10 Thousand Foolish Ideas

via Isaac Asimov:

It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable. It seems the height of unreason to suppose the earth was round instead of flat, or that it moved instead of the sun, or that objects required a force to stop them when in motion, instead of a force to keep them moving, and so on.

A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others.

The presence of others can only inhibit [the creative] process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all.

There’s almost too much that can be said regarding the above… and it’s worth reading the full article as there’s a lot of other great thoughts there as well.

I like this one in particular right now and is something I’ve been meditating on heavily in the past few weeks:

For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones.

Oh, do I know what this is like. I once tried to calculate (and catalogue) every single domain name that I’ve ever purchased and then see how many of those were actually executed against.

In other words, see how many “projects” were actually attempted with some earnest attempt and effort. It was revealing (and super-embarrassing). I had spent countless hours on really stupid shit.

I suppose the converse of this is also true:

It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable.

Which would be this (with my added context as an entrepreneur):

It is only afterward that a new idea seems unreasonable. To begin with, it usually seems reasonable to entertain and execute.

I can remember pitching many wild ideas to people being completely enamored by them and willing to take other people’s money to see them succeed. It was only later (sometimes longer, depending on my possible delusion) when I realized that they were really, really, really dumb ideas.

The problem and challenge is quite simply this: I cannot know whether an idea that I have is a good one or bad one. My “gut” has trained me to ask better questions, I believe, and perhaps I have developed some sort of refined intuition, but the baseline metric is always (and will always be) a glorified guess.

One thing is for sure, though, speaking from my own experience: I’ve have had my “ten thousand foolish ones” and many of those have been painful learning experiences on what it means to not only be a professional but also a human being.

The reason that I’ve been meditating on this recently is because there are two ideas in my life (The Iron Yard & Desk App) that are actually working. I define “working” in loose terms, but they are generating revenue, creating value, and fulfilling their mission and original purpose. The former is my biggest focus and is a much larger organization while the latter is a side project of sorts.

Were these “unfoolish” ideas that went from unreasonable to reasonable? I’m not entirely sure. Where they reasonable ideas that will prove to be foolish? I’m not entirely sure.

But, at this very moment, as I attempt to look at them as objectively as I possibly can, my thoughts turn into emotion and I have nothing but gratitude. The chance to do something important and have it actually work is a blessing, regardless of the future.

I am deeply thankful for my team @ The Iron Yard, they are the best team in the world (and I have unbelievable partners). I am also thankful for the opportunity to work on my indie app, Desk, and that I still have the capacity to help others tell their story.