YOW Mike Lee keynote

What: The evening keynote with Mike Lee, as part of YOW! Australian Developer Conference 2012 in Sydney
Over Heard: “You can’t know what you don’t know. You know?”

I always preach about how I often find the most inspiration when I attend events beyond my industry.  Last week’s YOW! Keynote with Mike Lee was no exception. While Mike’s background is a products engineer and developer, his keynote message had little to do with the technicalities his current work. Rather he spoke on some themes and topics that are relevant not just to someone who identifies as a developer, but rather anyone who has reflected on the meaning of their life work.

A former Apple employee, Mike spoke about how their used to be an urban legend at the company that Steve Jobs once fired an employee on the spot who couldn’t answer the question of what he was working on. It was something that haunted Mike and made him constantly think about his role and purpose at the company. He practiced his one min elevator pitch, so that if he was ever stopped and asked what he was working on – he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to answer. While that day never came, the fact that Mike (and probably several other employees) were so accountable for their mission at the company was a powerful idea.  The power of being focused and to have an idea of what you’re actually doing is important.

Mike also touched on the importance of constantly being forced out of our comfort zones. While we might be fooled into thinking that our brain is constantly lighting up and creating, it actually filters us. We are tricked into seeing less even through these filters of the brain even when it’s right in front of us. This is part of the reason that Mike believes that people who are successful in business are ones who constantly challenge themselves to be uncomfortable.

We are building a future that none of us want.

As builders and engineers helping to shape the future, we can’t help but feel responsible for what we create shared Mike. He shared that he worries a lot about the world and nature and all of its problems we’ve created by inhabiting it. Mike also shared that he hopes his purpose and one min purpose or “why” to life is about giving knowledge to others. He wants to tempt them with information.

I’m just doing my job. Those would be the last words of our humanity.

Just doing our jobs is not enough, but rather we should look to have meaning in our lives. The idea of constantly being ready to give the elevator pitch of our purpose when given the opportunity – a lesson that is valuable no matter what industry you work in.