Friday, March 18, 2011

A Wold of Wonders

A World of Wonders

As kids we learned about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria as depicted by 16th-century Dutch artist Marten Heemskerk. Other than the Great Pyramid, the rest are mostly unknown in the modern world.

And then there’s the Brooklyn Bridge – this has been referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World; it was built in the late 1800s and epitomized inventiveness and industriousness and innovation in a growing modern world. Unlike the other Seven, this wonder was built when mass communications were starting to spread news about things farther and faster than ever before. Google this, or watch the Ken Burns documentary sometime for a fascinating story about this amazing accomplishment.

So, here I was in Brooklyn last weekend and decided to do what thousands of tourists apparently do – walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Not knowing what to expect, I put on my coat, took the subway and followed signs for the “walkway”. The farther we went, the more crowded it got; when we finally got onto the bridge there were two lanes – one for foot traffic (like us) and the other for bicycles.  And those thousands of people were all there. The lane for foot traffic had people going in both directions and since everyone was walking two or more abreast it was like swimming upstream. And forgetabout veering into the bike lane – those people had another agenda and it didn’t include watching out for, or trying to avoid, people who were walking. But once we got the hang of walking and avoiding all the other people on the bridge, we were able to focus on the view: the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, the East River, and the six lanes of traffic below – these all competed for our attention – and the view was spectacular.

But that’s not the point. Think about how creative and innovative John Roebling (the original designer) and his son Washington and Washington’s wife (they finished the bridge when the elder Roebling suddenly died) had to be to complete the construction of this wonder (that’s a story in itself). Think about the naysayers who didn’t believe that something so new and inventive and spectacular could be designed and actually built. Think about the fact that men and women worked tirelessly without computers and machinery to build it.  Think about the fact that dreamers really did rule the world back then. Even with all of our stuff today – technology and engineering prowess and globalization – there aren’t a lot of projects like this on the world’s drawing boards. We should all remember to dream big, to collaborate well, to work smart, to try hard, to care a lot, to do good and to never ever give up.  Who knows: one day you may create the next wonder of the world. I gotta believe there are countless Brooklyn Bridges in the future – all it takes is the freedom to move, the strength to stand, the power to dream, the courage to innovate and the will to continue.
My message this week is about innovation and the impact it can and does have on the world around us.  This week’s quote honors women’s history month and celebrates St. Patrick’s Day.

“To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.” 
-Bernadette Devlin

Bernadette Devlin, a radical feminist and Catholic activist in Northern Ireland, was a founder of People's Democracy. After one failed attempt to be elected, she became the youngest woman ever elected to Parliament in 1969.

Innovation sometimes takes giving everything you have to accomplish your goals.  That’s right – everything, as in all you’ve got with nothing else left to give.  If that’s the case then you have to decide what your dreams and goals are really worth to you. If a goal is worth achieving then you should be prepared to have it consume all of your time, energy, knowledge and skills; you should commit all of these and whatever else is needed to reach that result; you must be willing do everything to succeed. The results of this kind of effort could and should be something very creative and innovative, something that you can be proud of, and something that benefits your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors, something that can really make a difference. If you want to gain anything that’s worth having then you should be willing to give up and lose everything to make that happen. That kind of commitment can help lead to serious innovation today!

Stay well!

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