This months marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his landmark work, On the Origin of Species. Darwin makes me hopeful for several reasons: his tenacity, his ability to "think different", and his age when he wrote his seminal work.
On the Origin of Species challenged nearly all preconceived notions of how life evolves and changes. Darwin was adamant that it was not the strongest species that survived, thrived, and lived to see future generations of their offspring. The ones who gain the most evolutionary success are the ones who are most adaptive to change. Darwin faced rigorous challenges from his contemporaries and some of those arguments still persist even today. He had the ability to use those arguments to strengthen his own.
It can be hard to break with the thinking of our contemporaries. When everyone else around us says one thing, and we have a different belief, it can be difficult to voice our ideas, and even more difficult to believe in those ideas so deeply that we will commit them to writing. Darwin is a great example for us to follow. He used his observations of evolution to develop a theory entirely contrary to the accepted beliefs of the day. He had the ability to stand up and walk to the beat of his own drummer. In the challenging times we're currently facing, we would be wise, and courageous, to do the same.
The other element of Darwin that I find so inspiring is Darwin's age when he wrote On the Origin of Species. A lot of times I feel the pressure to get out there now and create the greatest work of my life. I am constantly worried that I am not doing enough, that I am not living up to my full potential. A lot of my friends comment that they see their years slipping away, toiling at work for other people, even though they know that eventually they will and need to join the ranks of the many entrepreneurs that I write about and admire. After 50 years of study and observation, Darwin took the leap and put his greatest work, his greatest thinking, out into the world. My friends and I have time, at least a little anyway, to make our mark.
The cartoon above can be found at: http://www.anthroblogs.org/nomadicthoughts/archives/addis-darwin-bday-cartoon.jpg