Youth is always defined as the perfect age for idealism. Full of dreams but not experienced enough to know to what extent our values and beliefs will be threatened and challenged along the way. Be it for love, work or friendships we always hear "life will teach you, just wait and see." Utopia, the promised land, becomes over time nostalgia.
Yesterday, I saw on Twitter, "the idea is to die young as late as possible." It might sound to some like a gimmick but I smiled. What a great challenge it is to keep the eyes of a beginner, the eternal enthusiasm of discovery when you grow up and old. I never believed being an idealist was a big or bad word. I never disrespected someone with the rage of his or her convictions unchanged after years. I even wonder if it is not a common factor among many visionaries and innovators. People always remember the "childish look" of Steve Jobs or his ability to be so enthusiastic throughout his career. As entrepreneurs but more than anything else as human beings, we should make our ideals a life compass.
Not only will it help us when we get lost but also during tough times. When life pulls you under, it will show you which way is up. Your idea may get rejected, your company may go off the rails, your confidence might collapse. We know all this can happen if it hasn't already. When our place in society is challenged, it's our humanity that saves us.
Humor and religion are human characteristics. Our species evolved these traits in part to be able to deal with the world we live in. I believe our ideals have a comparable role. Beyond surviving, our values make us human. When do we feel most alive? When we love, vibrate. In one word, when we go beyond ourselves. Our values provide the conviction that there is something bigger than ourselves to fight for. That is what our humanity is all about. This explains why when as a person I am under attack, when my individuality is under siege, empathy and my sense of belonging bring me hope. Any creation or revolutionary product is not only an instinctive idea we adopt but an incarnation of a strong value or ideal. It is always more about we than me.
The age of interconnectedness will not stop this. It is quite the opposite : Twitter, Kickstarter, my iPad, Tesla and the creators of these innovations represent a huge change in my life but also an ideal, values I respect. Community, sustainability, an ideal helps you to think big, to know your why.
Every couples of month, "the death of true innovation" is announced. We wanted flying cars and we get an Airbnb for dogs? Ideals help us imagine meaningful startups, the ones that don't represent entrepreneurial opportunism. Ideals are not trends. They drive the big thinkers of our age, but also the best entrepreneurs. They keep leaders on their feet during tough times.
Idealism is not the monopoly of youth, it's a choice necessary for living and creating. Knowing why, keeping in mind this sensation that it's never only about you is the future of entrepreneurship and innovation. When the astrophysicist Doctor Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked by a reader of TIME magazine "What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the universe?", his answer was that we were not in the universe but that the universe was in you.
This fact gives us a responsibility. We can cultivate our humanity, our values to support this endless connection with others. You are what you do but also what you stand for.