The Right Idea

People mistakenly believe that being right is enough. A good idea is all it takes. Hi, I have a good idea. I am right. Follow me.

In the 1800s, Ignaz Semmelweis could have been the man of his time. Ignaz found that hand-washing reduced mortality to below 1%. “Hey, I’m right. You’re wrong. Follow me.”

Some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands. His ideas were rejected by the medical community. He suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to an asylum, where he died at age 47.

Aaron Swartz is the co-founder of Reddit. He could have been the hero of our times. He helped develop the RSS feed and Creative Commons – he helped shape the internet. When JSTOR is impending the academic world, he doesn’t like it and starts hacking away. Too bad for him, he got caught. In the midst of sentencing, he hanged himself.

A righteous idea is scary. You are in a danger exactly because you are doing the right thing. In your eyes, you see a major error, but to others, you are rejecting their way of life. You will be hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.

Know that if you are looking to plant an idea, make an impact, and change the culture – it might take you a lifetime. Make sure it is something worthwhile for you to be unhappy about for a very long time. You learn from the past, from those who have done it, then maybe, just maybe you might have a shot at it.

Good luck.


The photo was taken in a community garden at San Francisco – where I found the castle using geocaching.

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