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Think of the ice harvesters, but be a refrigerator

I love quotes, and I own a number of quote books. One of the books I’ve received is called “What Now?” and it’s basically advice for after graduation.

I was skimming this book tonight when I came across a graduation speech made by Guy Kwasaki. I don’t know who he is or where or when this speech was given. (A bit of Googling turned this up: “Hindsight” Commencement Speech, Palo Alto High School, California, June 11, 1995.) But there was something in it worth sharing. He presents his speech in a top 10 list of things he realizes now but didn’t when he was a new graduate.

This is item eight: “Challenge the known and embrace the unknown.”

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to accept the known and resist the unknown. You should, in fact, do exactly the opposite: challenge the known and embrace the unknown.

Let me tell you a short story about ice. In the late 1800s there was a thriving ice industry in the Northeast. Companies would cut blocks of ice from frozen lakes and ponds and sell them around the world. The largest single shipment was 200 tons that was shipped to India. 100 tons got there unmelted, but this was enough to make a profit.

These ice harvesters, however, were put out of business by companies that invented mechanical ice makers. It was no longer necessary to cut and ship ice because companies could make it in any city during any season.

These ice makers, however, were put out of business by refrigerator companies. If it was convenient to make ice at a manufacturing plant, imagine how much better it was to make ice and create cold storage in everyone’s home.

You would think that the ice harvesters would see the advantages of ice making and adopt this technology. However, all they could think about was the known: better saws, better storage, better transportation.

Then you would think that the ice makers would see the advantages of refrigerators and adopt this technology. The truth is that the ice harvesters couldn’t embrace the unknown and jump their curve to the next curve.

Challenge the known and embrace the unknown, or you’ll be like the ice harvester and ice makers.

All right, so what’s the point?

Well, I want to be ahead of the curve. So many journalists are stuck in the ice harvesting phase. I find stories, report them and ship the finished story off to you to consume.

A lot of papers are in the ice maker phase. Ok, well, how about if we utilize you guys. We’re looking at property taxes or towing fines or whatever the topic of the day is. What’s your experience? Why don’t you leave a comment on our story? Enter our forum?

But that’s not going to last forever. We’re moving into the refrigerator stage pretty quickly: People can make their own ice. And just as they learned to do that, they’ll learn to produce their own news. They already are, on sites like YouTube, NowPublic, hell, even Blogger. And they’re learning to organize it and disseminate it in news feeds.

So, uh, my point is don’t think about what the best method is today, or what’s the quickest or coolest way to achieve your result. Don’t think about Soundslides or Story Chats or databases as the future. Don’t even think about the future, what’s the saying, “The future is now.” What’s the craziest idea you have for a story or a video or a package or anything? What do you want to do or seen done? What type of innovative new way to the tell story hasn’t even been created let alone adopted yet? Go do that.

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