Don't Let Them Kill Your Ideas

My daughter said, "Wouldn't it be awesome if you got paid millions of dollars to lounge around all day?"

It's a strange thought since neither my wife or I are lazy. We both work long hours and often work weekends. The idea may have risen because we work so hard. My daughter may have been thinking, "Mom and Dad should have a vacation." My response was, "How can you create anything if you lounge around all day?"

This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic mocked how dreams change as we age. As children we have fantastic ideas. Our thoughts about what we can accomplish are bizarre, remarkable, and impractical. We are convinced we can achieve our dreams.

As we age, our aspirations stop being monumental. Someone we respected, perhaps a parent or teacher, told us our ideas weren't feasible. Other humans convinced us our ideas were no good. It's heartbreaking that another human told us to stop dreaming.

Seth Godin states that creativity is killed due to lack imagination and fear:

Basically, most people don't believe something better can occur. They believe that the status quo is also the best they can do. So they don't look. They don't push. They don't ask, "what else?" and "what now?" They settle.

Ideas are fragile and although they don't die; our imaginations weaken as we age. Marie Laska said:

Not that dreams die with age but they do tend to become burdened with an awareness of what is realistic and what isn't, based on one's place in life.

We've inherited broken imaginations from our elders. What they considered realistic has been passed on to us. However, truly amazing people are too stubborn - a trait seen as being negative - and continue to use their imagination, regardless of what other's say.

But, how many of us still have our imaginations intact? The world affects us all. But, a few still slip through the cracks. Steve Jobs labeled them the crazy ones.

In, Inventing on Principle, Bret Victor describes how fragile ideas are. His commentary starts at 9:32:

Ideas are very important to me and the thing about ideas is that ideas start small. Ideas start out tiny and weak and fragile. In order to develop and mature, ideas need an environment where the creator can nurture them. Take care of them and feed them and shape there growth. This is what the principle of immediate connection is all about. Since ideas are so precious to me, when I see this principle violated, when I see ideas stillborn or stunted because the creator couldn't see what they were doing, I feel that's wrong. Not wrong in the sense of violating a UI guideline or going against a best practice, but wrong in a deeper sense than that.

Rather than discouraging dreams we should nurture other's to accomplish their dreams. Maybe I should have supported my daughter's vision by saying, "If you want to lounge all day, you'll find a way."

Don't let your dreams be deflated. The people you respect aren't always right, no matter how much you admire them. Use other's opinions and feedback as creative criticism. Let the world strengthen and grow your ideas. Iterate on ideas and let them manifest. All ideas become durable with conviction and time.

Written: December 23, 2012

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