Who is changing the world? Rule Followers or Rule Challengers?

By Susan Ford Collins

As kids, we were rewarded for doing things by the book, following directions carefully, and sticking to the rules. But if we keep this up as adults, we will fail to explore our own values and dreams… and the world will fail to enjoy the benefits of our unique passions and imaginings.

People rising to the top today are the exception makers… individuals who discard “old impossibles” and create “new possibles.” The daring ones who venture into the “unknown” and make it “known." Those who don’t wait for permission and agreement but who follow their intuitions and passions… regardless of what age they are, where they are in their organization, or how “science fiction” their idea sounds to others.

At 19, Blake Ross was on the cover of Wired Magazine

At 10, Blake built his first website and started asking his parents to give him programming books for presents. At 14, he told them he wanted to do an internship in Silicon Valley and they aligned with him, flying back and forth to help him find a place to live that would also allow his cat. Two years later, his mom signed his work papers for him because he was three days short of 16. Bi-coastal, Blake graduated from high school in Miami while simultaneously working in California. Still a teen, this self-taught coder co-founded Mozilla Firefox, sparking a global phenomenon. The first day Firefox was downloaded more than a million times!

Wired Magazine featured Blake on the cover with these prophetic words: "Watch your back Bill Gates!" To date the Firefox download count has climbed to over one billion, biting into Internet Explorer's dominant market share as predicted! At 20, Blake had to buy his first tux to attend Time Magazine's dinner for "The 100 Most Influential People of the Year." In 2007 he became Director of Product at Facebook till he resigned in 2013 to dream about what’s next for him. In 2015 Blake turned 30!

Direction changing ideas can come from anyone, anywhere in an organization... if leaders listen

When the El Cortez Hotel in San Diego planned to install a new elevator system, the project engineers proposed cutting a shaft through all of the floors. They had already drawn up the plans when a janitor heard what they had in mind and offered a suggestion: Instead of closing down for two years and creating all that mess, how about keeping the hotel open and building the new elevator on the outside of the building? At the time, an outdoor elevator had never been built, but engineers investigated his idea and it proved workable. Today, we find outdoor elevators on buildings worldwide and enjoy great views as we ride up and down… thanks to that insightful janitor!

Science fiction is the new reality... 3D  bio printing

Here's a truth most people never dare to notice… or own. What we can do, and be, is only limited by our imaginations. And now science is proving it.

Take 3D bio-printing for example. At Cornell University Dr. Jason Spector and Dr. Lawrence J. Bonassar are working on external ear replacements made from the recipient’s own cells. “The process is fast,” said Dr. Bonassar. “It takes half a day to design the mold, a day or so to print it, 30 minutes to inject the gel and we can remove the ear 15 minutes later.” The cartilage is then given three months to grow. Doctors Spector and Bonassar expect to have transplantable ears available within three years. These bio-printed ears will become living parts of the body, bypassing the life-threatening dangers of rejection.

Instead of artificial or donor hearts The Cardiovascular Innovation Institute in Louisville, Kentucky is working on bioficial hearts built from regenerative cells found in extra fat surrounding the recipient's own stomach. "You take tissue from a patient, isolate the cells… put those cells into a machine, hit a button and it will print out a heart," says Dr. Stuart Williams whose parents both died of heart disease. Two golf ball sized pieces of fat can provide enough cells to rebuild all the heart's major blood vessels. The Institute expects to have bioficial hearts available in ten years. Too bad they weren’t available for his mom and dad. But, if he ends up needing a heart, they will be there for him. Or for you or your family!

How about connecting your brain to the internet by 2020! Or “downloading” a 500 page book in your memory in less than a second? What else can we imagine?

The island of knowledge is surrounded by the sea of ignorance

Here's good news for students and researchers: We don't know it all! And probably never will. The larger the island of knowledge grows, the longer the shoreline with ignorance also grows. The more answers emerge; the more questions need to be answered. That's why there's plenty of room for your creative ideas and approaches!

Heads up innovators: Columbia University neuroscientist Dr. Stuart J. Firestein provides an important clue. He says the path to discovery, instead of being clearly planned and laid out, usually involves "feeling around in dark rooms, bumping into unidentifiable things, looking for barely perceptible phantoms."

It’s time to let go of old limits and impossibles and feel our way into new dreams and possibilities!

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email susanfordcollins@msn.com

* For more on Dreaming and Codreaming, read Skills 3 and 4 in The Joy of Success and Our Children Are Watching.

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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins