A dream and a lesson

Jan 17, 2012

In my dream I’m 12 again and we’re having the usual Saturday afternoon stir-fry at my maternal grandfather’s house. My mom’s 6 siblings and their partners are there, as well as all my partners in crime (aka cousins).

We’re swimming, eating and soaking up the sun. The adults are having deep conversations over a beer. The kids are running around, yelling, jumping in the water.

My uncle, a welder, is busy cooking a heap of chicken strips. Always hungry, I walk over for a mouthful. “Hey, little buddy” he says. “I had this idea I wanted to tell you about, since I heard that welding will be one of your subjects in high school next year.”

Well, yeah — mostly electronics and that kinda thing, but since I’m a sucker for a good idea, I briefly forgot about the swimming pool for a while.

His glasses sat on his browned, greasy face as he went on, eyes always flickering with curiosity. “So, I’m thinking of doing a range of metal tables that you can adjust. See, if you feel like standing up, then you flick a switch and the table comes up to your level” he says as he squats and comes back up, right hand level with his chest while his left hand is still holding the spatula.

At this point, my 32 year old psyche starts materialising in my head. You know — when things in your dream starts feeling out of place: you flick a light switch and the light doesn’t turn on, or you pinch yourself but feel nothing.

Luckily, instead of focusing, then focusing so much that I wake up (here’s looking at you, lucid dreamers), I ease into the idea just presented to me. I allow myself to be blinded by the sun’s glare on the swimming pool, and I allow my mind to swim.

“But, yeah — I talked to a few people, and everyone says it’s crazy.”

No, it’s a great idea! Trust me on this one.

“They say that they’ll look silly standing up next to a high table in the office.”

Don’t be silly — it’s a great relief from sitting down for hours on end!

I divert my gaze from the glare back to his glasses.

“They say that it may be unstable and that the monitor may fall off.”

I know this is 1992 and that monitors weigh a tonne, but soon everyone will be a programmer, and everyone will start spending HOURS IN FRONT OF THEIR COMPUTERS!

Oh no, my eyes are focusing…

“So, I thought ‘nah’. But, it’s still a neat idea, no?”

YES! Build me one! Just do it!

…my 32 year old self screamed, but there were no words other than those in my dream head. My eyes focus more… No, stop focusing!


I wake up

Now, where have I seen this before? Oh, yes — geek desk.

And right there I made the following realisation:

If you’re ever the proud owner of a good idea, and you start doubting yourself, try and believe in it so much as if your future self came back in time to tell you that this idea is great, and to stick with it.

Or let’s look at it from the other perspective: Take one of your favourite Good Ideas. Like Google or Yammer. Go back in time. Let’s say 1998. Just enough for the idea to be useful and relevant, but not too far for it to be totally alien. Present the idea to your young self. But, believe in it SO MUCH that you actually convince your young self to go and build it. (This is easy, because you’ve seen Google and Yammer first-hand).

If you could go back to 1995¹ with the knowledge you have right now, which idea would you work on? And knowing what you know today, you’ll probably try a bit harder and laugh at the naysayers.

I suppose this is what people call “vision”. It takes someone with equal amounts of brains and crazy to religiously stick with something in such a way.

“Trust me on this one.” ;-)

¹ I guess Perl will still be The Hammer and every web problem will be The Nail, so better brush up on some Perl ;-)