Maybe I’m getting old and the lens through which I see life is starting to skew but I’ve noticed something recently and it’s starting to wear on me. The beauty, the promise, the implied immortality of “new” is just not cutting it anymore. For me, the last few years, Apple has been the model. All of their products and services seemed to come directly from Mt Olympus. They were from “on high”. Going to their stores was a pilgrimage to the holy land of product perfection.
The trouble is – Apple is not new anymore. They are old. There is a day, right around the corner really, where Apple won’t be what it is now. Where it stumbles or just plain succumbs to the intensity of its own raging success. Like a dying star it expands and engulfs but then collapses.
As a culture we prize the “new” in a way that can only be considered crazy – and I’m no exception. What is it about “new” and “shiny”? Is it our longing to find something eternal? The fountain of youth? As I see cycle after cycle of this behavior it becomes clear that everyone is really just treading water. Newness becomes a non-virtuous cycle which leads nowhere. How could it? The quality of “new” exists only for a moment. This insatiable thirst for what we can never have – the everlasting gobstopper – is really a form of torture that we inflict on ourselves. I guess this is what is wearing to me.
What is the best way to build a business in this environment? Indeed, what is the definition of a business? It seems like the “new” premium is pushing everyone to build businesses that create and produce shiny new “stuff” at a rate that is an end in itself. Kickstarter!! New is a quality that sells, versus something more boring like – reliable or solid or dependable (I can see your eyes glazing over just reading those words). But ask yourself why? I love woodworking and the tools I most cherish are those that have been around 100 years. I can imagine bequeathing an old hand plane to my grandson. But an iPhone? Uh….see my point? Why? They are both a form of technology. Maybe we’re all too vain.
This is why I like poetry, music and dance. They consume nothing but time. Are forever new. Live performances are like shadows – uncatchable. They are, in the end, like life – always just beyond our control. Things, like the iPad I’m writing this on, are pre-extinct. And once you see that for what it is, the allure of new takes on a different meaning. A sadder one. I want to believe in the promise of the forever new. It’s just not how life is. And the realization of this has given me a sense of new freedom. Which, on balance, makes me far more content.