If we adults scroll back a decade or two or three to when we were little kids, you’ll find all the answers you need. Little kids are just grown-ups who haven’t succumbed to the concept of impossibility or something being a stupid idea. Isn’t that great? Their minds are still like Silly Putty, pliable, they pass the bounce test, and everything sticks. The process of becoming a GROWN-UP is and always was highly overrated. Here’s the pitfall:
Very quickly, junior high and earlier, we begin to have it drummed into our little skulls as to what is cool, good, viable as well as what’s…stupid and impossible. What a shame to grind down perhaps the most precious and unique quality of mankind…the ability to create and see the magic in the world, whether it’s a story about a talking pig or a finger-painting in which the sun is blue, or where flowers can fly and people are stuck like oak trees in the ground and can only grumble.
Something else to consider: Virtually every great invention began as a stupid idea. Machines that carry people around in the sky? Are you insane? Boats that travel…underwater? Flying to the moon? Little boxes the size of Chiclets that can tell you everything that’s going on in the world? Every idea was once a stupid idea. Penicillin… You’re gonna cure me with that green moldy crap on your orange? Teflon…well, that was just a mistake and…well, you get the message.
So here we are together. You’re a boomer, a member of the “Greatest” generation, or some alphabet soup generation that’s already been marginalized to the point of wanting to blow its collective brains out. Perhaps you’re stuck in a job you really don’t like and wondering WTF? Is this all there is?
But there may remain some last tiny vestige of an idea you’d had one time, like strapping a little camera on your model airplane or making a gun that shoots something other than bullets… It was a good idea, but then you told Mom or Dad or some kid and they laughed like hell and that was the end of it. If you’re a budding artist, writer, or inventor, that negative reinforcement wasn’t quite enough to stop you. You just went underground. And now, here you are, all grown up and yet, you still have that really good idea festering inside your brain only you’ve been bombarded with so many factoids showing the impossibility of making a dent that you don’t think you have a chance. Maybe…just maybe, it’s time to step up to the plate.
So… Fact One: You Need to be able to listen to that little kid’s question, “What if?” Or “Why can’t they?” This calls for you to resurrect that brave little kid that still lives inside you. Do you have the cajones? Only you can answer that.
Fact Two: You also have to understand two axioms, eloquently put by Somerset Maugham.
Axiom One: The measure of success is…how you handle disappointment.
Axiom Two: The only real failure is failure to try.
Do your homework. Remember Babe Ruth? Home Run king? Guess what, he was also the Strike Out King. If you never commit to taking a swing…you’ve already failed.
Thomas Edison? I was always taught that it took over 437 failures before he wandered upon a filament for his truly stupid idea, the electric light bulb. Later, Edison was quoted as saying, “There were no failures. The process of inventing a light bulb has 437 steps.” What if he’d quit at 350? That is part of the deal.
For what it’s worth, I have a 40+ year background as a successful metal sculptor…mostly because metal sculpting is my “sandbox”. I also have a 25-year career as a novelist, having written and published 17 books, 14 of them being novels. And yeah, last but really not least, I have patents and whole bunches of things I’ve invented. A big whoop on the value of that statement to anyone other than myself or my wife. But it’s there. I’ve been on the ropes, knocked down, and failed countless numbers of times. But most of them were temporary failures, either because I was just too naïve to give up or just too pig-headed. In other words, you need to be able to hang in there when things turn sour.
So…where’s this all going? I have two pieces of heavy artillery to give to you…both gratis. One you can verify in thirty seconds. The other takes a little longer. The first…you may have heard about. It’s called Kickstarter.com. If you have an idea and you know way down in your gut that it has a LOT of merit, go there, do your homework and go for it.
The other is a brain-storming tool that’s a whole lot like strapping a turbocharger onto your creativity. …No shit. It’s called, You’re a Genius!!! (patent pending) and it’s very thinly disguised as a game and as such, it’s blow-your-coffee out your nose funny. But then, ten, twenty, forty minutes into it, you hit potential pay dirt and the funny game turns into something wondrous. If you’re interested, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Serious inquiries only. We’re going the Kickstarter route ourselves and documenting every phase so that we can more accurately mentor future inventors and artists.
Oh…one more anecdote with little kids. This came from a wonderful TED (TED.com) lecture in which Sir Ken Robinson tells of a little girl in second grade seriously at work with her crayons. The teacher asks the little girl, “What are you drawing?” The little girl says, “I’m drawing God.” The teacher says, “But no one knows what God looks like.” The little girl replies, “Well… They will in a minute.”