A lot of people have good ideas and work hard to make their ideas successful.
You’ve heard of some of them, others you haven’t. You’ve probably heard of Bill Gates’ idea. It’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve heard of Sam Walton’s idea too.
But what about all those other good ideas you’ve never heard of? What about the other guy who created a new computer operating system or thought about opening some discount stores in rural communities? It’s not like Gates and Walton were the only ones (or even the first) to create this stuff.
Were those “other guys” just not smart enough? Were their ideas just not good enough? Did they have to repeatedly say to themselves, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me?” The answer finally dawned on me during a response my wife gave to Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making.
Here’s the thing: WE CAN’T CONTROL OUR OWN CREATIONS.
What!?! You’ve got to be kidding me Mr. Crouch! Of course you can. I have an MBA, I know how to write an award winning business plan, I know how to craft a good strategic plan and bring a product to market successfully. The idea that we can’t control our own creations bothered the heck out of me when I first heard it. I wanted to believe that we are masters of our own fate. That if we work hard enough and have brilliant enough ideas, we can do big remarkable things. But when I think about those who have done big remarkable things, and how being the in the right place at the right time was a major factor in their success, I find myself thinking “what’s the point?” What if I have a great idea and work really hard, but I’m not in the right place at the right time?
Then I think about Nikola Tesla. Even though you may not know that name, his inventions impact every single part of your daily life. In the late 1800’s, Thomas Edison hired this brilliant young scientist and promised Tesla a $50,000 bonus if he patented a new electric motor. Tesla invented and patented a design that is still the industry standard today. But Edison didn’t fulfill his promise. So Tesla quit. He went on to invent AC power, and became the father of modern electricity. He sold the patent to Westinghouse for a hefty chunk of stock, and when AC power became the world standard, Tesla became an incredible wealthy man.
The moral of the story here is that Tesla had some great ideas. Yet, for some of them, like the electric motor, Tesla was in the wrong place at the wrong time to enjoy the benefits of his creation. He had no control over it. But he kept on creating. He kept pushing. Eventually he created something that changed the world. Something you and I are still benefiting from today.
Part of the equation is being in the right place at the right time, but it’s the willingness to continue creating that really matters.
Don’t worry about changing the world. Just keep creating. It’s the most important thing you can do.