I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse. –Florence Nightingale
Like many of you, I tuned-in to my friend Richard Branson’s Virgin Disruptors event a few weeks ago for a debate that hinged on the following question:
Have entrepreneurs lost the will to innovate?
If you logged in, you were treated to unique opinions of diverse panelists and moderator, Guy Kawasaki.
Sir Richard was quick to establish his stance right off the top: “I don’t believe that entrepreneurs have lost the will to innovate at all,” he said. “I’ve never known a more exciting time for innovation.”
Amen! I agree one hundred percent. Certainly everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I’m not sure why this event wouldn’t pivot on an empowering question. One that does not presuppose the contrary.
We’ve got self-driving cars, miniaturized medical equipment, and private space exploration. What else does innovation have to do to prove it’s got a pulse, 3-D print itself into existence?
I thought you’d never ask…
For evidence that disruptive innovators can be spotted in every direction you turn, look no further than my friend and partner, Easton LaChappelle. Since the age of 14, Easton has dedicated himself to creating affordable, state-of-the-art, prosthetic limbs — IN HIS BEDROOM!!
(You’ve gotta watch the VIDEO of this incredible young man below.)
Spectacular Disruption and Strategic Innovation
Want a storybook tale about an entrepreneur’s will to innovate? Once upon a time at a Colorado science fair, Easton met a little girl who was born without an arm. The girl’s parents told Easton about the elbow-to-fingertip prosthetic she was using that cost $80,000.
Easton couldn’t believe that the 7-year-old would need several of these $80,000 arms as she grew.
Being a bright and ambitious innovator, young Easton had been tinkering with projects his whole life. In fact, he was there at the science fair presenting the 1st generation of a prosthetic arm that he had made out of a Nintendo Power Glove, Legos, and electrical tape. But he had a moment of clarity in his meeting with that little girl and her family. He was moved in his heart to greatness.
Using 3D printing, Easton found a way to create a finger-tip-to-shoulder prosthetic with brainwave control for around $400! Yes, that’s not a typo. For about the same price as a PlayStation 4, you get an arm that is more powerful than the $80,000 model. A person using Easton’s $400 arm can curl 300 pounds!
Easton was recently invited to the White House to meet with President Obama. His developments are certainly worthy of POTUS attention. These innovations will make prosthetic technology available to those all over the world who truly need it.
I was completely inspired by Easton’s vision and even moreso by his ability toexecute. I had to connect with him. I reached out right away.
In his Ted Talk, Easton mentioned his desire to build a full exoskeletal device. He told the audience about a classmate of his who was in an accident and paralyzed from the waist down. Easton immediately felt the call to create. He wants to build an exoskeletal-body device that will allow his classmate to walk again and he believes he can get it done.
This vision touched the nerve of one of my deepest passions. About a year and a half ago, I started working with people who have been through extreme violence and injustice. I want to help them make the psychological breakthroughs so that they can go on and inspire others. I call them my Impossibles Team. I started this mission by teaming up with Nick Walczak, who was one of the five students fired on in the February 27, 2012 shooting at Chardon High School in Ohio that killed three boys. Nick was 16 the day he was sitting in the cafeteria when his life changed forever. As a result of his injuries, he was sentenced to live in a wheelchair. We invited Nick to a UPW event and he played full out — I mean, he walked across the fire on his hands! He is an amazing young man and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to be able to see him walk again.
Also on my Impossibles Team is a remarkable young lady named Ashley Moser. At 25, Ashley was attending the opeing of the new Batman movie in the theatre in Aurora, Colo., when the insane gunman arrived. Her boyfriend fled, and left alone, Ashley had to witness her 6-year-old daughter, Veronica, shot and killed in front of her eyes. If that tragedy wasn’t enough for one mother the bear, the shooter then turned on Ashley, and shot her in the stomach, killing her unborn child and paralyzing Ashley for life. The emotional and physical pain that she has gone through is beyond anyone’s imagination. I invited Ashley, her nurses, and her family to come out to several events and she has made a series of incredible breakthroughs. In the midst of her ongoing healing process, she agreed to accompany me to Newtown, Connecticut to work with some of the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. The simple idea here is that those like Ashley and Nick who have endured horrific tragedy and somehow still manage to live their life for good, with strength and grace are the ones capable of inspiring others who have been through a catastrophic pain and tragedy all their own.
As one mother said in Sandy Hook, it’s one thing to experience the ultimate pain of losing a child. And it’s quite an unimaginable other to lose a child, and an unborn baby, and sustaining paralyzing injuries. If Ashley can find a deeper meaning, and summon a reason to live, so can all of us. Her presence serves not as an inspiration, but as a gift of pure grace to anyone she encounters.
She disrupts our lapses in gratitude.
Each one of us go through our work-a-day lives convinced we have problems. But what is a problem anyway? We think we know until we meet people like Ashley, or Nick. Those survivors are the ultimate reminder to the rest of us that: we have no real problems. What we think is a problem is actually, absolutely no thing at all.
By putting themselves out into the world even after all the horrifying pain they’ve endured, these angel disruptors teach us the incredible resiliency of the human spirit. They are model examples of ability to move forward through anything we face. For me, there would be no greater gift on earth than to see these two heroes and others like them experience the freedom that would come with the freedom of begin able to walk once again.
And entrepreneurs like Easton LaChappelle are working around the clock to innovate this vision into reality.
When I got in contact with Easton I found out that he was a fan of my work — as I was his. We set up a partnership and he today he is working diligently on building a carbon fiber exoskeletal suit, the goal being to have the ability to mass produce it and also custom-fit it to each person in need and effectively empower someone with the ability to walk again.
In the decade to come, many things we currently think of as miracles will become commonplace occurrences because of innovative disruptors. And I really believe their motive does matter. Yes, Easton stands as a gifted entrepreneur to potentially do very well for himself financially, but the driving force behind what makes him do what he does is his honest desire to change lives — that’s what ushers him to remarkable breakthroughs faster than any other incentive ever will.
Entrepreneurs who have a vision larger than themselves are the ones who will not only find financial success, they will be the force that serve the greater good; the ones who will truly change the world.
Most people’s hearts are in the right place, it’s just that they get so caught up in making a living and forget they can design a life. Still there is absolutely no question that the disruptor spirit is alive and kicking harder than ever in the world we live in today. There are tools of creation now at our fingertips that have never existed before.
As the old proverb goes, necessity is the mother of invention. When we have a deep enough need for something, history shows that a thought leader will be inspired to find a way to serve that need.
Fortunately, Easton LaChappelle is not the only one stirred to serve. By now, we all know of the extraordinary contributions that Elon Musk has delivered to the world — and he’s only just beginning! If you need more proof that innovation is not dead, just look at Elon’s obsessive compulsion to innovate everything from electric cars to rocket ships. Musk was mentioned several times during the #disruptors debate because of his hunger. This is a man who was on the verge of losing it all when he put some $100 million of his own money into Space X. He believes so strongly in his mission that there is nothing he would not do to keep Tesla alive.
Musk exists in a world of unlimited possibility. Whenever an individual’s vision is aligned with insatiable hunger and a persistence that will not tolerate failure, miracles occur.
The great innovators all have one thing in common: They know Why they want to do something and that understanding allows them to stay out of the barbs and limits of the current How.
Innovative entrepreneurs let the Why take hold of them and in doing so, they find the How, or they create it with their own hands.
THAT is innovation.
As Google’s Megan Smith said, “I am a card-carrying optimist and I think innovation is alive and well.” I couldn’t agree with her more. I would declare that there is no reason to question the state of innovation.
What I would ask you as a disruptor today is:
What’s your Why?
What’s a set of reasons that will get you through the inevitable challenges that face any innovator?
How do you “connect the unconnected” as Jim Grubb, Cisco’s VP of Emerging Technologies, put it.
And lastly, I would ask, how do we as innovators collectively shift the conversation from, “Can it be done?” to “How do I make this happen right now?“
I’ve always said that passion is the genesis of genius. Go disrupt the limitations, and do it with passion.
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Walter Unger CCIM, CCSS, CCLS
I am a successful Commercial Investment Real Estate Broker in Arizona now for 20 years and I worked with banks and their commercial REO properties for 3 years. I am also a commercial landspecialist in Phoenix and a Landspecialist in Arizona.
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