Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Though my first (and very juvenile) thought is usually, “Oh yeah! Then why are there so many really smart fat people!?!?!”, the quote itself, and the verity behind it, is one that I identify and struggle with on a daily basis. Though it’s been massaged and “genius” has been replaced by a laundry list of other words to fit the speaker or the inspirational poster on which it’s printed, the power behind its simple truth rings so clearly.
I have a friend. Someone I’ve known for decades. He’s smart. He’s charming. He thinks so far outside the box that you can’t even get back to the box from here. He’s that person that a lot of us know. A dozen times in my life, this same guy has come to me with an idea. Passionately, he’d lay out his vision. Every detail. He knew the who, what, where, when and why this was a fantastic idea. Like Professor Harold Hill shilling the boy’s band to the River City natives, it was almost poetic in pitch. There was so much inspiration in every word. You could actually see it in his eyes and straight down to his soul.
Two or three years later, someone else was bringing this idea to market.
We’d cross paths again and I’d ask if he’d seen it and wonder what happened.
“Oh,” he’d always tell me, “it’s just such a pain to get anything going. I got the real job and other stuff. Just no time to work the idea. I knew it was a great idea. Told you!”
Inevitably, either at that conversation or in our next, he’d share another concept and the cycle would start again.
I’ve told “The Wife” and shared with a few others who have been down this similar path with our mutual friend the same thing each time. I would literally invest my life’s savings in his ideas, but I wouldn’t put a penny behind the guy who had them.
Because his 99% is in the wrong place.
He’s all inspiration, no perspiration.
Why design the better mousetrap, if it’s never going to be built?
Why pen the most delicious recipe, if it’s never going to be cooked?
Why write the perfect song, if it’s never going to be sung?
Inspiration is nothing but wasted time if you’re not willing to do the work.
Where’s your 99%?