One command uttered over and over at Stanford is “innovate.” You will hear it in classes. You will hear it in coffee shops. You will hear it from students, professors, Knight speakers – just about everybody who has anything to do with Silicon Valley.
What it took me time to discover is that the most important thing to innovate is you.
The Knight Fellowship is your chance to break out of your old habits. Think something is too hard? That’s probably exactly where you should focus your energy. Think something is too pie-in-the sky? That’s probably what most needs attention. Think something is impossible? Go for it.
Stanford is a place of boundless optimism. We come from an industry built upon skepticism. The two cultures will clash: you will feel goofy, see things that seem incredibly naïve, roll your eyes at over-the-top enthusiasm.
At this point, you have two choices. You can cling to where you came from. Or you can make the conscious choice to try the Kool Aid.
I chose the latter. And I am better for it. I didn’t drink every last drop. But do I think it’s pretty cool to brainstorm like crazy? Yes. Do I try to not automatically dismiss an idea I think is stupid? Yes.
Do I see value in believing you really can change yourself, your thinking, your actions? That the future of journalism can actually be bright and exciting? Yup.
If all this sounds goofy and naïve and overly optimistic, great. It means the fellowship worked. I came to Stanford exhausted by beaten, depressed newsrooms and constant conversations about the death of journalism. I leave in a better place.
I certainly don’t think I have all the answers. I’m not even sure there will ever be any good answers. But I do think the only positive response is to try and try and try again.
And to do that, you have to be willing to change yourself first. You have to be willing to be a little stupid. You have to be willing to make a fool of yourself. You have to be able to step out of the box that is you and take a close look at whether you can change.
You’ve got to innovate yourself. Trust me. It’s worth it.