We’ve been trained to look for problems. When someone does have a new idea, everybody takes aim and pokes holes in it. I had just finished such a hole poking session with my engineering firm. We’ve been looking for solutions to some design issues for months. Lots of design issues!
At some point I lost count of all the design options we had discussed. Now, after months of work, I felt like throwing my hands and arms in the air while yelling, “I give up!” Gratefully, this seemingly futile meeting was over and I was walking toward the lobby.
When I turned the corner from the hallway to the lobby I saw a familiar face. It was my friend Art Boyce. He was sitting with his back to the window, sun streaming across his shoulders and a calm, smile creased across his face. He greeted me warmly and then gave me some of his well-learned advice.
“You just have to keep working at it every day. And, don’t give up!” He said with a warm, heartfelt handshake.
Art would know. I’ve watched him expand his business over many years and every time I drive past it, I can’t help but smile at his success as I see customers there. I also smile because I suspect that when he started his business, people told him that it would never work. Yet, he did precisely the opposite of what all of those people said and his risk taking is what ultimately paid off.
I stepped out of the building, with a friendly wave, and into my car where I sat to think for a moment. My brief talk with Art reminded me of something Marc Randolph, the founder and first CEO of Netflix said.
“When people tell you that idea will never work, most of the time they’re gonna be right, but you have to say, ‘Not this time. I’m going to figure this out, there is a right solution and I’m going to get there.’”
He also said, “Is it that I was smart? Well, no. … Almost all my ideas were bad ones. Maybe it’s that I’m persistent. Well, I will take a little credit for being persistent. But there’s actually something I’m even more proud of. I’m proud that I’m an optimist, and I’m not a glass half (full) optimist, I am a glass overflowing optimist.”
Now there was a calm smile creasing my own face as I mentally grouped Art and Marc together. I felt a warm sense of gratitude fill my heart’s glass to overflowing for learning from these two great people.
Living a successful life is not always about having good ideas. It’s about getting comfortable with learning lessons from trying lots of bad ones. The key is to challenge yourself to persist in quickly, easily and cheaply trying out as many “good” ideas as possible. That’s what wise people call “seasoning.”
Seasoning comes because of the way life trains us through offered experience and wading through lots of not-so-good ideas. Living trains us to overcome problems. So, next time someone pokes holes in your new idea and you feel a little discouraged, let Art’s words fill you with optimism.
“You just have to keep working at it every day. And, don’t give up!”
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.