Trust Your Crazy Ideas

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | May 16, 2015

“It’s easy to come up with big ideas. Just think of something that everyone agrees would be ‘wonderful’ if it were only ‘possible’ – and then set out to make it possible.”
Armand Hammer

There are still a few more thoughts I learned from Dan Zadra, the writer, and Kristel Wills, the editor, in their book “Where Will You Be Five Years from Today?” that I would like to share with you.

I love reading about other people’s crazy ideas and what they did with them. In 2005, three college guys wished they had a simple way to share videos online with their friends. So they threw together a simple invention – a way for virtually any video to play on any web browser, and started their own little company called YouTube.

One year later they sold their company to Google for $1.65 billion – and Time magazine named their idea “Invention of the Year.”

Zadra and Wills shared this story in their book and then asked this question, “What is your YouTube?” Take out a notepad today and write down some wonderful ideas to benefit humanity. A single idea can transform a life, a family, a business, a nation, a world. Most people come up with one or two ideas a year.

They continue, “Over the next five years, dedicate yourself to having one new idea every week. In five years, you’ll have 250 ideas — more than most people have in a lifetime. Some of them will be pure genius.”

One of the craziest ideas in our family came from Evie in the spring of 1996. My friend Roland Dudley was president of Continental Theological Seminary (CTS) in Brussels, Belgium. During a casual conversation he asked if I could fill in as interim academic dean while his current academic dean was gone.

I would have loved to do that but I also knew there was no way I could take a one-year leave of absence from North Central University (NCU) where I was serving in my 17th year as vice president of academic affairs.

And then Evie had a “crazy idea.” What if I served for one semester rather than two?  And, what if I helped start the fall semester at NCU, traveled to CTS for five weeks, returned to NCU for four weeks, and then went back to CTS for the final six weeks, all the while keeping both institutions going via email?

To our surprise, the administrative leadership teams at NCU and CTS both said “yes.” That crazy idea became one of the most inspiring, renewing and educational seasons of our entire lives. We absorbed the flavors and nuances of geographic places and fascinating cultures that to this day feed our souls, and though we could never have predicted it, it was while we were there that a series of transitional pieces began to unfold which eventually moved us from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. 

Crazy ideas don’t care about age. Mozart was ‚Äč7 years old when he wrote his first symphony. At age 20, Debbi Fields founded Mrs. Fields. Fred DeLuca was only 21 when he co-founded Subway with just $1,000 and John F. Kennedy was only 43 when he became president of the United States.

Then there was Grandma Moses who started painting at age 78 and continued well into her 90s. At age 86, Ruth Rothfarb ran the Boston Marathon in just over five hours. “You lose a lot of speed between 80 and 86,” she joked.

On his 104th birthday, Cal Evans was interviewed by a Denver reporter. “Have you lived in Denver all your life?” Cal laughed and replied, “Not yet, sonny.”

Crazy ideas can cause you to do things you never thought possible. As you look back over your life, it is what you do with those crazy ideas that can change everything. 

Trust your crazy ideas.

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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