At the Cusp of Innovation

As the Europeans saw the trade from Asia, they sort to get into the riches and pull themselves out of poverty by the bootstraps. A backwater that was known for nothing, but had a drive and hunger to make a name for itself, stepped forth into the stage through naval trade. It started with the Portuguese and the Spaniards, who took it upon themselves to travel around the Tail of Africa and get to East Indies. There they got spices, which they traded with local people back home and made fortunes. The product was killer and the people loved it. They wanted more and they grew richer and richer. As they did this, the other European countries got into the trade and found their own trade routes.

The Italians had one pioneer, by the name of Christopher Columbus, who had a radical idea. Instead of going round the south of Africa, why don't we sail in the other direction? Sounds like a great idea now, but it was ridiculous to most at the time. No one in their records had venture to that other side of the world and make it to the other side, why would he do it? However, he was given the go ahead by the king since competition was strife and any other ideas that gave an advantage where welcome. Columbus raised money from investors, hired a crew and armed with a great plan, he set off to find another way to India and get the Italian crown some amazing riches.

As the story goes, he didn't get to India but instead found a whole continent that was ripe for exploitation. Call Columbus what you want, but the man was an opportunist per excellence. He saw the moment and lead the new era, where the explorers found a new world for the old world to conquer and lay claim to. It changed the course of history and the lives of millions today. This is the story of men who seized moments and changed how we think and do things in the world we live in today.

In many ways, Columbus was no different from a tech entrepreneur today. He stood in front the highest office in the land with a pitch. His idea was differentiated because no one was doing it and it was high-risk but high reward. If there was a route to India, then it had low traffic, less bandits and less friction. If it didn't succeed, only money and a few lives would be lost. No big deal. He was given the blessing of the his Grace and sent of to find this new mysterious route to riches and fortunes. He then set off to get investors who would bankroll his campaign. He must have been really convincing as he showed the 5-year projections of continuous flow of trade with India by using Portuguese manuscripts. He was funded. He then looked for a crew, a bunch of misfits, rebels and crazy people who would go on such a seemingly fools errand. I can only imagine what his friends must have thought. They must have all said no, "I believe you are going mad, Columbus. Snap out of this nonsense. You could get yourself killed". "Just because of have the blessing of the king and some money doesn't mean that you should do some stupid shit". As we can tell, he didn't listen to the naysayers, he left them to do their own thing, the cowardly thing. I am pretty sure he had a plan that had one rule, pack the boat to the brim and sail West for as long as possible until they found India. Great plan indeed.

I can only understand the things that were going through his mind when he was planning the trip. He must have had doubts and thought it was mad to venture into such a business. He could have done anything else. He could have just gone round the south of Africa like everyone else. Why didn't he do so? Well, a number of people would say that he was convinced that their was another route to India because of his belief in the world being round. He must have been a well-read fellow, because this was not accepted knowledge at the time. It was only a century earlier that Galileo was forced to recant from claiming that the world was round. This was not something people just talked about. However, he knew this knowledge and had a hypothesis. He must have believed that if Galileo and other scholars were right, then he would have hidden knowledge that no one else was willing to believe.

As history tells, the Portuguese and the Spaniards found the Americas because of the pioneering work of Columbus and they ripped enormous rewards before other people would soon notice and come running for a piece. Being a pioneer is not only fulfilling but rewarding.

Unfortunately, our world today has become too fixated on the rewards of pioneering, that they have gotten the soul of what being a pioneer is. Too many people want to build great companies but they are not willing to go too far beyond what is possible. It is only about what makes them money. To have such a bold claim like Columbus, requires a heart of iron that can only be forged by the passion of doing something more and not just the pursuit of profit. The men of profit make it in a world of arbitrage, where trade is the order of the day. Innovation is different because it requires knowing something that other don't agree with, or what seems improbable and therefore unprofitable. On paper, it doesn't sound all impressive. It just sounds like something that seems cool or even just average. In other times, it sounds shocking and even offensive. This is the business of doing new things. This is what innovation is about.

There are many men who have lined these halls of innovation. From the founders of religions, building of great temples, manufacturers of cars, builders of bombs and even the discoverers of distant lands. These people are not different, they are cut from the same cloth. The founding, pioneering and innovative spirit are one and the same thing. They walk and travel different but they are the same kind of people.

It has always been fascinating what drives such people. I have no answer from this question but I may have a clue. A man of such caliber is not driven by the usual kinds of things. He does just move through life and think it okay. When he is shown everything in front of him, he will look to horizon and yearn for more. He exclaim, "This is not enough, I want more". There is always an Incurable Itch that must be scratched, a wound that will never close and a truth that must be sort. For all that is given to such a man, he is not satisfied. Some may say it is a need for love but such a man has fond memories of his time alone. Some may say that he is curious, but curious is not full of fire and conviction. Some may say that he is lost, but he seems so focused on going somewhere. There is a drive that cannot be explained that pushes the man forward to pursue the great things, the higher things. This is what needs to be discovered. He almost feels like a man's soul stretches out into the world and seeks to model into it's own image. It seeks to create something where there was nothing, almost as if it is the nature of the soul to do so. It knows nothing else and therefore it must fulfill this prophecy. It almost seems like a commandment and it therefore it is followed.

I know not why I do the things that I do, but I know that it is good. I will pursue it for this reason and no other. I will do this according to the will that has been imposed upon me, not for my punishment or detriment but for the good of all things good and true. There comes a time when a reason is not the answer. The answer is just to do.