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Forests vs Trees (also: Hot-Air Balloons)

Hexagon forest with one dead treeI wonder what the first guy to come up with the idea for a passenger-occupied hot-air balloon did when he finally sat down to start working on this bizarre idea of his. I wonder if there was a moment of thinking, “This is crazy. What was I thinking? It can never be done.” Actually, I’m pretty sure there might have been. Someone eventually did make one though, thus proving all those fears irrelevant.

I suppose it’s almost always scary to do something new – whether it is just new to you, or whether it is entirely unique to the world. That’s most likely because new things provide us with no internal frame of reference. There’s nothing we can compare it to in our past. And so it is with ideas. Even great ideas can suddenly seem impossible to execute when you start looking at the “how” of it.

But I think that’s precisely where we need to believe in a little “magic”; a little “suspension of reality” and just go with it. I’ve seen so many times how people kill great ideas prematurely because immediately after having the idea, and before giving it a chance to settle down and ruffle its feathers a little, people start questioning the “how”. And so often, because they can’t find an immediate answer to the “how”, the illusion gets shattered and all faith in that big idea is lost (it’s a bit like the Buddha’s parable of the poisoned arrow – worrying about who shot the arrow, what it’s made of, what kind of bow was used – before focusing on the fact that there’s a damn poisoned arrow stuck in your leg).

While doing a stint in design school, we were faced with some or other project one day and almost all my classmates (who had infinitely more experience with Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, etc. than I had) seemed to just calmly sit down and start working on their ideas. I must have looked somewhat panicky and the lecturer came up to me. I told him I didn’t have enough confidence with any of the software packages yet – I had no idea how I would execute this idea. Then, he gave me some of the best creative advice ever – really simple, but absolutely brimming with wisdom: “Worry about the idea, not the tools. The tools are merely there to help you execute the idea and it doesn’t matter what tools you use.” Basically – worrying about the how is entirely the wrong way around to start working on anything creative. It will most likely depress you if you start worrying about the how before worrying about the what. It will most likely kill the what. It will most likely get you right back to where you started from in the first place… Continue reading Forests vs Trees (also: Hot-Air Balloons)

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On not deciding what is impossible before it is even possible

“We begin to believe that these personal restrictions are, in fact, the fixed limitations of the world. We go on to live our lives, all the while wondering what we can change and how we can change it, and we calculate and re-calculate when we will be ready to do the things we want to do. And we dream. If only. If only. One day. Some day.

Debbie Millman