Every once in awhile, you come across something so inspirational it sends shivers up your spine.
While watching The Martian the other night with Mr 12, they included a snippet from John F Kennedy’s Rice Speech, which JFK delivered when I was two years old. I’d seen the quote before, but I’d never seen the entire speech. It’s worth the 17 minutes to watch, not only for the inspirational content, but for the inspired way in which the speech was constructed.
This notion is at the heart of every startup, and indeed of most worthwhile human endeavors.
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
“But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun — almost as hot as it is here today — and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.”
Which begs the question: what happened to America in the last 54 years? Perhaps that’s the subject of a future blog post.
An enthusiast, investor and business mentor he can often be found coaching startup companies through the Lightning Lab Programmes or mentoring teams of early-stage entrepreneurs at Wellington Start Up Weekend.
Why is Wellington such a great place for startups? It all comes down to scale. “We are not so small we don’t have resources but we are not so large that we fragment into self contained inward looking groups. People really do want to work with each other in Wellington, even with people they don’t like. We all want to make Wellington better. And it helps that you can walk across town in 20 minutes – although it takes you 30-40 because you keep on bumping into people you haven’t seen in a while – it’s great. If I go to the airport and I don’t run into someone I know I feel cheated. It’s like family. That scale is very important and I don’t want to lose it. That’s all.” With Dave on board, I feel confident as a Wellingtonian that Wellington will continue to be a great place to start something up, for years to come.
Creativity is the spark that occurs when you combine seemingly unrelated things, shove an uncooperative idea into an unexpected context, or look at something familiar in a radically unfamiliar light. That spark of creativity is fun and essential, but much more difficult and rewarding is turning that spark into a steady flame or bushfire of enterprise through experimentation, empathy with your audience, and dogged determination. This is the task most start-up founders face
I recently arrived back in Wellington from the Startup Nations Summit in Mexico. On my flight from Auckland to Wellington on 29 November 2015, I passed over the Karori Rip just south of Mana Island.
The Karori Rip is an interesting phenomenon, basically a standing wave formed in specific tidal conditions in Cook Strait. In this case, it was high tide on the Pacific (left) side, and low tide on the Tasman (right) side. In the photo, you can see the wave roiling.
Then, on the same flight, approaching Wellington Airport from the north, I was welcomed back home by this:
I fall in love with Wellington over and over again. After being in the cities of North America with dubious air quality, she was truly a sight for sore eyes.
There’s only one thing I want to say today: Christchurch, you beauty!
When people ask me what I’m about, I tell them I’m building the future I want to live in. We’re all doing that today, here at Lightning Lab Christchurch Demo Day.
Look around you. The New Christchurch is filled with diversity and entrepreneurial spirit. We are transforming the brain drain from the quakes into a brain gain.
The New Christchurch was not prototyped with number eight wire and built in brick, it was laid out in a CAD system and is being fabricated in high-tech materials.
In The New Christchurch, the first question people ask you isn’t “what school did you go to”, it’s “what startups are you involved with” or “what countries are you doing business in”.
We’re building the future we want to live in, right here, right now. It’s a job too important to be left to government – they’re an important partner, but it must be led by people willing to take risks. Investors, that’s us!
While we mourn the losses from the quakes, we’re excited about that future.
Cantabs, you’re the most resilient people I’ve ever met. I want you to know that today, the rest of the country is here backing you.
So investors, don’t hold back. These Lightning Lab companies are The New Christchurch, and the future of New Zealand.
Let’s build that future together.
Address to the investors at Lightning Lab Christchurch Demo Day, 5 November 2015
I would like to begin my talk with a quote from Leviticus 19:18, containing what is one of the simplest yet most important commandments in the Torah: Love your neighbour as yourself.
The question posed tonight is: “Should there be religious limits to absolute media freedom of expression?”
My short answer is “no”, other than the limits associated with existing legislation pertaining to defamation, incitement, and the like.
We live in an increasingly diverse society. Religion is only one aspect of diversity. If you impose religious limits, you would have to consider imposing limits on other aspects, such as gender, nationality, ethnicity, disability, political philosophy, and so on.
We can’t expect the rest of society to embrace, or sometimes even understand the same standards as we do. Example: The Third Commandment forbids us for taking the name of The Lord in vain. As Jews, uttering the name of God is very offensive. And yet, there is a significant quasi-Christian religious group whose very name incorporates this ineffable name of God. How can we manage this conflict? We can’t – It wouldn’t be right for me to demand that they change their name to God’s Witnesses or something else – it’s an integral part of their identity.
Freedom of expression is essential for the function of democracy. Allowing any authority (other than Parliament as interpreted by the courts) to determine the limits of freedom of expression would potentially be chilling, and the temptation for the authority to cross the line into political suppression could be irresistible. On balance, limiting freedom of expression would likely do more harm than good.
We are free to ignore offensive material, and when we can’t ignore it, we can brush it off. We’re adults. Sometimes we need to endure this pain for the greater good of society, and pray that the offenders might become more aware of the consequences of their actions.
So my short answer is, no, there should not be religious limits to absolute media freedom of expression.
There is a longer answer. And that answer is that we’re asking the wrong questions.
The questions we should be asking are:
What self-restraint should the media exhibit when discussing religion and other personal beliefs?
As a society, how do we educate and encourage people to empathise with each other, so that they feel no desire to offend or hurt each other?
When I say “the media”, that’s just about everyone nowadays. Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, and other social media provide a virtual megaphone to anyone who can gather an audience.
It is emphatically wrong to deliberately seek to offend or hurt others.
It is emphatically wrong to ridicule people’s strongly held beliefs or practices.
It is emphatically wrong to drive a wedge between different religions and ethnic groups by saying or implying that they are unfit to live among the rest of society.
It is emphatically wrong to blame an entire religion or culture for the actions of a tiny minority of their members.
All of these things are terribly wrong, and completely unnecessary.
These things are wrong and unnecessary, but legislating against them would create more problems than it would solve for the reasons I discussed earlier.
Unfortunately, as a society, we have not evolved very far beyond the 17th Century European proclivity for burning cats for entertainment. Pain and humiliation gets people’s attention, and sells newspapers in an increasingly competitive market. Shocking people is a lot easier then providing intelligent analysis, easier to understand, and sells more.
I would like to close with two quotes from the Talmud:
From Baba Mezi’a 59a, R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai: “Better had a man throw himself into a fiery furnace than publicly put his neighbour to shame.”
From Shabbat 31, quoting Hillel, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.”