It is with some relief and some sadness that this project comes to a close. As you know, there are many reasons I undertook The 52 Week Project. Part of it was to learn about new and random topics, part of it was to develop as a writer and thinker, and part of it was to prove that anyone with an internet connection can learn, well, anything. But above all, this project was about ideas. From the top down, this was about actually implementing one of the many ideas I've had over the past few years. From the bottom up, it was about mastering the process of developing and acting on one new idea each week. This may seem overly simple, but that's the point. It's the simple stuff that so often never gets done...
My last post ended on somewhat of a low point; the world is moving very quickly, and it is hard for us to keep up. Labor supply pressure is jeopardizing the lifestyle we have come to expect. People are confused and afraid. But that's not the end of the story. It starts with a basic question: what was it that initially pushed the United States to become arguably the most innovative and successful country in the history of the planet? Ideas, ideas, ideas. From the light bulb to railroads to the internet, ideas have propelled us forward. They are, unsurprisingly, our only option for continuing to improve our collective human experience. Individually and together we need to do more of that which encourages and fosters ideas, and less of that which inhibits and kills ideas.
Guess what? Obstacles abound. From stifling co-workers to excess regulation (try starting a company in Europe) to the omnipresent naysayer, there will never be a dearth of forces fighting the creation and implementation of ideas. But all these obstacles are nothing in the face of our single biggest obstacle: ourselves. Too tired, too busy, too cynical.... too scared. An honest, introspective look will prove some or all of these qualities in most of us. We need to recognize this, recalibrate mentally, and change our attitudes.
I'm not asking you to invent the next internet. There are degrees of innovation, and on every level we can improve. The first question often is, "how do I make millions on this?" Erase this question, and replace it with "how do I make this meaningful?" With this mindset, monetary gains will follow as a second order effect. Too often in the last decade we asked the former question, and ignored the latter. As a result, this decade has in many ways been lost: we squandered a surplus, borrowed tremendously at every level, and failed to invest in our future. Financially, the country is worse off as a result. But the biggest hit is not financial; the biggest hit is to our psyche. We need to overcome this sense that our best days have passed. Put more bluntly, it's once again time to pull ourselves up by our proverbial bootstraps.
The good news is that it isn't that hard; one big idea, or millions of little ideas, would be a game changer. That's all it takes. An idea can come from anyone at anytime. At inception it will be a dim light - perhaps just a conversation. It is our job to develop these pieces of inspiration and shine light onto them. If I sound evangelical here, it's by design; in my opinion, the quantity and quality of ideas are what defines human progress. And to me, that is sacred.
So as you think ahead to your 2011 New Year's Resolutions, I will leave you with one critical question: when was the last time you took an idea and made it real?
Thanks for reading.