Maximillian Kaizen
Maximillian Kaizen

Evolution and endurance

Sometimes the things we need to learn most aren’t to be found in books, through transplanted wisdom, in lectures or by way of extraordinary mentor … there are some things not even Google can solve.

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing itHarry Emerson Fosdick

For those of us working in social media, I believe this to be particularly true. We’re constantly refreshed by almost daily marvels of human ingenuity, crashing through the established ways of operating and interacting at whiplash speed.

Virtually every aspect of our lives can be managed online in some way now, and it’s a whole lot more fun (and more curiously human) than the horrors of digital dystopia with which science-fiction writers and lagging Luddites sought to scare us. Perhaps we are all hurtling off to singularity downhill without brakes, but at least it’s an entertaining ride.

Much like a roller-coaster, there are some who adore the adrenalised adventure and a great many others who are pale and praying for it just to end.

The online ecology is one of the most dynamic examples of evolution in action. Darwin said that it isn’t the strongest or the most intelligent that survive, but the ones most responsive to change. Group genius of easily connected collaborating minds allows for radical response and development of new solutions, or new iterations of current software or platforms. User communities like us having to keep up, discover, experiment, learn fast, test, speed read, mash up, learn again, keep up, learn again, keep up …

Darwin may be right. But flexible, fast-moving first-footers, digital nomads and innovators need some measure of traction, tenacity and endurance to outlast their own restlessness.

In paying attention to genius, there is one overriding negative that comes up again and again: the frustration that others have swiped the credit and commercialised their ideas. The infinitely more brilliant Tesla vs the focused and unstoppably methodical Edison is a striking case in point.

The stories of unrecognised genius are just heartbreaking fodder to the machine of industry.

I have an abiding passion for pioneers, the brave and wild-minded who venture off the map. The explorers, innovators, the genius designers of new worlds and possibilities, those who challenge mental and physical barriers of what we’ve come to expect from being human.

But inevitably they’re not the ones who stand to gain the most (financially, or even credit for their breakthroughs or ideas). That reward belongs to those who can tenaciously stick with the idea long beyond where it is of any interest to other innovators: those who nurture it, grow it, wait for it to stabilise and be there when the mass market comes in.

It’s the difference between hunters and farmers.

A little illustration on the point: Robert Scoble announced an upcoming move by Microsoft that promises “the way we work is undergoing the biggest shift since Microsoft Office launched in 1989” … what in the world could be that big?

“Collaborative work applications, collectively known as ‘Office 2.0’, now let you work remotely with other people in whole new ways. Microsoft is once again the catalyst, opening up a public beta for its Office Live Workspace this winter. Although Google and a host of little-known start-ups (such as Zoho) have offered Office 2.0 apps for some time, many of us have been using Microsoft programs forever. Microsoft’s initiative legitimises Office 2.0, leaving us no excuse not to try it.”

It may be sexy and interesting at the growing tip, but it’s the farmers who come in and reap the harvest.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

It’s not impossible for truly visionary creators to stick in there and amass wealth for that by which they are inflamed, as Picasso did. Persistence and grit to hold to a long-term position is simply brain-numbing for the majority of us; our multichannel world of split-second instant gratification has altered our capacity to pace ourselves strategically.

(There’s a great new book to grab on this, by the way: Strategy and the Fat Smoker: Doing What’s Obvious But Not Easy. I’m aching to get a copy of it.)

The alpha wave of the web crashed to shore, the beta that we’re riding now is almost flattening out, and many of the fastest have caught the next wave of the online evolution. This one will have considerable groundswell and some big, burly and tenacious players with a lot of financial and organisational heft riding it. The free and friendly organic growth that has characterised “Web 2.0” has proven to have value to the market, and the farmers have been cordoning off their territory.

Like business acumen if you are an artist, developing the labour to support the long-term growth of your creations will feel unnatural and terrifyingly dull.

It may be initially unbearable, but developing tenacity and discipline to stay with an idea long after the delicious exhilaration of creating it is possible, and appears by all accounts to be the one way that pays off.

Sadly, I’ve hunted extensively and there is no fast way to develop endurance, no cool hacks, no magic pills. It’s one of those things that must be learned through living.

endurance-tag.jpgMax is on a mission to develop endurance and has the theme running for a month in the fervent hope that enough pep talks will indeed have the desired effect. So far each post has required enormous endurance in the reader; if you’ve made it thus far, thank you!.