Religion and Philosophy

I invite you to join me in supporting an interesting initiative – a petition to the Pope to declare St. Maximilian Kolbe a patron saint for startupers and entrepreneurs. You may have heard of St. Maximilian death – he offered to die himself instead of another prisoner in the German concentration camp in Auschwitz during the 2nd World War – and you may be wondering what does a heroic Polish monk have to do with startups and entrepreneurship? This is exactly the question I asked myself when I first heard of this project. Then I read more about St. Maximilian and now I can hardly think of a better patron for us.

You see, before he died St. Maximilian lived for 47 years and boy, was he active during that time. Between 1918 (end of WW1 – and of his studies) and 1939 (start of WW2):

  • he founded a new convent in Niepokalanów – starting with just few other monks, no funds and no house under his leadership it became the largest Catholic convent in Europe at the time with 700 monks housed in a number of buildings on a multi-acre site,
  • he started a newspaper (the main mass medium of his time was print media) again, starting from nothing it reached a circulation of 750k copies, along the way he started ten other publications and newspapers as well as built one of the most modern printing houses in pre-war Poland,
  • he got interested in radio pretty early and was thinking of creating a network of Catholic radio stations covering the whole country and broadcasting to the world, before the war broke out he was already well underway to realize this too having set up a radio station in Niepokalanów (and – just BTW – he was already thinking of television as soon as technology becomes more available),
  • he was thinking beyond Poland – in 1931 he went to Japan – again, having almost no funds, not knowing Japanese and having just few brothers as companions he moved on to start a convent on the outskirts of Nagasaki that remains prominent in the Catholic church of Japan to this day, of course he also started a newspaper there which also continues to be published,
  • having started a mission in Japan as well as China and India he planned to build an airport in Niepokalanow and sent two monks to… pilot training as the first step in that direction (can you imagine a fleet of transport aircrafts piloted by monks crisscrossing the skies bringing supplies and passengers to missions in India, Africa etc? That was St. Maximilian’s vision.),
  • he was even thinking about… space travel – he described a concept for a space vehicle he called “Ethereoplane”.

That is quite a lot for just 20 years of activity – and those are just the highlights. On top of all that he managed to be a priest – he was saying Mass every day, heard confessions and wrote articles, homilies and other works. Considering all that he achieved way more than most entrepreneurs achieve in comparable time – save those most successful in the world. IfSt. Maximilian had not been called into priesthood I am sure he would have been one of the most successful businessmen of his era.

His life reveals entrepreneurial zest – a constant drive to start and build new things, new endeavors, new ventures – and scale them up, prefect them, bring them to full bloom. This is the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit. That makes him indeed an ideal patron for all of us who share it.

If I convinced you too please sign the petition and spread the word. Thank you!

Simple is beautiful. But simple is also right. Ideas and thoughts worth anything can be expressed clearly and briefly. Complex systems that work are build from simple components according to simple ideas.

Take Internet for example – most of the protocols that make it what it is are beautifully simple, concentrated on their purpose, describable in a new sentences. In fact, it takes no more than 20 minutes to explain to any computer-literatre lay-user all they need to know to understand why the Net works.

Opposite is also true. Complex visions, ideas requiring lengthy, vague explanations are crap more frequently than not.

It also applies to business. Success comes to those focused on a simple goal, not to those who want to catch all the birds at the same time and completely change the face of the planet. Simple ideas, ambitious goals and hard work are the step stones on the path to achievement.

I thank my father for teaching me to be always suspicious of ideas that can’t be told in a few words, brief and simple.

Tonight I realized one thing. To experience something amazing, full of joy and intensity, we have to believe it is so. Otherwise we don’t see it, we are like someone who is colorblind. And something important, maybe the most important of all the things in our life, may just pass us by. And we won’t recognize it was even there.

A flower is beautiful not because it objectively is, it is beautiful because we believe in it. If we didn’t it would be just a reproductive organ of a plant, something commonplace, that will surely wither and die one day. Same object, two ways of experiencing it.

Indeed, reality is not fixed and objective. It’s something our minds cook for us. Skepticism, disbelief, pessimism are conditions of the mind that cause it to experience a limiting, stressing, sadly grey world. There must be some cure for them, I just wish I knew what it is. Because it is so sad to see people I care deeply for suffer from them. And not being able to pull them out.

I was sitting with my colleagues last night, eating a late dinner. For some of us, including me that day, it was the first real, hot meal. The conversation was slow, as usual only briefly touching subjects related to the company. (more…)

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