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What’s Your “Why?”

Have you ever heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley?

At the turn of the century, when the quest for a “flying machine” was running like the first dot-com revolution, he was the person most favored to develop the airplane. He had boatloads of money from the US government, had a seat at Harvard and worked at the Smithsonian, hired the best people money could find, and everyone was rooting for him.

But, in the end, he lost to Orville and Wilbur Wright. Two guys with no college education, who funded their dream from the proceeds from their bicycle shop.

The TED talk above makes the case that this is because the Wright brothers were pursuing a central idea, a why, where Langley was pursuing, well, the cash.

It’s well-worth watching the TED talk, even if business isn’t your thing, and even if the Apple example at the fore might not be your cup of tea. This is about finding your why, and includes examples that include Martin Luther King.

So, what’s my why? Well, there are a ton of micro-whys. Why do I write? Why do I run my current business? Why do I launch new ones? These are important, but is there an overall why?

I think there is. And I think it’s why I’ve been called everything from a pro-business anarcho-capitalist to a raving socialist and everything in-between. I don’t wear my politics on my sleeve–and, indeed, much of the time politics seems like two children squabbling over equally wrong answers. I don’t address the crisis du jour, because, well, it’s du jour. It will be different in the future.

But I’ll take a shot at an overall why: Because we are each capable of grand things, despite the obstacles. Because imagination moves us forward, while second-guessing holds us back. Because we have never advanced by putting limits on our advancement.

Because we should dream grand dreams, and act to make them real.

What’s your why?

June 12th, 2010 / 1,489 Comments »



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