You Think You Have a Monopoly Over Ideas? You Don’t. Not Even Your Own.

I remember a few years back, perhaps this was right after I had finished high school, I had this brilliant idea to start a vlog series. I figured most people my age were alternating between searching and existential crises when it came to the subject of what to study at uni, a decision affecting the rest of your life, daunting really.

The series would feature several people in various industries being interviewed, talking about what they do on a day-to-day, how they got there, what kind of advice they would give to young people who were trying to decide what to study, to discover their passion, that kind of thing.

As with most things I embark upon, I started with so much steam! I think I wrote a whole proposal and sent it out to a few of my relatives and friends asking for suggestions, inviting assistance of any kind they could provide and the response was encouraging.

I am not too sure what happened, most likely my steam died, I never held myself accountable to see things through and that was that. It became just another idea that someone would occasionally ask me about, trying to find out how it was going. My response, besides wishing they would forget about it already, was always a vague, ‘Well, it just never really took off.’ or ‘I just never got round to doing it.’

Fast forward a year or two later, a girl who was a year ahead of me in high school started a blog on pretty much the same premise. She has videos as well as written interviews and just tips and tricks on how to be a good student, go about securing an internship, write a CV, all things relevant to people at that stage of life. Her blog blew up, in some aspects, and got loads of attention and I silently thought to myself, well, good for her.

A former classmate from high school who I had confided this idea in got in touch in a very horrified state to tell me this other girl had stolen my idea! “Kathleen, isn’t what X is doing what you were talking about doing once? She clean stole your idea! Word for word!”

No, I really do not think she did. It is/was a gap, lack of resources tailored to that market, young people looking for where to go next. Anyone could have identified it. We both did, had somewhat similar propositions on how to fill the gap, one of us did something, the other did not.

The similarities between what she was doing and what I had wanted to do did strike me, but not in an ‘oh-my-goodness-she-stole-my-idea-where-do-I-go-to-sue’ kind of way. The idea itself is somewhat generic. It’s not Newton discovering gravity. It’s not Zuckerberg creating Facebook. It just came down to execution. She saw through her idea to the end, I did not.

What ifs, buts and maybes were my lot. What a sad sad lot to be left with.

What is the point of all this?

None of us has a monopoly over ideas. Not even our own. Who says the same train of thought that led to your brilliant idea isn’t right this moment, chu-chu-ing(is that what trains do?) into someone else’s mind. Not in the exact same form and shape it occurred to you in, but overlapping in some aspects.

Why is it that we imagine we have a monopoly over ideas? We don’t.

Beyond someone else beating you to the punch, is the sadder outcome of your idea coming to naught. Dying with you because you never felt ready enough, did not feel skilled enough, did not think the timing was right, did not start and the longer you do not start the harder it becomes to start.

I should take my own advice.

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