Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you…The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish. – from Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be
Some people protect their ideas. “They’re mine!” they shriek. They turn ever inward in an attempt to keep their ideas sacred. They fear contaminating them or, worse, having them stolen.
The fear is understandable. People have their ideas stolen all the time. They talk about some project with someone they think they can trust. A few weeks or months later, they see a work that seems eerily similar to the one they posited. The trust is broken; they become hermits and hide away themselves and their ideas.
Unfortunately, the reaction does nothing to protect their ideas. The more they turn inward, the more myopic they become. Their ideas turn to ash because they don’t come into contact with anything. Just as two friends can be iron sharpening one another so can ideas. Ideas don’t flourish in the dark. They bloom and grow in the light. They come into focus with friction, feedback, and criticism.
That isn’t to say people shouldn’t exercise wisdom when it comes to sharing their ideas. They should. They need a community of people with whom they can be vulnerable and know that their ideas are safe. Not only that, they need a community to whom they can be held accountable. Ideas are wonderful, but it’s the implementation of them that is the real giving away. Once the idea becomes an action, it can grow. It can even be discarded in favor of a better idea.
That only happens when people give away their ideas. As they do, they’re forced “to look, to be aware, to replenish.” It’s much like a vessel being constantly filled, poured out, and filled again. The more they’re poured out, the more they’re filled; that is, they give away everything they know, and more – abundantly more – comes back to them.
Image: Waag Society (Creative Commons)