that?”.
Now, to put things into context. The Silicon Valley is not fueled by optimism alone, there are many other factors which could be an entire separate post – here is a great one by Paul Graham. Also, and most importantly, it is not naïve optimism. There are people down there that have the talent, skill and incredibly work ethic to feed off the optimism and accomplish amazing things.
Coming back to Canada I have made a diligent effort to surround myself with people that share this kind of optimism. This includes personal and business relationships, mentors, bloggers and lots of books. It is a tough job to keep oneself continuously inspired and optimistic, especially when there are so many skeptics, but in the world of startups, whether on the founder or funder side, it is imperative.