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Stealing Ideas

Disclaimer: I think this is going to be an easy post to write, because it’s something I feel pretty strongly about, but I have to recognize going in that this also means I’m more likely to be wrong and not be able to see it. If you think I’m wrong, or if I’m being mean, or anything like that I certainly want to hear about it so I can change and improve.

If you’re worried about someone stealing your idea, you’re worried about the wrong thing. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Ideas happen all the time. I tend to have four or five ideas before breakfast. The problem is that most ideas are crap. If something just pops into your head, it’s almost certainly a bad idea. The only thing it can possibly have is potential.

The first trick to master, and I think this is a skill that takes a lifetime (I certainly don’t have it yet), is to be able to tell which ideas actually have potential. At this point though, they are still almost worthless. All the value will be in what happens next: how much work are you going to put into it. To make an idea worth something, it takes work, whether it’s careful and methodical thought, or programming, or practice, or anything, it’s going to take dedicated effort.

And effort is not easily stolen. If I have an idea for something, I can probably explain to you in a few sentences, but those sentences won’t mean much. You might be able to take those sentences and build something with them, and it will almost certainly be different from what I would build with them.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want your ideas. I wouldn’t take them if you tried giving them to me. I have enough ideas on my own. I have ideas for computer programs, books, photos, hikes, movies, so many things. I have enough ideas to keep me busy for a lifetime. If I have an idea similar to your idea, I might propose that we work on it together. But I’m not going to just take your idea.

So please, don’t tell me you’re worried about me stealing your idea. It’s simply not true.

If there is something that you’re thinking about, that you’re excited about, then I would love to hear about it. I want to share in your excitement. I want to encourage you to pursue things that you believe in. Perhaps we’ll share a passion, and our minds will meld. Perhaps I’ve had a similar idea, or you blow my mind, and we work on it together, building something much better than either of us could build on our own.

That’s the world I want to live in.

Thanks for tolerating this little rant.

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