This subject caught my interest while recently listening to Seth Goden’s The Startup School. Let’s say you have a good business idea. You mention this idea to a few people, mainly those that are closest to you or whose wisdom you trust. The people that like your idea will usually say with caution, “Don’t tell everyone, they’ll steal it!” Today, I want to write about this particular panic and worry, which we seemed to have internalized. Why are we like this and how can a change in perspective benefit us?
Let’s take a closer look. There is a lot of prejudice/assumption within this ‘they’ll steal my idea,’ modus. Our angst is comprised of the belief that our idea is very precious and that no one else is able to think of it; that any stranger who hears this idea will automatically usurp to theft; and that one of these thieves will realize our idea before we do and reap all the benefits.
I did a few Google searches about idea thieves that have gone down in history. While reading one of the resulting pages I noticed that the biggest ‘thieves,’ were, without exception, two inventors or scientists, or million dollar competing firms. What I didn’t come across was the classic scenario of man finds an idea (actually ‘find’ is not even the right verb, more like ‘thinks of’) and another steals it from under his nose, so to speak. That doesn’t mean such cases don’t occur. But one thing is for sure: getting caught up in the apprehension of others stealing our ideas isolates us and drives us toward idleness.
The ability to think is definitely magnificent. To imagine and fictionalize something that doesn’t exist (at least as far as we can see or know) is amazing. If only it ended there. Sadly, the whole process begins just as the idea has been found. Because the opposite of what we thought reigns true: that an idea, which hasn’t been realized, has no worth. Claiming ownership over an idea that we haven’t even begun to realize is a pretty exaggerated manner. Why such melodrama over one idea out of the million that could possibly emerge from the 10% that we use of our brains.
The fear of having our ideas stolen stems from the deep-seated belief in their rarity. Perhaps it’s our lack of enthusiasm for creating new ideas that has fostered such a disposition. Whereas every problem, every distressing issue, every person that tries our patience is an opportunity to create new ideas. When we practice allowing fresh ideas to emerge out of even our basic choices, we bring the process of finding new ideas down from some sublime realm to lower, more normal and reachable levels. This is how we can realize that the real skill doesn’t lie in thinking, but in realizing ideas.
Moreover, let’s say they really did steal our idea, copied us, and seized all the gains and admiration. If our next idea is to wander around crying, blaming, and complaining, then perhaps we’re not as smart as we thought.