KIDS CAN REALLY CHANGE THE WORLD
Taylor Wilson is a self-assured 21-year-old, who shot to stardom when at the tender young age of 14; he became the youngest individual to build a nuclear fusion reactor, in his parents garage. He had been pestering them to create a fusion reactor for some time so they relented and took him to meet revered physicist Friedwardt Winterberg at the University of Nevada. The professor was stunned and unimpressed, “You’re thirteen years old!” One can almost imagine the “Doh!” that raced through Taylor’s mind as the Professor waxed on lyrically, “and, you want to play with tens of thousands of electron volts and deadly x-rays? First you must master calculus, the language of science.” Tiffany and Kenneth Wilson, Taylor’s parents breathed a momentarily sigh of relief hoping against hope that the professor’s analysis would take the wind out of Taylor’s sails, or at least delay him until he went to university. But as Kenneth now says that was always highly unlikely, "Taylor doesn't understand the meaning of ‘can't’.” Tiffany concurs adding, "and when he does, he doesn't listen." In classic Millennial, “speak to the hand because the face ain’t listening” Taylor went into overdrive, which is also not a surprise because he is a quester and the slightest suggestion that his quest was impossible, further turbocharged his ambitions.
Taylor believed his fusion reactor could deliver meaningful benefits in the areas of medical health. His grandmother had died of cancer and he wondered if the isotopes from a “fusor”, as he called his reactor, might help in making diagnosing cancer cheaper and easier to perform. Taylor met atomic physicist Ronald Phaneuf when he visited Professor Winterberg but unlike his esteemed colleague Phaneuf was impressed with the Young Turk. Phaneuf shares a story where he tells how Taylor, “told me he wanted to build a nuclear reactor in his garage, and I thought, ‘Oh my lord, we can't let him do that. But maybe we can help him try to do it here’…He had a depth of understanding I'd never seen in someone that young." Phaneuf quickly cleared a space at his lab where Taylor subsequently spent every afternoon after school fabricating his fusor. Shortly after his 14th birthday, Taylor became the thirty-second individual in history to build a functioning nuclear fusion reactor.
But the fusion reactor was not the end destination and the quest is not complete: “I want to play major league, I want to make a difference.” Taylor continues his quest experimenting and patenting innovative ways to use his small fusors in hospitals to make medical isotopes easily available for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. His innovations may soon reach thousands of patients especially those in poor countries where access to isotopes is either too expensive or too difficult to obtain.
“It’s amazing – amazing – what I can do today,” says Taylor, “that I couldn’t have done if I was born 10 years earlier.” Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Millennial generation are a generation of questers. They understand intuitively the technology available today and how it can be leveraged in innovative ways to change the world. However, you do not need to come from the Millennial generation to be a quester; it’s just that older generations have more baggage to get rid of in order to unlearn. Millennials have at their fingertips an understanding of what new technology can do and they are not stuck in a rut tainted by current paradigms that say this or that is impossible.
After finishing his Thiel Fellowship, Taylor admits he still has no plans to go to university. “I’ve got some technology that will really change the world, so college right now is not the best option for me,” he says. His biggest dream is to solve the world’s energy problems, a huge and meaningful quest. Just don't tell Taylor it’s impossible.
I wouldn’t bet against him. In fact, I wouldn’t bet against any questers from this generation.
Excerpt from chapter 2, Quest, Competitive Advantage and the Art of Leadership in the 21st Century