It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backward. — Lewis Carroll
I invented the famous moral philosophy utilitarianism. Granted, I wasn’t the first one to invent it, but without having read a single document by John Stuart Mill (the bastard who just happened to be born 200 years before me), I came up with this treatise.
But what reward do I get for spending my early teenage years in isolation, pondering and ruminating on a philosophy for life while my friends were out flirting with girls and socially interacting?
Just because I didn’t think of it first—even though I still came up with the idea on my own—I don’t receive the slightest bit of praise.
And my mother’s compliments don’t count!
I know you, brilliant reader, have come up with an idea before, only to realize some phony, unimpressive fleshy thinking machine just happened to “write your idea down” or “send away for a patent” or “author an article on it, got it published in a magazine, you read about it, and realized you could have come up with that idea yourself!”
Damn you, Thomas Edison. Of course indoor lighting that doesn’t consist of a giant flame next to the curtains was a good idea.
Unfortunately, though, our society doesn’t reward thinkers who think up something thought through though thoughts of this thinker you thought, too. It’s only the first person who comes up with something. The first person who’s an “innovator.”
But what kind of original thought can you have when there are seven billion people, sixteen hours a day, 365 days a year all thinking?! (Keep in mind, I use “thinking” loosely here).
The simple fact is you can’t.
However, you can be the first person to write that idea down. The first person to build it. While you are very likely not the first person to come up with an idea, you very likely can be the first person to transcribe the chemical and electrical firings of your brain into ink.
For instance, the writer of Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk (yes, it was a book before a movie) didn’t come up with a necessarily original idea: a bunch of guys get together in an underground fighting club.
But when published (and more importantly, when turned into a movie) it became an international sensation. So even though you may not be the first person to have that great idea, you can be the first person to write that great idea down.
Or just take the easy path and remake someone else’s great innovation with a subtle tweak.