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Monday, December 31, 2012

The Power of Irrational Optimism - Caine's Arcade

At the start, here's wishing you all a Very Happy New (Gregorian) Year. My first post this year is on the power of Irrational Optimism. Many a times, in life, we are at the crossroad's, in our career, relationship and with ourselves (midlife crisis?), drifting along and not knowing what lies ahead. The fear of the unknown is what stops us, many times, from chasing our dreams. Whether by providence or the universe coming together to help you to achieve your dreams (The Secret - Rhonda Brynes), The first article I came across this year was of a 9 yr old entrepreneur called Caine Monroy, from East Los Angeles. Now, this event took place in early 2012 ( the late latif that I am, I came to know if it this year only!) and true to following the American Dream, Caine's website (http://www.cainesarcade.com) was setup to crowd source his college education and raise money for creative kids.

Caine Monroy, a 9 yr old boy, was given a set of cardboard boxes by his father, during his summer vacation, to do "something" with it. This little boy had an obsession with Arcade Games, so he spent his vacation time making an entire Arcade with games made from the Cardboard Boxes. He visualised the entire arcade, the games and prizes and also implemented the business model viz $1 for some 5 tries and $2 for a "FunPass" for one month. Incredible deal. See the video that captures his journey to stardom. Caine's story has some interesting takeaways that are worth mentioning and reiterating:-

1. Just Do It:- I know this is the Nike Logo but I love it. It epitomises action over endless analysis and planning. Though analysis and planning are important, many times we get caught in a trap of "Analysis Paralysis" wherein, a thousand demons and obstacles prevent us from doing what we want to. This little boy was given cardboard boxes and some other items and told to do whatever he wanted to. Instead of wailing and whining and just wasting time, he decided to do what he liked best - Play Arcade games, and Lo! behold, the Cardboard Arcade was born.

2. Unstructured Playtime. When I was a kid, there weren't too classes for dancing, singing etc, so my friends and I would make up stories, make makeshift castles, do role play (king, robbers, pirates, aliens) and pass out time. Though we did not realised it at that time, that time to ourselves, where we had to make up stuff to keep busy, was incredibly creative and forced us to use our brains. Caine, being lonely, and having not much to do (other than play video games), was forced to think beyond his brief to create his arcade. His dad never expected him to come up with something like that (He just wanted to keep his kid busy and out of his hair), was astonished at his son's achievement.

3. Optimism. Caine, with his entire Arcade and  fantastic business model, did not get a single customer the entire summer. It was just chance that Nirvan, a film maker, dropped by for something and what he saw inspired him to make a movie on the little boy's journey. The sheer irrational optimism of Caine, forced the universe to take cognizance of his effort and sent Nirvan around to help him. What happened was just out of a fairytale. The movie went viral, a flash mob was organised to come and play games in his arcade and a website was setup to fund his college education- All at the age of NINE.

Lessons that one can learn are:-

1. Let kids be. Give them time from video games and classes. Let them get bored so that they are able to come up with a solution to relieve them of their boredom.

2. Never stop believing and hoping, because that the only thing you have - Hope. If you hit Rock Bottom, the only way is up and if you are at the Top, if you don't evolve, the only way is down.

3. Its never to early or late to start. Limits exist only in our mind.

By the way , Forbes has also come with an article why Caine Monroy will be a Billionaire in 30 Years. 

Rashmi Bansal has also written a book on entrepreneurs of different types and her latest one on "A Poor Little Rich Slum" about entrepreneurs from Dharavi (Asia's largest Slum, maybe the worlds also) is also enlightening.

So, Summing up, Let 2013 be the year when you followed your dreams, what you love to do, rather than what you had to do. Make 2013 count in your calendar!!!

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