September 3, 2023


by: tguerry


Categories: Current Culture



“That’ll never fly.” meets
“Hold my beer.”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed the astounding opportunity of interviewing and writing about successful innovators in the local manufacturing space. Not surprisingly, they all share some common traits. But, in order to better describe the “heads” side of the coin, I first need to illustrate the “tails” side.

Back in the 1970’s, while attending the University of Texas in Austin, I occasionally worked as a freelance photographer for a company called Jack’s Party Pics. We photographed local Fraternity and Sorority events and sold 8×10 glossies to the attendees.

The granddaddy of all fraternity events was Bevo’s Birthday Rodeo — an annual benefit rodeo featuring rank amateurs with massive egos, bolstered by alcohol and peer pressure, attempting to ride semi-tame steers.

These young men came from well-to-do families, having been raised from birth to be the titans of industry. They’d had “You Can Do It.” relentlessly drilled into them since their initial attempts to walk and at every milestone since. Consequently, they sported some of the most impressive egos I’ve ever encountered. Where they didn’t come from was farms with experience around livestock.

What makes traditional bull riding so exciting is the contest between a highly trained, doggedly determined human being and a massive animal oozing testosterone and anger (not a gelded steer). The result is the whirlwind clash of raw power versus skill, battling it out for eight excruciating seconds.

Bevo’s Birthday Rodeo was not that. But even a tame steer is not a stupid creature so the animals simply demonstrated a few perfunctory bucks, followed by a quick trip along the arena wall, where they efficiently scraped the interlopers off their backs, just like rubbing up against a mesquite tree.

The typical result was a previously-hale-and-hearty young man being carted out of the arena with a shattered tibia and equally shattered ego (few had the foresight to jump off in time). I often theorized that Bevo’s Rodeo was bankrolled by local orthopedists, insuring a lucrative future. It was not an example of well-founded confidence.

The folks I’ve been privileged to interview over the past weeks, are the opposites of swaggering braggarts. They’re calm, clear-eyed, analytical and articulate. Theirs is a confidence built on a lifetime of experience – both successes and failures. They are the innovators.

Much in the manner that a professional athlete never looks straight at the ball, but perceives it in their peripheral vision, facilitating shorter reaction times, innovators rarely look directly at the challenge. Rather, they look through the challenge, evaluating its core elements and applying their expertise to manipulate those core elements in a previously untried fashion. Often, their approach works. Occasionally not. Hence the lack of inflated egos.

Innovators, however, understand that failures can be as rewarding as successes. Their goal is analysis and understanding rather than brute-force attack. Consequently, they’re able to articulate their findings without the need to impress, and they tend to talk “to” their audience, looking for interaction, rather than “at” them, seeking to dazzle. Conversations with these folks set the mirror neurons in our brains bouncing like a popcorn kettle because they exhibit the ability to challenge without provocation and to motivate by example.

If you ever get the chance to sit down with a true innovator, don’t miss that opportunity! It will renovate the way you view the world.

By the way, that photo at the top of this page is no college kid on a steer. He’s a pro with a lifetime of aches and pains to remind him what failure feels like. And his most delicate body parts are perched gingerly atop fifteen-hundred pounds of unrestrained fury. That brand of confidence can only be harvested from years of experience, not ego.

Cup-Of-CoffeeKnow any genuine innovators? I’d love to hear about them. Email me at I’ll buy you coffee and we can trade ideas. Who knows? Maybe we will even discover something we didn’t already know.


Innovation — any new idea — by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.

— Warren Bennis


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If you liked “The Power of Neuroplasticity” by Helmstetter, and “Epigenetics: How Environment Changes Your Biology” by Mykura, this book is a great companion. It fills in many of the missing elements those other two authors assumed we already knew. It’s part of the Great Courses Series on Audible and it’s free via an Audible membership. Road warrior Russell might shun it because it’s only 18 hours long.

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