As I pause to reflect on both the past and coming years, I find it important to find the source of my inspiration, what keeps me going every day. I wrote this essay a few years back and I still draw a lot of inspiration from it. I have never published this, and it's a bit off from my normal topics, but for me it sets the tone for who I hope to be and what I hope to accomplish in the coming year, and I hope you may draw inspiration as well.
The Spirit of Innovation
To be an innovator is to open your mind, stop being negative and bring back the idealism. Things can be better, progress has never and will never be stopped. Move past the people who have told you that you can't, who have told you NO - there is no room in the world for 'that's just the way it is' mentality! If that were true we would still be living under kings and dictators, we would still be serfs, still be slaves. While I say we are no longer serfs and slaves, the truth is that we still are. The innovators of the past have given us greater freedom, but we are still in a world where the few control the power, where our sweat and labor is being used to enrich the few in power while much of the world is living in poverty and desperation. It is never easy to change the world, but it is what we have to do.
I know it was not easy for those who have died for freedom, for those who risked their lives stepping on the Mayflower, for those who refused to go to the back of the bus, and for all of those who never stop fighting no matter how great the challenge may seem.
Remember those who have inspired you, people like Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison and others. All of these people carried with them the spirit of innovation, the spirit that says I will not give up, I know how to make the world a better place, and I will not be told 'that’s just the way it is.' They would not accept the world telling them how to think, how to act, or what their values should be. Today, our challenges are different than those of our forefathers, but no less significant. Today, businesses use their power for pure greed, we have allowed them to take from us our retirement, our health, even our homes, and we still continue to idolize greedy companies. How many more Bernie Madoff's and Enron's will it take? We have allowed the government to steal our democracy away from us, by forcing us to limit our choice to the lesser of two evils, to prevent real progress. They have created a system where only the rich or the corrupt can lead an effort to control the resources that were meant for every man, woman and child on this planet. Our churches have gone from being centers of compassion in our communities to being centers of division, giving us additional reasons to dislike each other instead of teaching us to love without judgment.
I know that we have all been given the gift of the ability to create a better future for ourselves, and that is the essence of our humanity, that is innovation. Today, the forefronts of science are discovering amazing, miraculous things that are shaking the foundations of empirical thought, but in our history, there has been one consistent…progress - that is the one true empiricism. As we face the challenges of the future, we need to look to the past, to understand our humanity, to understand what we have been fighting for, and to know that now, we are closer than ever to the world that we all want, too close to give up. The history of a humanity is a story of innovation. A story that shows from the beginning the powerful have been trying to control our bodies, our minds and the resources meant for all of us, and how every step of the way, slowly but surely, we have been fighting to take it back.
Many people look at the youth of today and see rebellion, narcissism and ego, but I see something deeper. What greater ego could there have been than Rosa Parks, telling an entire nation with her actions that they were all wrong? But this is not ego, it is intelligence and pride, knowing that she knew a better way. Ego is our unfortunate response that arises when we are told that others are better, and more capable, and deserve more than we do. We have been taught to believe this our whole lives, but inside we know this is not true, there is no one greater than the least of us…we were all born with the same gifts…to have our own will and with the ability to create our own future.
The spirit of innovation calls to all of us, to believe in ourselves, to never stop fighting. No man has ever invented anything alone, every wonderful thing we have was already here, on this planet, just waiting to be discovered. These gifts belong to no man, they belong to us all.
So let us innovate, and bring real meaningful progress, taking back the world for the people for whom it was meant. We no longer need to simply protest; we have been given the tools that enable us all to share our ideas and passions. Social media tools that help us all to find others with common interests and ideas so we can band together and bring sustainable, meaningful change to create a better world.
I used to sit in school in pure amazement of the idea that Edison, Plato and others just came up with their brilliant ideas seemingly out of thin air, and I wondered how anyone could be so smart…but I have come to realize that Plato and others were solving the challenge meant for them, in their day, and that we have new challenges, new problems that have not yet been solved. Each of us has the knowledge and the ability to find new, better ways to improve all aspects of our lives. We can no longer allow ourselves to be told that we must accept old ways of doing things when we know there is a better way. It is up to each of us to believe in ourselves and work together to create a better tomorrow.
The Innovators credo:
I am Plato, I am Thomas Edison, I am Rosa Parks, I am (Fill in the name of those who inspire you)…I will not be told how to think, how to act or what my values should be. I will not be told to simply accept the bad of the present…I have the courage, strength and conviction to fight for a better future for myself, for my children, and for all of humanity. I am the spirit of innovation. I will not and cannot be stopped, and I will create a better future for our world.
"I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free...so other people would be also free." - Rosa Parks
"We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles." - Thomas Edison
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man." - G.B. Shaw
Art Fewell grew up in a trailer park, and never thought much of his own capabilities ... but he was given the greatest blessing: people who believed in him. And because of this, he has accomplished far more than he ever thought he could. Art has worked for tech giants SBC Communications, Nortel, Cisco and is currently working at Dell, where he spends his time trying to bring meaningful innovation to the world. Outside of work Art enjoys spending time with his wife Dez and his sons Benjamin and Ryan.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.