Ingenuity That Changes Lives: Three Trailblazers of Our Time

By Traver Kennedy, Chairman and CEO on January 02, 2018
Traver Kennedy
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Tackling the Impossible to Make Our Lives Better

It is the human spirit, our ingenuity and thirst to make progress, which moves humanity forward. This New Year, we would like to open 2018 with optimism and hope by sharing our reflections on three contemporaries who work to achieve the seemingly impossible: Malala Yousafzai, Sir Richard Branson, and Elon Musk.

All three trailblazers have changed the game in their field—from starting a movement for women’s equality by focusing on education, to opening space for travel and commerce, to working on the most significant innovation in electricity in over a century. These individuals work day in and day out to transform the world knowing that their vision, not yet realized, is ever closer through their focused efforts and ingenuity.

Malala Yousafzai: Empowering Women Through Education

Many have advocated and worked hard to achieve gender equality between women and men. Yet, only a few have found a way to actually make a difference. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Laureate ever at age 17, defied one of the most restrictive regimes the contemporary world has seen (the Taliban) to demand education equality for young girls like her. Malala’s genius comes from realizing, at a very early age, that education is one of the most effective and lasting means to empower women to take equality into their own hands.

Her resolve was solidified after being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012. A survivor, Malala went on to give a speech at the UN and published a book (I Am Malala) barely a year later and won the Nobel Prize the following year. She used the media attention to further her fight for girls’ education all around the world. Malala is an avid user of technology to promote her education agenda. Her smart and ubiquitous social media presence is perfect for taking her message to girls everywhere, inspiring them to demand equal access to education and creating a movement around her cause.

Sir Richard Branson: A Rebel With a Cause

Sir Richard Branson‘s approach to everything in life is rebellious. Not surprisingly, when he looked up to the sky, way past the flight paths of his successful international airline (Virgin Atlantic), he thought of a rebellious way to make space travel commonplace. Enter Virgin Galactic, which “aims to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists and suborbital launches for space science missions,” according to the company’s Wikipedia page. Despite the numerous delays that come with thinking big about space, and the loss of one of his ships in 2014, Richard Branson loyally follows his motto, “Every risk is worth taking as long as it’s for a good cause and contributes to a good life.”

The ingenuity and valor of the new commercial space companies, such as those led by Branson, Elon Musk (SpaceX), or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), have enabled the traditional space agencies like NASA to focus their resources on what they do best—such as launching robotic probes that discovered the abundance of water in our solar system and brought us the first clear images of Pluto.

When it comes to space, there is plenty of space (pun intended) for collaboration and joint technological improvements. For example, Virgin Galactic’s space ships are made possible by using alloys first developed inside NASA.

Elon Musk: Clean Power for Your City

He has been teasingly called the “Real Ironman” for his unconventional approach to transforming conventional industries, like payments though PayPal in 1999 and, most notably, the auto industry through Tesla. For Elon Musk, decades-old assumptions are challenges to be solved. Before Tesla, the electric car was believed to be destined to remain a small niche in the industry.

Born and raised in South Africa, Elon Musk came to the United States because he believed “America is where great things are possible, more than any other country in the world.” For example, at a market value of $57 billion, Tesla’s value is higher than that of Ford and General Motors. This valuation makes sense when put into the perspective that the company is really in the energy business, with the vision of supplying clean electricity in super-efficient batteries that can store clean solar and wind energy to power entire cities. If Musk’s plans come true, Tesla will transform the electricity industry as radically as it is transforming the auto industry.

Elon Musk’s visionary initiatives go beyond clean electricity. His rapid transportation system, the Hyperloop, is already undergoing tests in California, and SpaceX, his space company, announced a plan to put humans on Mars within the next decade. When it comes to applying technology to solve real problems, for a trailblazer like Elon Musk, the sky is never the limit.

Happy 2018. May all your transformational dreams come true!


Photography used under the Shutterstock license.
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