A 480 year-old insight on innovation that still holds true today

And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

Nicolo Machiavelli

The Prince – Ch 7 “Concerning New Principalities Which Are Acquired By One’s Own Arms And Ability”

On one hand, Machiavelli espoused an ammoral approach to obtaining power and counseled the ambitious Prince to be prepared  to commit heinous acts to rise in position that many of us would seek to distance ourselves from. (More nuance on that here)

On the other hand, we should not be afraid to learn what we can from a man who so intently studied influence and human nature.

The takeaway here: Innovating is hard and it’s because change may need to loss. Humans have a strong loss aversion and something new holds the chance for harm, either real or perceived, then we will do our best to resist and block it.

There have been always those who were willing to take risks to climb mountains, cross oceans and build new ventures. Explorers, entrepreneurs, and innovators are an uncommon but necessary part of our society. But never forget that making change happen will almost always be a steep uphill battle.

 

Use the Wrong Reasons to Achieve the Right Goals [quote]

Heavy traffic (herding sheep)Photo credit: magical-world

With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons.

It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason – this is a fight with a windmill. The organizer should know and accept that the right reason is introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved, although it may have been achieved for the wrong reason – therefore he should search for and use the wrong reasons to achieve the right goals. He should be able , with skill and calculation, to use irrationality in his attempts to profess toward a rational world.

- Saul D Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

We live in a messy and convoluted world where people are motivated by a variety of things – things often considered to be foolish, base or irrational by idealists and purists. But I am with Alinsky in the belief that what matters most is the outcome. Let’s focus on getting everyone to do the right things first – right intentions can come later.

EDIT – July 14th, 2012

Some folks have interpreted this post to mean “the ends justify the means” which is incorrect. It’s about creating the right kind of incentives to encourage action. For instance – my startup Ridejoy helps people share car trips. This is a great way to reduce carbon emissions, which is a cause of global climate change, which leads to all kinds of bad things for human and animal life.

However, our branding is about having fun and affordable roadtrips. We don’t guilt or badger people into sharing rides to “be efficient” or “protect the planet” even when that might be one of our ultimate goals. Instead, we offer an incentive, a reason, that appeals to them, even if it’s not the “right” one.

A Chance to Start Unknown and Finish Unforgettable [quote]

untitled - running

I run because I can. Because when I do, there’s always the chance to be extraordinary. A chance to start unknown and to finish unforgettable. A chance to overcome all obstacles, to fight through pain and suffering to test your emotional limits and boundaries, to experiment with the potential of the human body and discover just how far you can push yourself.

Laura Weisberger – 16 year old cross country and track runner in her Running Times article “That’s Why I Run

Photo credit: Gustavo Minas

Without ambition one starts nothing [quote]

without-ambition--one-starts-nothing.--without-work-one-finishes-nothing

via behappy.me

When talking about nailing our routines in competition, my college teammate Eli would always say – “Don’t let it happen, make it happen.” Our endless hours of training were the preparation, the bank deposits we made so that come game day – we would cash in big.

You’ve got to have both huge aspirations and a huge amount of grit to power through all the crap that comes between you and the prize.

So go out and get it.

PS – if you liked this posted, behappy.me has a ton of awesome quotes that you should check out.