As I reflect back on the Ushahidi's first 6 years, I realize that they have been an education in many ways, but possibly the most important lesson is that it is important to do what is hard. To work on things that are more big and difficult than what most people are willing to attempt. To question assumptions on what can be done. I recently had a conversation with someone on the team about an ambitious project that we're undertaking. He was getting feedback from outsiders that what we want to do is difficult, and hard. Should we dial back our expectations and do something smaller? My response was that he, just like everyone else on the Ushahidi team, was not brought on to work on easy things. That we choose to do hard things because they're worth doing and we have the courage to try. jfk I found myself quoting John F. Kennedy in his Rice University 1962 speech on going to the moon:
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
Using an American baseball metaphor; you can spend your life stepping up to the plate and just getting base hits, and most of life is filled with that. Just getting on base consistently is hard on its own. However, sometimes you need to hit a home run, you have to knock the ball out of the park. I feel like Ushahidi's time has been spent doing just that, hitting a lot of base hits, striking out from time-to-time, and then every couple years swinging for the fences on a big idea.

Tilting at Windmills

If you work long enough with me you'll hear me say the phrase, "what windmill are we tilting at?". If you've not read Don Quixote's book, then you'll not understand that what I'm asking for is what is the "big, seemingly impossible" thing that we should be aiming for. What is the thing that sets us apart and makes us look a little crazy? What is the challenge that is worth waking up in the morning to attack together? There are a couple of reasons to do the hard stuff:
  • It provides a moat around your business, if you succeed.
  • It inspires others and can grow a movement or a new market.
  • People like working on teams where they work on hard things.
I'm proud to have tilted at a couple windmills over the years with an amazing team. We haven't always succeeded, but there is the beauty of a life lived and lessons learned, just in trying. Whether it's the Ushahidi team, the early believers in the iHub dream, or the crazy few that I work with right now on the BRCK. The individuals on these teams share a common thread, and that is that it's not enough to live a normal life.