My dear friend Rene de Paula asked me yesterday: “Does your entire object of work (internet, e.g.) still excite you in the same way it did years ago?”. I had an immediate answer: YES. And then I re-read it and thought about what that really means and started to see some significant differences in what that emphatic yes meant when I started this and what it means now.
When you ask yourself ‘what inspires you’ or ‘what drives you’, what are the things that come to mind? Recently I spent the weekend in Pittsburgh indulging myself in a two-day workshop dedicated entirely to thinking about my work and myself. That was one of the hard questions I tried to answer and after much writing and exploring, realized that the key thing that excites me in the world and inspired me, is potential.
I don’t come to work to make money (though after a couple of years of Suze Orman I’m learning that’s more important than I’ve given it credit – a post for another time). I come to work every day because of the potential I see in myself, the potential I see in the people I work with and the potential I see in the services we create. I am really attracted to potential outcomes.
That was an interesting realization because it made me think that while people always appreciate my creativity and ability to consider complex and numerous scenarios, I think it is a key aspect of my personality (and skill set ?), which powers my ability to self-motivate and be a self-starter.
I don’t need much incentive to get on with an idea. I just need enough to glimpse into the future and see what it might look like realized. And that’s what really excited me when I started working with the Web. Most of us didn’t really know where this was going and we were all very excited about it.
I saw opportunities, rewarding challenges and the potential for something unlike anything I had ever seen. I am not saying I was some neo-Nostradamus and had concrete images of what the web would be today – For example, I thought emails were awesome, but expected it to remain a niche thing adopted mostly by geeks – but there was so much unexplored and so much to learn merely by just showing up that it was impossible not to dream of the possibilities in an almost constant state of excitement.
So what is different now? The Internet has changed and so have I – and it is precisely the new aspects of that original potential that keep me excited today. I don’t see the potential of the Web as this broad, unexplored, fuzzy thing, where the excitement came from the very fact that anything was possible. For example, I don’t think of the Internet as a destination, which is how I understood it when I first came to it.
I also used to understand the Internet as a communication channel, but now I see it more as a collection of distributed tools (basically re-framing my understanding from “an end” to “a bunch of means”). And because I don’t see it as a destination, a place, my understanding of a distributed set of tools dissociated of place came to be. Clearly I don’t even gave good enough words to describe what I mean, but the fact that I can articulate the difference, shows me that what I am seeing is the new potential I found in it, not the actual or concrete artifacts or instantiations of what it is today.
I don’t think I would still be excited about working with the Web if it had realized the way I (sort of) envisioned it. Had it become only this destination (which it is in part) today, I am certain my interested would have diminished and I would be looking for potential elsewhere.
Likewise, I changed in ways I did not plan. For example, if you asked me if I would be interested in attending a workshop to discuss what I want and what is my purpose, I would have laughed right at ya. I used to be all about doing stuff (not necessarily asking if it was the stuff I wanted to do). And even if people thought I asked great questions and always looked a things from a holistic perspective, I like to think I was able to expand that perspective, in not just being able to see more, but remembering that seeing is not the only sense I have.