New Year's Message: From Pessimism To Optimism… And The Power Of Innovation
from the love-the-possibilities,-upset-at-the-roadblocks dept
A couple months back, I had a really fascinating experience. I had two meetings in a row, each with incredibly successful content creators — people who have embraced new business models and new technologies to amazing results, both creatively and monetarily. We were discussing the state of the entertainment industry today, as well as additional strategies for navigating what’s coming next. What I found amusing, however, was how at some point, in the middle of each of those meetings, the person I was talking to sat back, laughed, and said “you’re such an optimist about these things!” I was amused, since both of these individuals had already shown an ability to thrive in these new, often unchartered waters, but they still weren’t completely convinced of their own success.
But the part that really struck me, was that immediately following these two meetings, I went to check on Techdirt, and was reading a series of comments about how reading Techdirt each day was making people more and more pessimistic — what with new, more draconian copyright laws, domain name seizures, free speech violations and the like happening. And the juxtaposition of the two things struck me as odd. Yet, it seems to happen quite frequently. Just a week after those meetings, I was at the Monaco Media Forum, and I thought how nice it was that the opening of the event was entirely focused on optimism and all of the new opportunities that innovation has opened up for the media landscape. Having attended so many entertainment industry/media/policy/etc. events where most of the focus is on “the problems” or “the threats,” I found that really refreshing. I mentioned on Twitter how cool it was that the conference was opening on such an optimistic note, rather than the pessimistic openings of other events. And the very first response I got back was: “look who’s talking!”
And so, it seems, there’s this odd dichotomy, where many people reading the site seem to feel that I’m angry or pessimistic in general, when the truth is quite the opposite (though, apparently, that only becomes clear to some people when they talk to me in person). For my last post of the year for the past two years, I’ve taken up similar subjects. In 2008, I wrote, On Staying Happy…, about how it was a myth that I was somehow filled with rage and angry about the world. There’s so much wonderful going on, and it was excitement about all of that which keeps me happy. Last year, I expanded on that subject, in writing about Creativity, Innovation and Happiness, noting all the amazing achievements and progress made in 2009.
Once again, this year, I feel quite the same way. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the juxtaposition between those who think I’m extremely optimistic, and those who insist I’m extremely pessimistic — and I think the best explanation I have goes back to a post I did in April, in which I explained how much I love seeing progress, and if I’m upset about anything, it’s only about the roadblocks that get in the way of progress. I talked about the famous Louis CK video “Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy” where he discusses all of these amazing technological advances — mobile phones, internet on airplanes, flying in airplanes itself — and how people bitch and complain about it when those things don’t work. Similarly, in that post, I compared two articles — one complaining about the state of mobile phones today, and the other pointing out just how amazing it is that we have mobile phones today which are basically amazingly powerful computers in your pocket.
The point I was trying to make was that I definitely see both sides of that argument. I’m amazed every single day by some of the amazing things out there. And yet, at the same time, I’m frustrated by anything that gets in the way of making it even better. So, I’m super optimistic about innovation, and all of the possibilities out there. And I believe, quite strongly, that you cannot stop innovation — but you absolutely can hinder it. So any “anger” that people feel, which may give them a sense of frustration and pessimism is my frustration about the roadblocks and barriers and hurdles that people throw in the way of this innovation — either due to a misunderstanding of innovation, or through laziness and an unwillingness to change to take advantage of those new opportunities.
So, don’t take the stories on Techdirt of negative things that are happening as reasons to be sad or pessimistic. Just look at them as highlighting the temporary roadblocks to innovation that need to be cleared out of the way. The faster those roadblocks are cleared, the sooner we increase that pace of innovation and there will be even more to be happy, excited and optimistic about. There will always be new roadblocks, but innovation cannot and will not be stopped.
Yes, it’s frustrating to see roadblocks, corruption, monopolies and other efforts designed to hinder such innovation. It’s frustrating because we know they’re not necessary, and serve only to slow our own opportunities to experience great innovations. But, remain optimistic that as those roadblocks are cleared away, there will continue to be so much more that’s wonderful to be optimistic about.