"We would not be where we are if our ancestors had not been kind of crazy." ~ Edward Tenner, historian of technology and culture
I'm part way through the cover story for this week's issue of Business Week, Case for Optimism. One of the people who worked on the story asked me and 12 other readers to take a look around our neighborhoods to provide examples of why we feel optimistic about the future. The quote above appears toward the beginning of the article, and references a very positive outcome of economic downturns: if we can look past the gloom and doom, we'll find that economic downturns give us the freedom to get a little crazy. In other words, they give of the freedom to pursue our biggest dreams. Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft in the midst of a recession. Same goes for Steve Jobs and many others whom we now hold us as some of the most successful thought-leaders of our time.
When the world goes haywire and we lose our footing and live to tell the tale, something inside of us shifts. All of a sudden we realize that the leap we just made, whether by our own volition or not, didn't kill us. We're encouraged to take another, slightly larger leap, and then another. Before you know it, we can't contain ourselves. We realize that the biggest risk is not taking a chance on our dream; it's being paralyzed by fear and never pursuing the dream at all.
So here we go - off into the great unknown with a heavy, though hopeful, heart. We're in the midst of a grieving process. Long gone are the fat times of real estate always being a sound investment and Wall Street being the dream of every bright, ambitious college graduate. We're bidding a fond farewell to life on Easy Street, welcoming in a new era of innovation and creativity that our ancestors, the ones who got a little crazy, would be proud to acknowledge as their legacy.
There will be some bumps and bruises along the way, some near-term and long-term. We may have our dreams fall down in mid-flight, and we'll have to get new dreams. The resilience we are building today will serve us well tomorrow, and for many tomorrows to come. My bet's on us.