My cousin came to me with an idea. All his life, he’s wanted to start his own business and now, finally, he’s got a real winner. He was so excited, telling me all about how he would revolutionize the space. He asked for help finding programmers to realize his dream.

Sounds great! But within my first couple questions, his whole pre-nascent enterprise immediately fell apart.

“How will you compensate the programmers?” Silence.

“What do you want it to look like?” Nothing.

“Well, what do you have right now?” “An idea!”

I explained that he’s going to have a hard time finding someone to work with him when all he has to show is words in the wind. And in doing so, something incredibly simple crystallized in my mind that I had never before been able to express, but had bothered me every time I thought I had a good idea.

Ideas are cheap.

Ideas, in fact, are so cheap as to be free. Billions of ideas float around everywhere, everyhow, everywhen. There is nothing so worthless as an idea; an idea has no value until an action is taken. Sometimes, I feel that there is such an emphasis on ideas — the million-dollar idea, the secret idea that will revolutionize the world, the special seed idea at the center of of a startup, one weird idea that will change your life. And an idea can be all of those things; but very rarely is.

An idea, like life, is given freely; it’s what you do with it that counts.