So, there's a possible practical joke going on around me... or something that could be totally real... I'm not sure, but this morning, I was thinking about what the upside of believing people is. Clearly, there's an upside to being a cynic. If it turns out to be a joke, I can bask in the fact that I was too smart to fall for it. If it turns out to be true, then I feel like I didn't lose much because the situation was pretty unbelievable anyway--I certainly don't look foolish for not believing something.
That made me think about faith in general. What's the upside of believing in anything that you can't prove? God, love, the semantic web ... there are a lot of things we can't touch, taste, see, hear or smell that we rely on faith for, but why bother? If they turn out to be true... gravy. If not, at least we didn't lose anything or waste time.
That's the point, though... if we're talking about losing something or wasting time, we're talking about investment. In a startup, it's clear what the investment is. Someone gives you money, you give them upside... but what exactly is the investment and payoff for having faith in something non-financial... faith in love, in God, or whatever?
I answered this question in the shower at NYSC this morning, because I thought about the opposite. What if I didn't make those bets? That would mean I "wasn't invested"... and while I'm totally playing with words here, I don't want to live a life where I'm not invested--and that's really what you are when you don't have faith. You're not really betting on anything, really. You're just going what what you have and not assuming or beliving in anything more
Being invested in your own life has upside, especially as an active investor, because you get to share in life's profits--joy, laughter, bliss, etc... a lot more than you would if you were on the sidelines. Sure, there may be some quarters where we miss earnings and our stock takes a tumble, but over the long run, I'm a big believer that you need to be invested in your life... that you have to take risks of faith--in people, in ideas.
I have faith that Barack Obama is a good man with good intentions and the organizational skills to make things work better. By having faith, and voting for him, I'm looking at possibilities and potential for this country with a more open mind... maybe inspiring others to do the same. When masses of people believe in the possibility of change, it's funny how change happens.
I have faith that I'll find someone who will love and appreciate me... and who'll want to work together to with me to build a great relationship. Is it possible that it will never happen? Sure... and I'll be really disappointed, but by being positive and open to the idea, I'm also open and more aware of the people around me who may have that interest or know someone who might. If I don't have that faith, I'll be closed... I'll probably miss someone or be unable to connect with someone.
I have faith in something or someone larger than myself... That there's a powerful force for good in this world... a reason for being. If I just thought we were soulless lumps of chemicals, I'd be driven simply for chemical optimization, rather than trying to make a positive impact in the world around me, even at my own expense. By beliving that we are more than just bodies and neurons and synapses, I seek deper connections, and whether or not I find them, I am better for the process of seeking.
I have faith in my startup, Path 101. I know the odds. I know the day we run out of cash before we get more funding. I know that we're in the same space as a lot of other larger players. I believe we have a great idea and can build a passionate service around people-powered career discovery. I believe it's a much needed service and we can change people's lives by helping to give them direction and help support the discovery of their passions. By having this faith, I am more outwardly positive. I will attract more deals this way, more talent, and help build excitement--all key incredients to success.
So, while you might think it's just easier not to expect anything out of life, you're missing the equity upside and the risks really aren't as great as you think.