Do you feel pressured to dream big? Do you feel like you ought to be able to come with some amazing new inventions, but when you try, you can’t think of anything? Dream big dreams they tell you, like that is how it happens. Like it is that simple. And then you feel inadequate as nothing comes to your mind. No earth shattering  ideas. You just can’t come up with anything that will turn world upside down.

I’ve been struggling with this since I’ve been 10 years old. It is complete and utter nonsense I tell you. Problem is that we ready historic accounts of great inventors and they are written as if those great ideas just popped into their heads. Newton got hit by apple and he came up with theory of gravity. How do you compete with that? Or Archimedes taking a bath and then idea pops in his head on how to calculate density based on volume of water displaced. That’s pure genius! No wonder we feel inadequate.

Except it did not happen that way except in history books. It is is subject of debate whether Newton even observed an apple fall. He was not struck by one either. And even if he was, the stories like this discount 20 years of work that took him to explain gravity.

And Archimedes story completely discounts significant time he spent trying to find ways to calculate density of an object. He might have figured it out when stepped into the bath tub when he tried to relieve stress of not being able to find the solution, but only thanks to all the work he has done up to that point.

Its like when you are putting puzzle together. Is there anything special about last piece you put into the 1000 piece puzzle? The only significance is that it finishes the puzzle, but that is only because you put 999 pieces in correct order before it. Any piece of the  puzzle could have been last, but last one is not supremely significant.

So it is with ideas and inventions. They just don’t pop into your head from nowhere. They are result of hard work and curiosity. You see some problem while you are trying to do something and you get curious. You start exploring, learning whether anyone else solved it before, how they did it etc. Then all your knowledge gets digested and it is in this phase, that you may come up with your idea to attack the problem. Sometimes this insight takes very long time. Most of the time it takes lot of work. But, there is no great insight without hard work!

The best way to get new ideas is to immerse yourself completely into the subject matter, learn, explore, understand. Then step back and do unrelated activity so your subconscious can process what you learned. It is usually during these quiet times that ideas pop into your head. But they will not pop unless you put in the hard work required.

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