I’ve made a career out of having the kind of ideas that people instantly want to hurl objections at, and over the years I’ve come to know almost every negative reaction like it was an old friend.
But there’s one objection that drives me absolutely crazy, and it’s this:
‘I’m sure it’s a brilliant idea, but let’s confine ourselves to The Real World.’
It’s the H-Bomb of objections, a devastating blow that flattens the entire discussion. It cracks the meeting into two tribes – those who operate in the real world and those who don’t – and god help you if you’re on the wrong side. And worst of all, it sounds so damn sensible, despite the fact that it reveals a staggering ignorance of human history.
Try this experiment: make a list of things you regard as part of The Real World.
Your job. Your mortgage. Your assorted debts and liabilities. Your next tax bill. Money, politics and economics. Telemarketers, junk mail, internet scams. Traffic jams and parking fines.
Real enough for ya? Now ask yourself: How many of those things started out as just ideas?
Your job exists only because somebody thought of it. Your mortgage was an idea before it was a fact. Even money was an invention, something dreamt up by human beings. The history of innovation teaches us that just about everything around us began as ideas, half-baked notions in the minds of individuals who happened to think a little differently than their more literally-minded colleagues.
Who, by the way, probably tried to kill the idea the second they heard it.
That’s because most people only let themselves see the things that already exist, which means they don’t see the things that are next, the things that the future will be made of.
Ideas come first. They always have and they always will. Whoever sees them first owns the future.
And here’s a thought: all those weird ideas that somehow managed to survive the traditional barrage of negativity and cynicism, all those ideas that then went on to become technologies and industries and cities and businesses and economies… the sum of all that invention and innovation and entrepreneurship is what we call The Real World.
That’s right. The Real World is the one we made up.
You gotta love the irony.