What happens when your brilliant idea is met with a tepid response?
For some of us, anything less than enthusiastic applause for our fledgling dreams is reason to pack up our ambitions and go home. A thought that took weeks of courage-building to share with another crumbles beneath what feels like a withering barrage of criticism…even if it was simply a yawn.
Let’s face facts – most of us were born insecure about our own abilities and the world has done precious little to divest us of that self-perception.
Maybe your dream is an idea of how to do things differently at work. Or putting yourself up for a new position. Or getting 100% out of debt once and for all. Or committing 100% to getting back to your high school weight. Or changing careers. Or running a marathon. Or making a commitment to do whatever it takes to restore your marriage. Or quitting your job and starting a new company based on your unique vision.
You have a dream…a vision of how life could be so much better if you simply made that vision come true.
And no one else cares.
Why are you surprised?
First, you should at least examine the possibility they may be right. If your idea really is great, it will stand up under close scrutiny. Or that scrutiny may illuminate areas where your idea is underdeveloped and needs work. Either way, don’t be afraid to invite close evaluation into your enthusiasm.
Second, if everyone responded well to your idea, your idea probably wouldn’t be that unique, would it? It is the nature of human beings to resist change, all courageous sounding bumper stickers and Facebook memes to the contrary. Your idea probably involves change, so most people’s immediate reaction is to resist that change.
Third, understand that history’s best teachers and visionaries usually met with only minority approval.
Jesus told a story about a farmer who scattered seed over four different kinds of soil. Agricultural methods being what they were, a farmer back then took a handful of seed and scattered it over as wide an area as he could.
In the story, some of the seed scattered in this manner falls not on actual soil but on the road and is simply eaten by birds. Other seed falls on soil filled with rocks. The seeds in the rocky soil do sprout up into plants, but quickly die out since the roots cannot go very deep in rocky soil. Still other seeds fall on soil with lots of thorns in it. The more virulent thorns choke out the weaker plants produced by the scattered seed and also die out. Finally, a few scattered seeds fall on soil Jesus simply calls “good.” While only a minority, these seeds not only take root and live, but they multiply by supplying more seeds to be sown.
Even a person of zero religious inclination can learn several lessons from this story.
You should expect the majority of people with whom you share your vision (the various kinds of soil) to be non-receptive to your idea (the seed sown). If we assume an equal distribution, 75% of the seed sown failed to live and produce anything. The same may be true with your own ideas that you try to impress on others. It may help you maintain perspective to assume most (at least at first) will reject or ignore your idea.
But you can also expect the majority of your results to come from a minority of your audience. This is really good news. In Jesus’ story (again, assuming an equal distribution), 25% of the audience was receptive and produced 100% of the results, some as significant as 100 to 1.
And my final encouragement to you if you find your great ideas meeting with indifference…if you are convinced, keep on convincing. Keep on pushing your idea.
In the difficult days of Great Britain’s war against Nazi Germany, a crotchety 66-year-old Winston Churchill spoke to a weary nation and said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Good advice when your good idea meets with either a yawn or a snarl.
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