YIELDS FROM THE AETHER

Sprout some ideas. Then get down to work. Generating ideas can be like catching fish in a river: you can get better at snagging 'em, but you can never control the entire process. As a team, ideas are the fuel that propel our actions. We spend a lot of time cultivating ideas, nurturing them, helping them become constructions worthy of resources and action.

They're like children, come to think of it.

But ideas do not immediately yield results. They do not entirely behave like the creations they grow into either. Creations come from hard work, perseverance, and craftsmanship. Ideas are about letting go.

This summer the team is deep into the idea-generating business. With long days of sunny weather, the promise of extended weekends, and big summer movies tempting us away from projects at hand, idea cultivation runs the risk of withering on the vine. But looking closer, the big challenge seems not to be the generation of new ideas, but the transformation of those ideas into results.

That's always the great duality. Ideas shimmer in translucent light; they generally do not stand up dressed in bold, primary colors. Work, on the other hand, accumulates like bricks, like opaque, matte objects that need to be fitted together into larger structures. Ideas radiate, work stands firm.

One of the most lethal challenges to a good idea are the many explanations people tell themselves about why it won't work. People tell themselves why their ideas are impractical, why they don't have the resources or the time or the opportunities to make them come alive. Plus, there are always endless distractions. After all, work takes work. Life tempts us with other ways to spend our time.

But ideas, properly nurtured, can overcome inertia. Good ideas can turn mountains of work into acts of creation. That's why coming up with good ideas are probably not something you want to leave to chance. Once in a while a good idea will simply pop into mind, but over the long term, it's better to be proactive rather than reactive. But of all the concrete, constructive suggestions for generating new ideas, there's one that rises above all others: let go of what you know.

Letting go of what you think the world is supposed to be is like opening your car's window on the highway. Ideas rush in without restrictions. The world becomes an engine of invention. You suddenly notice how trees grow, how traffic moves, how bread rises, how satellites orbit. You'll suddenly see familiar things you've seen your whole life in bold, new lights. You'll observe and you'll drift and then WHAM! you're crashing right into a new idea.

It's not as easy as it sounds, and believe it or not it takes some practice. We all have presuppositions surrounding us, some far more entrenched than we realize. It takes practice to let the world flood in. But consider an inversion of the old saw: apres le deluge, vous.

But don't forget: after ideas germinate, you gotta get down to work if they're gonna grow.

--MS

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