Everything is Someone Else’s Big Idea
The most inspirational lesson for me was realising that everything is someone else’s creation.
When I was 25 I didn’t really have any idea what I was going to do with my life.*
One thing I’ve never shared, but that was a massive influence on my life was a decision I took to write a treatment, or a short story which could develop into something bigger.**
One technique that I worked on when writing this was to try to observe people in day-to-day situations and see what made people smile, laugh, and react. It feels like we laugh a lot in day- to-day life but I was really curious about how you might capture and repeat that in a story.
I was working in hospitality and retail at the time, so I had a lot of opportunities to people-watch a broad range of folks, and interact with people in all sorts of moods and frames of mind.
This shift in behaviour unlocked so much more for me as I started to see the world through a whole new lens.
What started as looking for charming everyday jokes turned into a whole new mindset and way of seeing the world, and one for which I am very grateful.
Everything is created by another human being
This whole concept is a big part of my Startup Club session. At the start of every new group I do an activity to get people thinking about creativity.
If you’re feeling bold you can give it a try now, it only takes a couple of minutes a pen and piece of paper.
The first step is to close your eyes.
Next, imagine you’re lying in bed this morning.
Then open your eyes and write a list of everything you’ve used or interacted with that has been designed or created by another human being.
And then don’t look beyond this line (apart from a bonus step which is to say you should be doing this with a soundtrack of Perth by Bon Iver, or a timer for 5 minutes, whichever is most doable).
Here’s a dramatic photo by Andrew Te from Unsplash just to help save your eyes from jumping to the next session before the task is over.
When you’ve got the list, the next step is to go over what’s on there. Depending on your good and bad habits the first thing on the list is normally a phone or toothbrush, or pillow, and then things scale up through the house. If lucky, we will get a couple of doors, cars, and roads in there. If it’s a really good group things get even bigger.
The key here is when things are no longer things, but concepts and ideas. That’s normally when the penny drops and the trick is exposed.
Everything is designed and created by another human being.
Aside from the sun and the moon, everything that we see or interact with is created or designed by another human being. Everything is a conscious decision by another person.
My favourite of these ideas is the high five. It was created by the LA Dodgers’ outfielder, Glenn Burke*** when he raised his hand to celebrate his teammate, Dusty Baker, hitting a landmark home run and responded by slapping his hand.
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
We often think of innovation and ideas being big things, but when they are as memetic as the high five we always take them for granted, and forget the magic and creativity that goes into creating new things.
Ideas like languages or memes or stories often don’t have owners or founders, but resonate so much with all of us that they create more value than any traditionally thought of invention.
With the task set out above, there’s a progression that tends to go from objects, then concepts, through to systems and ideas.
Everything has been created or designed by another human being, and this is something I find deeply inspiring.
There is endless opportunity that exists in this very simple idea.
This ties in with another topic about critical thinking. Why did they choose to do it this way?
Even something as simple as the different light switches we use in different countries. None are perfect, but they are all perfect. They’re equally all a landmark achievement by a person or group of people. They become so ubiquitous that we never consider why ours are different to theirs.
This taps into another topic about tradition and how we value our way of doing things.
Human beings invest so much energy into solving problems that we have never given a second thought to.
The mindset shift that I went through in trying to witness every laugh in everyday interactions unlocked this unexpected appreciation for the way that people commit their lives, energy and imaginations to causes big, small, and invisible.
*I still don’t know what I want to do with my life but I’m now a lot more ok with that.
**If you’re especially bored and want to read Anglesey, just ask.
**Glenn Burke is a deeply inspirational person beyond just this. If you don’t know much about the life of one of America’s first openly gay sportspeople then do take the opportunity to learn more.
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