Stay with me on this.
Did you ever come up with an idea for a fundraiser no one had tried before? Or create something in your community that no one had seen, maybe outside of the internet, before? If you did, congrats on being the first, and being the worst.
Just what do I mean by that? Well let me give you an example: Henry Ford invented the first automobile. By first standards, it was amazing, because until then, horsepower was a literal concept, but put Henry Ford’s first automobile up against the latest Ford truck, or up against every Ford that came after it. Doesn’t look so great does it?
That’s for good reason: once Henry created a basic automobile, he could work on what would make it better. Roofs, better breaks, better engines, all leading up to the vehicles of today that can run on electric, drive up mountains, and warm your butt with the touch of a button. If given the choice today between that first Ford and the 2020s sitting on the I77 lot, you wouldn’t have to think hard about which you’d choose. Henry’s Ford was the first, and over time, became the worst.
That’s a good thing, not just for inventions, but for ideas. When you have an idea for something, a fundraiser or a creative project, it gets very easy to become protective over that idea. How could you not? You’re putting in the time, money, and effort to see it through. You took your idea and you turned it into reality. That idea belongs to you.
Except it doesn’t, and you shouldn’t want it to. Henry Ford invented the automobile, but he didn’t invent the best automobile. He didn’t even invent the best Ford, but what he did was create a blueprint for people to follow, and made it easier for them to dream up the next phase of invention.
Ideas work the same way. If you create a fundraiser, you should want everyone in your organization excited about finding ways to make it better. If you’ve done something creative for the community, you should be excited about what other creativity that might inspire. Let’s face it: no one’s first idea is their best. If it’s a really good idea that has the potential to live on, it’s only going to keep going if it can be made better, and reflect the changing times.
Creative- types, big- idea types, you all know how hard it is to let other people take a piece of an idea you feel like you “own.” Even people you adore and respect, if they start to get their hands on your precious idea, the urge to slap those hands away can be overwhelming. A good idea is like a child: you raise it, you feed it, clothe it, help it graduate, and you send it out into the world thinking it’s the best version of itself.
Except that idea runs into a bunch of other people who have all kinds of suggestions on how it can be better, and suddenly that idea starts to look like something you don’t recognize. Suddenly, its not “your” idea anymore, and that disconnected feeling can be handled in only one of two ways: distancing yourself from the idea, or embracing the change. Either way is appropriate, neither way is easy, but only one way keeps your idea, and the community it affects, moving forward.
Creating an idea and embracing the fact that someone is going to make it better isn’t just going to help your stress level: it’s going to help your community. A great idea can last generations, with the best changes to that idea still yet to come. What you create first can become something that lasts, and you should hope, outlasts you. I can’t name the first person who decided Ripley’s 4th of July would eclipse all others, but every year, that idea is celebrated and improved upon. Names fade, but great ideas live on.
So keep creating and inventing and idea-germinating. Make those ideas into realities, and do it so well, they inspire others to build on them. Always be proud that you were the first, but be even prouder that yours was the worst. Your greatest idea can only get better from here.