Sotomayor and Chaotic Moon – stay curious, take risks and get better

Two fascinating encounters this week.  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in town to promote her book.  By the time I got there, the crowd spilled out of the second-floor room where she was to appear, down the stairs and into the aisles of books.  All ages – moms with kids, octogenarians (holding hands), students scribbling notes.  We all pressed together – holding our breaths so we could hear.  And yes, she was wonderful.

Sonia Sotomayor visits Austin.  Photo by Pearce Murphy, The Daily Texan.

Sonia Sotomayor visits Austin. Photo by Pearce Murphy, The Daily Texan.

It was inspiring — the crowd, the diversity, the speaker, the very American-ness of it all.  Coming on the heels of the inauguration and Martin Luther King Day, even the cynics among us had to take a breath.

Sotomayor closed with a grace note of thanks to her audience, but also a warning:  Beware of false pride, she said. It stops the learning experience. I never thought I would be on the best seller list, she continued.  But here I am.

A second wake up call — a rambunctious presentation by the irrepressible Whurley of Chaotic Moon  — advocated the gospel of creative risk taking:  instigate, collaborate and innovate. It was a fun, uppity, polished pitch that challenged us to “just do it” and a testimony to cross-generation collaboration.  You need both the gas pedal and the brakes.

Chaotic Moon is pushing the boundaries of the creative “why not,” energizing the innovation efforts of companies like Toyota and Samsung.  Sitting in the audience, I was in awe: What a shot-in-the arm their thinking must be to the research and marketing teams of those huge public multi-nationals.

Side note:  Whurley differentiated innovation (it’s easy or we don’t do it) and invention (it’s hard), which reminded me of the brilliant Clayton Christensen column from last fall, “A Capitalist’s Dilemma” that made a similar point in relation to job creation.

The connection?  Curiosity and action. Sotomayor did not get to the Supreme Court just by acing her tests (though I’m sure that was part of it).  She reinvented herself over and over again.  She made consistent efforts to create a smarter, more broadly experienced and emotionally mature human being.  She took dancing lessons at 50+ (I tell you, there’s something about those dancing lessons).

Two vivid reminders to continue to try, experiment, expand — radically — and get better.

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