“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” — Harriet Tubman
I am fascinated by the theory that we live in an ideas economy. Our ideas are have the potential now to spread quickly, to go viral, and affect change (for good or bad) with lightning speed.
And there’s so much attention in an ideas economy for good ideas that it can be so tempting to spread yours widely the minute you have them. Think the newly rich spending their money as fast as it comes in.
I’d like to suggest that it’s often a good idea to slow down. (Which, BTW, is incredibly hard for me.)
I had a good idea while I was at a meeting a while back.
The kind that hits like a truck. It wasn’t an idea for me, it was an idea for someone else, about their business.
Do you ever get an idea that’s so powerful and clear that you can instantly see exactly where it will end up, if someone runs with it?
I came super close to just standing up right there in the middle of the meeting and blurting it out.
Doing that would have looked like this:
OMG! If you did ________, it would really help your next round of clients. (Here’s the kicker) I could do it for you.
I have no idea whether or not the person would have taken my offer.
Believe it or not, just because I think an idea is fabulous doesn’t mean the world agrees with me.
If they had taken me up, that little kicker at the end would have involved me traveling 1500 miles, three times in the next year, spending hours a week engaging with their next round of clients.
Work, by the way, I would have enjoyed so much that it didn’t occur to me to think about being paid in the moment of my grand plan.
I was so excited by this idea that I told the people who were at the meeting with me that I was going to bring it up.
They mostly blinked at me and said some variation of: Are you sure you want to do that?
I pulled back and realized I needed to sit with my idea before I shared it. I needed to sit through my initial burst of inspiration.
My friend Amy calls it soaking.
Letting something sink into my skin a little, before taking action.
I suck at it, but I’m trying to get better. I mostly suck at it because when I have an idea I want to A) share it and B) do it.
“I’ll soak on it.” Four little words that can keep me from:
- Committing to things because the idea is good (and ideas excite me), without really knowing what I’m getting myself in to.
- Saying things I can’t take back.
- Hurting feelings.
- Giving in to my own hurt feelings.
- Burning bridges.
- Missing good opportunities I was too impatient to wait for.
- Drowning in my own good intentions.
I’m trying to teach myself to share an idea without also offering to be the person to implement it. I think that might be the only way for someone who is super idea oriented, like I am, to survive in an ideas economy.
That work has taught me that I’m pretty jealous when it comes to ideas. I love to give them, but I have a hard time letting go.
It’s a funny brand of impatience. It’s not about wanting something right now, it’s about wanting to give something right now.
Since soaking doesn’t come easily to me, I came up with a little system.
Three steps to soaking:
- Before you do something potentially stupid in the name of a good idea, share it with someone you trust.
- Wait at least 24 hours before you share an idea. A week is better, if it can wait.
- Ask yourself: Can I share the idea without offering to be the one to make it happen?
Here’s one more thing you can do.
Really think about your idea. If you love it enough to want to do implement it for someone else — what’s holding you back from using it yourself? (Either in addition to sharing it or instead of.)
I’m not talking about being greedy here.
Sometimes I have a good idea and I instantly think about giving it away because I’m scared that I can’t execute it properly myself. That was the case with the idea I started this post talking about.
What that person was doing felt so big and so far beyond what I felt capable of, that it didn’t occur to me to use my good idea myself.
I could have have shared it and used it. It wasn’t the kind of idea that can only be used once. It was the kind of idea that everyone who works with clients should at least consider.
But it involves hiring people and putting yourself way out there and . . . like I said, it was so far outside what felt possible for me that it was a long time before I even realized I might be able to use the idea myself.
Bottom line: Sharing ideas = awesome on so many levels.
Even that level of awesome requires some boundaries.
They’re one of those things that need to flow to be healthy. And the more you share them, the more you get. But it pays to slow down a little and consider before you blurt things out.
(I did end up sharing my idea, without offering to implement it. I have no idea what they did with it, but that’s not my business.)
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.