We are living in perhaps the greatest period of technological innovation in modern times. It’s almost impossible to keep up with it all. Seems everyday there is something mind boggling coming out of the tech sector. From driverless cars to drones, AI to medtech, robots to rockets, it’s truly astonishing how fast our world is innovating.
We, and I mean, we because we are the consumers who are buying all of these tools, apps and services, have made many of these companies and their leaders astonishingly wealthy. Apple for instance is sitting on $25 billion in cash! Yup, $25 billion!
And as consumers we are clearly hooked on this type of innovation. We download the latest and greatest offerings from Netflix. We spend hours upon hours on Instagram or Facebook looking at retouched photos and showing everyone how beautiful our lives are. We have fun telling Amazon’s Echo to play a song. We go out and maybe even buy a Tesla to marvel at the engineering prowess of the machine. And we, of course, must rush to get the latest, shiny new iPhone (even though the one we have works just fine!).
For me, I never really placed much of a value on technology or even innovation. I was content enjoying the few material possessions I had and had fun with them til they just died or became obsolete. I never pursued the latest or the greatest. But, I think I was guilty of an even greater flaw — I was not embracing self innovation!
For all of the time and money we spend on buying or using the latest innovation tools, we rarely invest in innovating ourselves. I plead guilty of that for most of my life.
Think about the choices most of us make. We would rather get distracted with a Netflix series or play with a shiny new gadget than innovate ourselves from within. We outsource all of our innovation to Apple, Google, Amazon, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. And we have made them widely wealthy as a result, but we ourselves are bankrupt in our spiritual and mental growth.
I realized this about myself several years ago. I just stopped growing. I stopped evolving. To quote the great philosopher Bruce Springsteen…
I had a great career in a business I built. Had a good standard of living. Had everything I could have ever wanted. But I was so unfufilled and spiritually empty. I had to destroy that sense of apathy and comfort before I started to decay into retirement and boredom. And I saw myself as that guy I never wanted to be…Willy Loman! I was just repeating what I knew, playing it safe and never really challenging myself.
And so I set out to destroy that person I created and start to rebuild and innovate myself.
I started a new career in something I knew nothing about — technology.
I started painting — something I always wanted to do but never had the courage.
I started writing because I always loved to write but never made the time.
I started practicing yoga — something alot of men my age don’t necessarily do.
I started meditating to learn how to calm my anxious mind.
I became a Buddhist and study many hours a week in order to grow spiritually.
I starting reading and learning about so many new things that interested me whereas before, I don’t think I read a book in twenty years. Now I read a book every few weeks.
I listen to podcasts to learn about topics that interest me and I discovered this new medium was a wonderful way to explore subjects I was curious about.
I finally became a self-innovator.
And as a result, I don’t think I have evolved, grown and changed as much in my my first fifty years on this planet than over the past few years.
Along the way, I decided to NOT spend any time on the things that would distract me. No TV. No entertaining, but mindless new Netflix series. No hours on social media, etc.
I hear from many friends that I am fortunate to have the time to invest in myself discovering new things to experience and learn from in life. I say bullshit. It’s about the choices we make. It’s about realizing that you are choosing external innovation over internal innovation and growth. It’s about deciding that the only true path to happiness is inside of you and not in external objects or desires.
I have a great friend who took up the guitar in his 40’s. My sister started painting again in her 40s. My other sister started volunteering large amounts of her free time to causes that she was passionate about and helping those less fortunate. My good friend is taking up gardening. It’s not about when you decide to innovate, it’s about making the choice to do so.
Every single day I wake up, the first thing I do is a minute of gratitude. Gratitude for waking up and getting another day to make it count. To enjoy this amazing gift of life. And I realize now more than ever that we can’t waste a precious second or take anything for granted. As the great writer Joan Didion said in her haunting book The Year of Magical Thinking – “Life changes in an instant.”
So next time you are thinking about buying a new tech toy, or spending time on someone else’s innovation, maybe think about your own self innovation.
After all, to me, you’re worth more than Apple:) Maybe it’s time you believe that, too!