An Idea Worth Sharing

In the spirit of TED, here’s an idea worth sharing. 

One of the big criticisms I heard in the hallways about the speeches was that they offered well-articulated problems, but few, if any, practical solutions.

Part of this is isn’t really the speaker’s fault; 15 minutes just isn’t that much time to talk about a complex problem.

But, I’d argue that part of this is because of a core element of human psychology. In general, humans are great at spotting problems, but not as great at identifying realistic solutions that can actually improve the situation as a whole.

It’s not enough to bitch about the evils of capitalism. Capitalism has succeeded in a ton of important ways where other systems have failed, so you must propose a different economic system that would get us the big benefits of capitalism with less downside. (And, spoiler alert: in this example, communism or socialism is not the answer.)

There were a few talks that got standing ovations that kind of surprised me. It was puzzling, really. The speaker had basically just gotten up there and bitched for 15 minutes without providing any way out. It was well-articulated bitching, to be sure, but bitching nonetheless.

Bitching is so easy (I’m doing it right now).

I think the solution is to have more speeches like Hugh Herr’s, who lost both of his legs to frostbite. Instead of giving a 15 minute talk titled “Losing Your Legs Absolutely Sucks,” he laid out a vision of how prosthetic limbs should be built in the future. And he didn’t stop with arms and legs. He wants to eventually build prosthetic wings for humans too. Like bat wings. So humans can fly.

I’ll just go ahead and repeat that: a real person who lost both of his legs decided that instead of bitching and collecting an insurance check, he was going to eventually invent bat wings that humans can install into their bodies so that they can fly like bats. 

So, what’s my idea worth sharing? Complaining without suggesting a solution is just bitching.

Interesting Factoid That Recently Expanded My Worldview

Quantity = Quality

Scott Dikkers (founder of The Onion) wrote that the best ideas in the writers' room tended to come from generating the most ideas. The average quality of the ideas didn't matter, it was all about generating more and more ideas in general.

That's backed up by some fascinating research (summarized by Marc Andreessen here) that found ultra-successful people tended to produce their best work during the periods in which they produced their most work.

"The periods of Beethoven's career that had the most hits also had the most misses -- works that you never hear."

Keep producing. Keep moving.