You have to recognize that every "out front" maneuver is going to be lonely. But if you feel entirely comfortable, then you're not far enough ahead to do any good. That warm sense of everything going well is usually the body temperature at the center of the herd. Only if you're far enough ahead to be at risk do you have a chance for large gains. - John Masters, Canadian oilman (via HeartMath.com)
I almost forgot what possessed me to move to Silicon Valley at the worst time in the tech downturn after my recent three-week visit back to Utah. I hadn't been there for a solid year and a half. So seeing the mountains again had that dramatic movie set awe. I was reeled back to the first time I arrived into Salt Lake City from the swamplands (alright, but it is really flat) of Florida for a job interview in March 1992.
I felt nostalgic from the minute I got back. I ran my favorite trail running routes (correction: those that weren't plowed under three feet of snow, among them Red Butte), I curled up in a chair in my favorite book store and cafe combo (Oasis Cafe), and favorite Mediterrean restaurant and said hi to Ali (Mezza) and it took time to mourn the passing of my favorite spa.
On the day after the epic drive, I attended the annual gala luncheon awarding the top 100 fastest growing Utah businesses. The venture capitalist on the board of the ill-fated start-up (employee #1; you'll have to dig those post archives yourself) introduced me to his new associate and he teased me by throwing in, "And Evelyn's moving back to Utah."
I didn't say that at all. But perhaps something belied my protestations. (I still have an 801 area code cell.)
Yeah a part of my heart will always be in Utah (joke all you want). And when I didn't see but one soul in an eleven-mile hike in a national park (Canyonlands), I was plotting ways to arrange to reside there half-time (once my original idea - but abandoned out of sheer practicality).
I've been back five days. I only partially exaggerate, but I live in a box comparatively speaking to what I left behind. But even if I had to eat ramen noodles for (um, the rest of the month?) to stay here in the Bay Area (that's in N. California, I had someone from Wisconsin ask me where that was a week ago), I'd do it with no whining.
I know that talent is distributed everywhere on this universe and is ready to burst forth in each of us and I've harped sometime before that I wonder if geography is even relevant anymore especially with the blogosphere.
There is nothing like the energy here. There are still plenty of people that will look at you askance as if you are absolutely bonkers here. Tolerance is cited by Richard Florida as one of the three T's for economic regional success in the "creative class" age. 'Tolerance' - even outright 'acceptance' - isn't enough. A real radical doesn't need validation. But there are environments where innovators thrive, not merely are tolerated. I can't adequately describe the resonating vibrations that amplify your own energy when you are in the presence of revolutionaries that aren't looking to draw way in the center to doubly ensure the crayon won't stray out of the lines.
Randy Komisar, in one of my favorite all-time business book category-busters, says there are two types of business ideas: better-cheaper-faster or change-the-world. Silicon Valley is a magnet for brilliant change-the-world minds. Still is, dot-com crash or not.
I got back in time for the Accelerating Change conference where I heard some fascinating speakers from the creator of SimCity and The Sims, Will Wright, to the creator of the mouse, Doug Engelbart (and in fact Doug will speak again in a smaller setting Nov 19th). Sergey Brin and Larry Page were scattered discretely in the audience. But name-dropping like that is backward-looking. That's real impressive in Cleveland and Salt Lake City. People that live here without a doubt know they heard the future talking in the unknown 'brands' - in the smaller sessions and in the hallways and in the lines to the Stanford cafeteria.
I'm particularly excited just this moment as I returned from a presentation that the founders of Excite, Joe Kraus and Graham Spence, just gave to an intimate gathering of the Emerging Tech SIG about their intriguing new start-up, JotSpot (coming, separate post). And tomorrow (just past midnight, today then) I'll see Malcolm Gladwell present from his new book, Blink (Seth gushes it's the most important book of the year).
That's pretty much just the average week here (you can barely catch your breath in August and December).
This is hard to capture in words, but it's not so much the raw content you might read on a post writing up she said and then what he asked so much that matter...it's the energy and passion that reverberates and fuels us to push forward even when the rest of the world seems stuck in quicksand.
Mark Finnern, Bay Area Future Salon leader, writes that Doug Engelbart's speech was his favorite this weekend. When Engelbart was 25 years old he wrote down a life goal:
As much as possible, to boost mankind's collective capability for coping with complex, urgent problems.
Engelbart is rather humble, soft-spoken man whom is not done with his accomplishments. He is one whom quietly simmers with purpose. And I'm constantly surrounded and reminded of my own simmering purpose in the presence of those that rise up to the their own latent greatness.
This is an oasis where people don't worry about the feared resume gap but go off to pot plants and listen to their wee voice (trademarked by Hugh) before embarking on their next revolution. These are the types of people that live here and I'm not a sissy to admit I need them close by. It's not that lonely "out front" after all.