Wednesday, July 04, 2007

How'd he know how I sometimes feel?

Something Cam wrote recently introduced me to a guy with really smart ideas. I'd never heard of Dean Kamen before but the more I learn about his thinking, the more impressed I am. (photo credit)

While I am thoroughly enjoying a relaxing, lazy holiday with my husband, I can relate to the animosity Dean expresses for wasting time.

For a little while, yesterday without having a sense of purpose or accomplishment, I felt sad. Most of the time, I either want to be enjoying myself or doing something worthwhile.

Dean articulated my feelings of urgency and discontent as well as the reasoning behind my search for meaning.

Life is really, really short... This perspective gives me a sense of urgency. With that sense of urgency, I get up every day and think that I do not want to waste any time. And if you don't want to waste time, you look at all the problems you can work on and say, "I only want to work on the big problems. I am only going to work on the ones that matter." If you are not working on important things, you are wasting time.

And I love what he says about how in a world of ideas: You don't have to win by someone else losing...

And it isn't just talk, either. In a graduation speech, he said, I'm a tiny, tiny company. I have two villages in Bangladesh that I'm electrifying with boxes the size of this podium. They've been running for 24 weeks on nothing but cow dung. (photo credit)

I've got a village in Honduras that we're supplying absolutely pure water to with a box the size of this [podium]. Yeah, I have a day job, and we make stuff for people who can pay for it today. But what makes me enormously optimistic is the idea that the world is moving to a place where I think really good ideas are welcomed. With some urgency, the world is ready for change. (photo credit)

I hope he's right that: We're also facing a world where finally people are realizing we're all going to succeed together.

I'm all about collaborating rather than competing. Now if I can just find a way to get paid to take his advice: Work on the big problems--the problems that matter. Most of the time you will fail, but you will also occasionally succeed. Those occasional successes make all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile. And when you fail, you at least have the consolation of failing on really hard, important problems, which is far more appealing than running the risk of failing on easy, unimportant problems.

Thanks for the inspiration, Dean and for the introduction, Cam.


mcewen said...

I understand that feeling of frustration [my hands are pretty full at the moment, but I get a vicarious thrill from knowing that my daughter is hard at it in Mozambique]
Best wishes

marymaddux6272 said...

For what it's worth, I think what you do everyday, thoughtfully making three children's lives better, counts as "working on the big problems."

I'm happy your daughter is working on big ones too.

And it is ok for us to feel understimulated sometimes. Someone once told me I wasn't supposed to have all of my emotional needs met by a three year old.

And my now nearly 10 year old was away when I felt like I didn't have purpose. Spending meaningful time with our kids always counts as important.

I was just frustrated that I didn't know what my melancholy was about and happy he articulated it for me. Maybe next time I feel that way, I will spend some time working on a big problem and make myself feel better in the process?

Warm regards.

P.S. Have a blast in England.