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The Fearless 50

Think of innovators as gift-givers—their work results in bounty for the rest of us. Some innovators set out to do good; others are simply trying to do well. To succeed takes more than intelligence. It takes persistence, focus, and the sort of insight that comes to the well-prepared mind. Innovators who have passed the half-century mark—such as the brilliant and accomplished people we honor here—represent a particular kind of success. Their careers are long arcs of intense dedication, idea building upon idea. And success has sharpened them. Their reputations secure, many veteran innovators feel freer to take risks. Along with this freedom comes a generosity of spirit, a desire to pass knowledge on. This, of course, is their part in a chain. They acknowledge the debts they owe to their predecessors. They know progress comes in steps. One result of this incremental progress is that new ideas are often underestimated. Thomas Edison was sure that the phonograph would be of use chiefly to stenographers. Who can blame him for not envisioning Sensurround? But our very blindness to the future is part of the magic of new ideas. We live in an era of unprecedented discovery. Any day, one of a thousand developments could radically alter our lives. The thrill and the responsibility of innovation lie in coming to recognize what has been placed, shining, in our hands.

—By Jon Spayde
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