Your craziest ideas are the ones that matter most

What’s the craziest idea you’ve ever had?

What made the idea feel so crazy to you? Was the idea too before it’s time? Too ambitious? Was it something far out of reach or something others wouldn’t understand?

If you’re like most people, you left the idea behind somewhere, didn’t you? You abandoned it once you realized just how crazy it seemed. We all abandon ideas that seem too crazy. But how often do you reflect on what makes these types of ideas crazy to begin with? More often than not, when faced with an idea we feel is too radical or too distant, we abandon it. Of course once the idea is gone, there’s no way to prove or disprove the craziness of it.

Without pursuing these ideas, we must face the possibility that our expectations and reservations about them may very well be unfounded. Wrong, even. What we believe to be crazy, out of reach, or impossible, may feel so only because we haven’t tried to make them anything but out of reach, impossible, and crazy.

Here’s the thing: most crazy ideas are rarely as unrealistic or unachievable as we make them out to be.

Some ideas, the ones that come mostly from imagination with little foundation in reality, are obviously too wild to become a reality (you can’t invent a machine to instantly zap you across outer space because the technology and knowledge to do so simply isn’t up to the task, yet). But other ideas, the ones we dream up in the middle of the night, or after a long conversation with a close friend, or when we feel defeated after a long day of school or work, those ideas are typically within our reach, despite our inclination of them being too crazy.

All it takes to shift a crazy idea into being a good one is a bit of energy, ambition, and continued curiosity. We must explore the map of our ideas if we’re to understand where they might take us.

I’m talking about those times when we find ourselves asking “What if?” Or when we stumble on an idea by accident only to say “This could never work.” We owe it to ourselves to get answers, to pursue the what-ifs, and to see if our ideas could work. If not for a definitive answer, then at-least for the energy of living a life well lived, well explored. When we pursue our ideas we discover things about ourselves and life we otherwise may never have stumbled on.

Selling your art in an online store, opening a real storefront in your favorite city, selling everything and traveling the world, whatever your crazy idea is: odds are it’s not as crazy as you might think. It only feels crazy because you’ve never pushed through it. A yellow watermelon seems like a crazy idea until you try it and realize it tastes like a normal watermelon, it’s just colored yellow. Supporting yourself through your creations or ideas can seem crazy, but what if it works? Would you take the risk and benefit from fulfilling the idea or gaining new knowledge around it?

We can’t expect to know whether or not an idea is absurd without first exploring it, because we simply don’t know what we don’t know.

When confronted with the crazy idea of using a hot air balloon to race around the globe, which no one had ever done before, Virgin founder Richard Branson used his personal mantra of “Screw it, let’s do it” and ended up setting a world record. (Branson’s life seems to be a series of acting on crazy ideas instead of running away from them, as he explains in his short biography of the apt title Screw It, Let’s Do It.)

Elon Musk, when faced with the crazy idea of creating a commercial company that would launch rockets into space, didn’t let anything stand in his way. The company he founded as a result of his pursuit, SpaceX, is one of the leading space companies in the world. To get here, Musk had to be willing to pursue the crazy. As explained in Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance: “Musk has his version of the truth, and it’s not always the version of the truth that the rest of the world shares.”

Of course your crazy ideas don’t have to be as ambitious as breaking records or changing the future of the world. Even the small, crazy ideas can be immensely valuable if pursued.

The problem with many of our fears around “crazy” ideas is that the fears often come from only what we know, never what we don’t know. To live a more creative life we must not abandon our craziest ideas, but instead lunge forward with them tightly in our grasp. As Steve Jobs once famously said:

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Here’s to the crazy ones.

Written with Prompts.