Innovate or die

You might say: I'm going to work hard, save my money, and open up a bookstore. We'll have a thousand books and some cute little trinkets to catch your eye as you're waiting in line to make a purchase.

But there's a problem with that.

Barnes & Noble is moving in. They've got 40,000 books in their massive warehouse store, more trinkets down more aisles, and a digital platform for pushing books to their $179 e-reader over the Internet.

You should build to keep up with them, right?

But there's another problem.

Amazon.com just went live and they've got 40 million books, the digital content, the e-reader (but theirs is just $79) and on top of all of that, they've got no overhead, no brick and mortar store. They're reporting massive profits.

So you should save up a little more and build to try to compete with them, right?

Wrong. There will always be someone who's better than you, at every level of everything. There will always be another innovation coming to box you out and shut you down.

So you're making a YouTube webseries?—there's a production company coming to push digital content out faster than you ever could, with a team of writers that will make every single video an incredible story, full of depth, and a team of producers and artists that will enhance the story with incredible light and effects and sound in ways you could never dream to compete with.

So you're working customer service? Artificial intelligence is coming. And it's going to predict what your customers need faster and more accurately than you ever could. It can help everyone, instantly, all the time—no lines, no holds. And it knows all of the answers—we won't need a second guy to take over and apologize for the misinformation given by the first guy, who had less experience or training.

The pioneers—those taking risks to pursue what's next—are coming for you. Innovate or watch your project die. Switch it up or watch it suffocate.

How do I innovate, you ask? I don't know man, I don't have any of the answers. I just know all of the problems! And it's up to you to choose how you'll innovate. That's your art.

Here are a few tips: Watch your market closely, know which waves to catch from the ones to let pass. Accept that failure is not only possible, but probable, and be quick to get back on your feet. Give a crap. Be honest with yourself and others. Bring your full self to the work.

I'm working on this theory that the real innovation is authenticity. Be real and be kind. Do what no big box store, no robot on earth can do—be a person.