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Lesson #1: Psych Yourself Up Not Out
On that fateful Labour Day in 1995, when eBay was launched, Omidyar was doing exactly that – trying something new. eBay was nothing more than an experiment and a side hobby for the budding software engineer. “What would happen within a marketplace if everyone had equal access to information and tools?” Omidyar wondered. “Would a level playing field enable individuals to compete alongside big businesses? What if members managed their own transactions and accountability?” He didn’t know the answers to these questions, but he wanted to find out.
“A lot of people don’t just go ahead and try things,” says Omidyar. “They’ll have an idea and they’ll say – they’ll convince themselves or other people will convince them that it can’t be done.” And of these two, Omidyar says “the first is even more dangerous and serious. It’s convincing yourself that it can’t be done.” This is a mindset that Omidyar says he never learned. “I just kind of had this naïve approach to – well, gee, you know, why not. I’ll just go ahead and do it.”
Omidyar wanted to help people to do business directly with one another over the Internet, but there were few who believed his vision would ever work. How could people trust each other enough to do business, wondered his critics. How could they develop relationships with each other when they were relatively autonomous? “I thought that was silly,” recalls Omidyar. “It was a silly concern because people are basically good, honest people. So that was very motivating. It was, ‘Gee, I’ll just do it. I’ll just show them. Let’s see what happens.’” It wasn’t until Omidyar began earning more from this ‘experiment’ than his day job that he realized his trial had paid off. And, it is precisely this trial and error process that Omidyar seeks out.
“I’ve got a passion for solving a problem that I think I can solve in a new way,” he says. “Not the difficult problems that some of the physicists that are here, for example, are talking about, but problems that seem easily solvable, that no one has bothered to attack because they think it’s impossible.” Omidyar is the first to admit that he has made mistakes along the way, but it was a learning experience that led him on the path to being at the point where he was able to develop eBay.
“Don’t let people who you may respect and who you believe know what they’re talking about, don’t let them tell you it can’t be done,” says Omidyar, “because often they will tell you it can’t be done, and it’s just because they don’t have the courage to try.”
So, just go ahead and do whatever you’re itching to do, says Omidyar. Try it and learn from it. After all, “You’re able to accomplish anything you set out to accomplish.”
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