Accidental Genius – Just Do It!

A big breakthrough in my life occurred when I realized something huge: that most of the innovations, processes and discoveries of men come in the form of accidental discovery.

On countless occasions I have witnessed groups of men involved in problem solving on the fly during a work project. I’ve seen first-hand that there is often a lot of what seem like stupid ideas tried out first, when all of a sudden, usually by accident,– the smart way finally becomes apparent or is stumbled upon. This is not meant as a diss on men; on the contrary, from them I learned you have to solve problems by just starting somewhere and trying something and it ends up being a process of trial and error. But that this was the process behind men’s accomplishments was my eye-opening breakthrough.

It’s not just a “guy thing” to be smart and mechanically capable and able to figure stuff out and problem-solve on the fly. It’s a “doing it” thing. You just do it, using any means and ideas you do have, many of which turn out to be inefficient or even stupid in retrospect, but everyone has to start somewhere. It usually takes a few different attempts to figure things out.

My breakthrough was triggered by watching what I perceived as “sheer stupidity” in some of the actions I’ve seen men attempt in problem solving. But it is not as easy as you might think to be the lone woman with a different vision trying to communicate with a bunch of guys focused on another idea. So I would just watch how it all played out, time and again. What I saw on multiple occasions was that genius happens after a lot of trial and error – sometimes very ignorant, comical or insurmountably stupid trial and error. And that’s not just a “girl thing” I discovered. Eureka! My self-esteem had found new ground.

This breakthrough gave me the freedom to pursue a lifetime of learning how to do things for myself, without fear or shame over things I don’t yet have full understanding of, and with resolve to plow forward and find out. It’s all trial and error; you just have to jump in. I have taken on the task of teaching myself stuff, because that’s pretty much what the guys are doing. It’s the best way to learn, though I’ve found it can be time consuming and inefficient, going that route of self-learning everything. Men have the advantage of working in groups with other men to collectively solve problems. Women could really benefit if they would start doing more of that, which I think they are starting to do, more and more.

Most of my own genius thoughts and ideas have also occurred either by mistake or somewhat randomly, but usually after I have been working on a thought or a problem for some time already. Context of knowledge is everything. Timing is everything. And so is trial and error. You have to just do it.

Have a Ball

GolferLooking at Bob Hammer’s garage in Danville, you would never think something so small could do so much. Since 2005 though, the 20′ by 20′ foot space though, has changed many cancer foundations across the country.

Hammer, 42, with his wife Kim, have created and operated one of the largest non-celebrity privately held golf tournaments in the nation, raising $1,000,000.00 for cancer research and treatment, since 2005. In fact, they will reach that monumental $1,000,000.00 raised this year…in their home town of Danville.

The “Have a Ball” Golf Tournament has been held in Sunnyvale each year since 2005. In a word, the event is “stunning.” It is two full golf tournaments in one very long day for the Hammer’s. They “cut it off” at 308 participants. Hammer says he has 56 corporate sponsors this year, with 202 corporations in all, involved. The event is so popular, that they just announced a 2nd “Have a Ball” Golf Tournament added to their schedule, to be held this September 19th at the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville.

Hammer, a two-time cancer survivor, started his “Have a Ball” Foundation after his bout with testicular cancer in 1999. Hammer raised $10,000.00 and went to Austin, Texas to support Lance Armstrong’s Foundation in 2000. There he had a chance meeting with Armstrong’s Oncologist. Hammer was scheduled for a surgery at Stanford the following week which would have left him unable to have any more children. He decided to listen to Dr. Craig Nichols, Armstrong’s Oncologist, and one of the best testicular cancer Oncologists in the world, instead of five different Stanford Oncologists. The result; he and his wife, Kim, conceived Josh Hammer naturally, a little over one year later.

In an effort to give back, Hammer organized a golf tournament hoping to raise $2,500.00 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and “have a few beers with some friends.” What he created instead was a $1,000,000.00 foundation that now benefits 20 different cancer organizations each year and has sent over 60 children with cancer to a camp for kids with cancer called, Camp Okizu in Novato. “Have a Ball” has created and awarded six scholarships to oncology nursing students and much, much more.

Hammer now helps other non-profits get things rolling because of his experience. “It’s crazy really, to get a phone call from Ohio or Canada, asking me how I have done what I have done,” says Hammer. “I call it the “obligation of the cured,” to try to help as many folks as we can.

In his spare time, Hammer coaches San Ramon Valley Softball, Danville Little League and Mustang Soccer in Danville. He also serves on three cancer organizations panels across the U.S.

Now, that is one busy garage!

Private Investigator

The term evokes many images, such as Jack Nicholson in Chinatown or a Raymond Chandler novel. What about that wretched and bogus show Cheaters where the host confronts his targets? Perhaps you hear “private eye” and think of the local scandal involving private investigator Chris Butler, who faces federal indictment in a notorious corruption case.

Our profession has its image problems. I can’t deny it. However, most licensed private investigators such as me and my partner are more ethical, trustworthy, educated and mainstream than you might realize. A good private investigator operates under the radar, getting answers, solving problems and running a business. We might be more insurance adjuster than James Bond.

In California you need 6,000 hours, or three years full-time experience, on the job and then must pass an exam to earn your license. Private investigators come from backgrounds as diverse as former journalists, such as me, to former elite armed forces members, such as my partner. I also know former therapists, teachers and paralegals in the profession. It’s a job that takes more brain than brawn but you have to possess guts, heart and tenacity to succeed.

What a good investigator does is separate fiction from fact. We are professionals at verification and gathering evidence. A good investigator is more fact gatherer than advocate, which is the job of an attorney. A qualified private investigator is resourceful but knows exactly where that ethical line in the sand is drawn. ( I like to sleep well. If I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling my mother or a jury how I obtained evidence, then I don’t use such methods.)

Private investigators are used from Fortune 500 companies to solo practitioner law firms. We do everything from background checks, to asset searches to competitive intelligence in the corporate setting.

When I earned my license in 1996 I read at least a few slanted articles predicting the internet would put private detectives out of business because databases and other information that took days to accumulate would now be available at the touch of the button. The problem in the thesis is that there is so much information that it takes a trained eye to sift through and separate the gold from the dreck. Plus, even though it’s 2011 not all can be learned from just sitting at a computer. Good private investigators do more than just sit behind a desk at a computer or curl up with a laptop.

(Spencer Elrod Services, Inc., serves business, attorneys and select private clients.)