25 June 2020 | 86 Comments
Let’s try a little exercise: Envision an idea. Something you thought of on your own and that you’re really excited about. It can be an old or new idea, but the it’s just an idea–you haven’t done anything with it yet.
Now tell me your idea. Post it in the comments below.
How do you feel right now at this moment? (This is the real question–I don’t actually want to know your idea.) Uncomfortable? Protective? Squeamish?
One of the questions I’ve been asked the most since I started writing this blog in 2012 is: “What if someone steals my idea?” It’s human nature to wonder this–it’s perfectly natural. As a result, we tend to covet our ideas like dragon’s gold, warding away anyone who approaches.
Today I’d like to make a case for why the fear of someone stealing your idea is unfounded, counterproductive, and detrimental.
First, and most importantly: No one is going to steal your idea. How do I know this? Go back to the first few sentences of the post and think about how much you value your own idea. Someone could walk up to you right now with an idea that is objectively 10x better, but you would still value your own idea more. We all think our ideas are unique and special as compared to everyone else. Why would I steal your idea when I could spend my limited time, energy, and resources on my own ideas?
Second: You are not the first person to have your idea. There are nearly 8 billion people on Earth right now. Do you really think you are the only person to have your idea? Your idea may be special, but I’m mentioning this because it puts “stealing” in relative terms. Think about all of the other brains that have also had your idea–you’re not stealing from them, are you?
Third: Your idea probably already exists. More on this in a second, but yes, someone has probably already executed your idea. I often feel a sense of relief when I learn this, because it means that someone else already put in the work, and I can immediately benefit from it.
Fourth: Your idea is brilliant, but it’s also worthless. Execution is everything. What would you rather read, an amazing novel, or a single sentence describing an idea for a novel? Or a novel, game, a song, a movie, etc? An idea only has value when it is executed, and it only has a lot of value when it’s executed well.
Fifth: You will learn far more by sharing your idea than by keeping it secret. I understand that this is a difficult step to take, but just try it once. Go to a relevant Facebook group and share one of your ideas. Ask people what they think, and I think you’ll discover one or more of the following:
- You’ll learn it already exists. Perhaps someone executed a similar idea really well and you can buy it now…or maybe quite poorly, and you can do better.
- You’ll get instant feedback and support from people who want to see you succeed. People aren’t lurking around social media hoping to snag the best ideas.
- You’ll get a bunch of suggestions of adjacent, existing concepts/products that you can research. It’s good to be aware of the competition, especially so you can differentiate your idea from everything that’s already on the market.
Sixth: You will protect your executed idea far more by sharing it than by keeping it secret. I’ve stressed “executed” because you can’t copyright or protect hypothetical ideas. But you can actually make something, and by sharing what you make with others, you’re creating a public paper trail to show that you made it first. In the extremely rare case of someone who actually does steal your executed idea and claims it as their own, you can point the to series of posts you’ve made over the last few years. If you haven’t shared any of that, though, it’s just your word against theirs.
Basically, if you’re really passionate about your idea and you’re ready to make it a reality, one of the first and best steps you can take is to share it with others. I say this because I want to read your amazing novel, play your amazing game, and watch your amazing movie. But that’s not going to happen if you view other people and see thieves instead of collaborators and supporters.
You don’t need to share your idea in the comments, but if you want to give it a try here, you’re welcome to do so. You can also get to work on your idea so you can experience firsthand the sheer amount of time, resources, and energy it takes to make an idea a reality.
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