The real secret of a success is simple: Do something about your ideas. Each of us has seen a new idea and said, “Why, I thought of that a year ago.” We say it with scorn, but we should direct the scorn at ourselves, not at the person who had the drive to do something about it.
Successful idea men generate ideas all the time, and they don’t hoard them. They do something about them, even if they give them away. There are a lot of other satisfactions than money in doing your. When I give an idea away and see it acted upon, I get a great thrill of satisfaction and accomplishment. The important thing is to keep having ideas and to keep putting them to work.
Most of us are lazy, however. We mean to do better, to improve ourselves, to make this year better than last one. But we fall down, we forget, we drift.
There are ways we keep prodding ourselves into reaching farther, to going beyond ourselves. We must, just like an athlete, consciously exercise our brain cells. If we do this, we will be amazed at how our creative energies will increase.
The more we see, the more our powers of observation increase. It is imperative that we push, goad, drive, and spur ourselves into being more creative. The more we look, the more we see. The more we think, the more thoughts we have. The more combinations of ideas we try, the more combinations we realize are available. The more we practice the principles of problem solving, the more problems we will solve.
Listen to H. W. Prentis, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Armstrong Cork: “To analyze and synthesize is not always easy, but here, as in most things, practice increases one’s ability. It was interesting for me to watch myself develop to the point where I could tackle problems I could not possibly have handled a few years before. Unless a man tries, he cannot develop this capacity. In this business of taking things apart, there’s hardly a week passes that something doesn’t come up that seems just about insoluble, like a greased pole you cannot possibly climb. But if you keep at it long enough —keep the problem constantly before you—gradually you can break it down into its component parts, which you can grasp and solve.”
I learned to exercise my creative powers several years ago when I read an article in the Reader’s Digest, which advised “Try Giving Yourself Away.” I tried it.
My first attempt was a smashing failure, but I still found it was fun. I broke a shoelace one morning and couldn’t find a substitute, so I sat right down and wrote a number of shoe manufacturers, suggesting they give a spare shoelace away with a new pair of shoes, or send a pair to a customer after six months. The idea didn’t catch on, but I got a stack of amusing letters from shoe manufacturers for my troubles.
Later I was writing to a friend overseas. I wanted to send the letter airmail—the postage was high and rated by half-ounces, but I couldn’t tell how much the onion-skin paper weighed. I wrote several paper manufacturers and got some action. I didn’t get a free box of stationery, but I do have the satisfaction of walking into a stationery store or a Wool-worth’s and seeing the weight of the paper—one sheet, two, three, and so forth—printed on the bottom of the box of airmail stationery. I admit it gives me a real lift and feeling of accomplishment. This increases my motivation to do something about other ideas, bigger ideas. It boosts my confidence and makes me know that my ideas can be put to work, that someone will listen to it when I have one.
A bigger idea I’m much more proud of is the dial-a-prayer one. I read on the subway one night about a YMCA man in Baltimore who had an inspirational message, which people could get by phoning a certain number. I was job hunting at the time, and I thought what a lift I would get if I could dial a number and get a Scripture reading or a prayer before going in to have an interview for a job. Then I thought of all the other times I needed a lift in a day full of the pressures of modern life.
I tried to get this done in New York but failed. I have since learned that the idea had struck other people, and that it was practiced on the West Coast. But I didn’t know this, and a year or so afterward I tried again to get some action on this —and it caught on in New York City (Circle 6-4200). Today hundreds of churches have the service, and many churches have had to add numerous telephone numbers and tape-recording machines to keep up with the need. I know the dial-a-prayer idea helps people when they need help most, and I get a great deal of satisfaction out of the role I have played in it.