I just spent the last three days at a technology/startup/venture capitalist/entrepreneurship conference. It’s called TechCrunch, which is the name of a website, owned by AOL, that reports on business, startups and venture type news. It is widely popular. There were over 3,000 attendees, who paid about $3,000 to get in the doors. It was cool to speak to and hear from some bright entrepreneurs and leaders in the tech space. Here are some overarching takeaways that can be applicable to everyone, but mostly this is me getting my thoughts down which I will hopefully remember and follow.
Take the opportunity to listen to someone who has single handily changed the world in person. Mark Zuckerberg may not be the most exciting or eloquent speaker, but he has over 800 million people that have signed up for Facebook. 800 million. Do you know what the population is of the USA? 300+ million. Thanks for playing. You think his name is just going to fade away or better yet his company? I highly doubt it.
What is interesting about Zuck is that he didn’t think he was the one to take Facebook to the scale it is now. He was just a college kid with his friend in a dorm room. That tells me two things: One, we are all destined for some kind of greatness and we often sell ourselves short. Of course we all won’t have the Facebook like story (less than 1% will), but we can all get an idea or ourselves to a higher place; we are destined for it. Two, do something that interest you. Totally cliche, but look at Zuck. He was working on a side project, something that he thought was cool. Side projects don’t have to be home runs, they rarely are, but they supplement and give color to our lives.
A number of great minds said to think unconventionally and that if everyone is in agreement in your organization, then you have a problem. How do you do that? How do you think outside of the box? For most of our lives we been brainwashed to accept what people say as truth and not to ask too many questions. I’m not saying anything new, but that’s just it, everyone talks about this cancer of thinking too like minded, but where is the practical application? Okay, I am a sheep, how do I become a wolf?
One way I have been trying to overcome conventional thinking is to force myself to think in objection. It doesn’t have to be voiced aloud, but if someone says something that is an opinion or even fact, I yell at myself “NO! Do not believe them.” I try to be the devil’s advocate. I’m not saying that unconventional minds argue and are jerks all the time, but they don’t go with the grain in all things. I figure if I can train myself into trying to always take an opposite view I will soon be thinking in completely different way – one that is searching and questioning. Questioning is one of the most powerful tools we have. A great problem solver is someone who can ask the cutting question to the heart of the problem. I have no idea if this is a worthwhile exercise, but hell, why not try it?
The last thought (which might be completely obvious) is that the future before us is one of technical language and understanding. The next generation must be able to speak and understand technical problems. They must know how to code. They must understand the language of engineers. I listened to several entrepreneurs and had no idea of what they were talking about. The world will continue to become digital and virtual. The building blocks of our companies, our economy, your personal life is technology.