Exploration is the engine that drives innovation. Innovation drives economic growth. So let's all go exploring. -Edith Widder
Most of the time, we link exploration to travel. Going far is an obvious way to leave your comfort zone, push your limits, challenge your assumptions and broaden your world. But you do not always need to start a huge trip to change your vision and encounter new cultures or points of views. Exploration should be a daily discipline, wherever we are. It is a mindset that allows us to see things through a new light while integrating our previous experiences. Explorers keep this spirit of curiosity and enthusiasm through out life and that is what makes them so special. They never settle for their comfort zone, even when not wearing their backpack.
The Explorers Festival I attended last week moved me by its energy and contagious passion. I had the honor of speaking at the conference to share my vision on the digital shift and the Unreasonable Generation. The millennials are unreasonable enough to defy being defined or limited by their circumstances. It is too simplistic to label them as the kids of the recession crushed by the economic crisis and the age of uncertainty. Lisbon truly convinced me everything was possible. Yes, we are not naive and are conscious of the rates of youth unemployment in Europe. But the Explorers Festival was the perfect illustration that a dramatic change is also an opportunity. A recession can be the occasion to reinvent yourself, to create the new jobs of the digital revolution. Tough times will always occur in our life. What makes the difference is how we react to them. Any experience can elevate us or drain the last drop of hope and faith we have. It is our responsibility to choose which path to take.
During the one week Explorers Festival, through their toolbox and one-day conference, chose its side by celebrating entrepreneurship, sharing insights and ideas that will design the world of tomorrow. And Lisbon has a role to play in it. Multicultural, dynamic, open to new skills, cultivating an obvious connection with the booming Brazil (many speakers were from South America), I came out of it with an even stronger desire to not only explore but to do.
There is this image of a southern Europe crushed by tough times. I saw people fighting back, feeling it could also be the time to reset the film of their life, inspired by explorers' stories. From an astronaut like Jean-Francois Clervoy to the surfer legend Garrett McNamara, we were invited to follow our guts, our passions, to take risks for what we believe in, to care for our planet and think about the impact we want to have. Entrepreneurs are the new explorers. They will be the ones driving innovation, showing a society that nothing is more powerful than someone who never gives up and trusts their vision. I strongly believe that success is persistence. It is so easy to give up and so tempting to feel our dreams are too big, the context too hard and the reality too depressing.
But explorers don't let their fear of failure or the unknown stop them. They know we can never let ourselves become prisoners of our current reality. They have the talent to discover what nobody has seen yet. An entrepreneur does exactly the same. In the US, 40% of the workforce will be freelancing in ten years. Most of the jobs will become projects. The Generation Y will represent 75% of this workforce and seems to be "the most entrepreneurial generation in the nation's history" according to Donna Fenn in her book Upstarts!: How GenY Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit from Their Success.
The transition is here. Work is not coming, find your mission.
Of course it takes time and it is not an easy romantic path. But it is worth it. From Brazil to space, a lot of people on stage went or came from far. But exploration is also a personal journey. Sometimes the biggest and most difficult trip to take is an interior one. Some of us may need to leave our roots to become who we want to be but not necessarily. Europe has so many amazing characteristics. As a French woman in San Francisco, I keep an affectionate eye on this continent full of talents, history, skills and art. I feel inspired when I go back there and meet communities driven by curiosity, and not by fear. Once you embrace it, yes, innovation happens.
Go, go explore. And find yourself on the road.