Often, when we look back at the greatest achievements in science, business, technology, sports, and most industries, we attribute them to incredible natural talents, amazing works of genius, or big, brilliant ideas.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll discover that most developments were the result of small ideas that required perseverance and the willingness to iterate. Again and again.
Inventions require more work and more time to create than many of us realize. This makes sense — who pays attention when someone devotes their time, money, energy, and, in some cases, their life to work on an invention that’s not yet known, let alone perfected? As a society, we tend to become interested only once the new something has evolved, been refined, and become popular. Then it appears as though all the hard work happened overnight.
Think for a moment about all the brain power that has gone into creating modern-day conveniences like cell phones, automobiles, and commercial aircrafts. None of them worked correctly on the first try. Rather, each of them relied on a variety of parts (all of which had to be created and refined as well) and numerous tests and adjustments before being available for use by you and me.
Thousands of smaller inventions had to be woven together to create these tools that we casually use in our daily lives, often without a second thought. Consider, for instance, all the parts that are required for today’s vehicles to work as we expect them to, and how they’ve improved over the years.
Each part was, at one point, an invention that started as an idea that someone pursued relentlessly and tirelessly until he or she made it work.
Contemporary inventors build on the ideas of past inventors, iterating and persevering just like they did to create the latest gear and gadgets. They are masterfully building on decades of inventions, and this constant evolution is what allows us to enjoy tools and resources that were unimaginable not that long ago.
“Unimaginable” may seem like a strong word, but it’s pretty remarkable how many inventions have come about in such a short period of time. Imagine talking with someone who lived 100 years ago about the capabilities of today’s jumbo jets, or about cars that can drive themselves. To that person, such modes of transportation would seem impossible.
Or imagine having a conversation with someone from 1985 about all the unheard-of things we can do on our cell phones: texting, emailing, taking photos, asking questions and getting answers on the Internet, tracking our health and fitness — the list goes on.
These once-inconceivable advancements are now so common-place that they no longer feel or look like anything special.
But these seemingly mundane tools are anything but. What we’re creating, refining, and using today is critical for the next wave of innovation.
I believe that at some time in the future, we will be traveling the universe at speeds completely unimaginable and to distances completely unfathomable to find other habitable places. It will take significant amounts of trial and error to get there, but I have no doubt that what we’re creating today will help us do these things someday.
Humans have overcome many obstacles and prevailed. We will continue to succeed because of the innate drive that’s within each of us to innovate and grow.
So when you have an idea that you feel is worth pursuing, allow yourself to imagine, believe, act, and pursue it relentlessly. Every time it fails or falls short of your expectations, think of the next round of iteration as one more necessary step toward success. There is always a way — that is the mantra.
We are enjoying our lives largely due to the imagination and perseverance of generations before us. Now we’re doing our part to pave the way for future generations.
I believe in us. Humanity will prevail. Imagine. Believe. Act. Persevere. Repeat. (And never give up.)