When an idea strikes, act

In 1873 Otto Loewi was born. There was nothing spectacularly different about his birth, or his childhood, or even the years he spent as a young adult in Europe.

Otto was, by most means, a fairly average doctor and scientist, his passion lying almost entirely in exploring how chemicals of the human body worked. After receiving a degree from the University of Strasburg in France for studying medicine, Otto took to pharmacological research, the study of drug interaction, where his efforts shined.

One night, in 1921, Otto had a dream.

In the dream he envisioned a marvelous and revolutionary idea, one so important that he awoke abruptly and – in a tired haze ” scrambled through his desk drawers for a pen and paper to write it down.

The next morning Otto found, to his dismay, that his scribblings from the night before were entirely illegible. He couldn’t read any of it and, as hard as he tried, he couldn’t recall what the idea was that had awoken him in the night. He was devastated, but returned to his work for the day, highly distracted at what the idea he had dreamed up was.

Luck came to Otto the following night, when an identical dream occurred to him.

In the dream Otto imagined that the signals sent through neural connections in the body were not entirely powered by electrical signals, like that of a telegraph ” despite what biologists at the time had so certainly believed.

Instead, Otto dreamed, the signals sent between neurons occurred in a chemical state.

Quickly he awoke from the vision and, recounting on his poor attempt to document the idea the night before, Otto rushed to his lab and put together a short experiment using the bodies of frogs and a saline bath. Almost immediately, without the use of any electrical impulses, Otto proved the theory he had dreamed up. Later he would receive a Nobel Prize for the discovery.

If Otto hadn’t taken action on his idea the second time it came to him, biologists may or may not have discovered how signals are transmitted in our bodies.

His ability to act, however, certainly changed the world – both Otto’s and ours. But how many of us would have got out of bed in the middle of the night to pursue an idea, especially one that radically shifts a wide knowledge about something?

We don’t know the value of our ideas until we explore them, so it’s understandable that most people don’t act on an idea when it first strikes them. But the potential for greatness is always there. The next big, world-changing idea could be the one you have next. Maybe not, but you won’t know until you explore it.

Do what Otto did those years ago, the next time an idea strikes you, take action. Get out of bed, get out of your seat, explore it at least a little, whatever that means to you. Draw it out, put together an experiment, move yourself to explore it’s potential.

Remember: creativity takes no excuses. If you don’t know where to start, start with what you do know. If you don’t think you have time, make it.