Idea-Bursting: Seeing the Forest for the Treetops

This holiday season, I urge you to note that just like there is no wrong way to eat a Reese's, there is no wrong way to top a tree. Last week, while at a doctor's appointment, the front-desk person was busily adding finishing touches to a Christmas tree in the lobby. The somewhat blurred photo below doesn't do it justice; the tree had a lovely blue hue (there's just something about blue at Christmas time, isn't there?) and a towering ribbon perched on top with at least 8 tails spaced evenly around the tree's perimeter. A number of passersby complimented her on the design and execution.


Then, one passerby stopped, gave the tree a thorough up-and-down, noticed the ribbon and asked, "Where are you going to put the angel?"

The tree designer replied saying that she wouldn't be putting an angel on the tree (Hello, hence the bow ...). The inquirer just stood dumbfounded for a few seconds, then half-scowling, walked away. She just. Didn't. Get it.


With any creative ideas you have throughout  your life, big or small, there are always going to be people who just don't get it. No matter how bursting at the seams you are about your ideas, you can't be everything to everybody. How many times have you birthed a new plan for your business or for a logo design or for a way to streamline operations only to be disappointed at the reaction you got from the first person you told? It happens, and for a number of reasons, but that doesn't mean your ideas aren't valid.

Keep in mind:

1) As poet Robert Bly said, "Be careful how quickly you give away your fire." Talking about ideas in their nascent stages can sometimes be detrimental to their development. That's because the passion you've built up for seeing your idea through can be dissipated if you share too soon and don't get a desired reaction or if you talk it to death. A handful of my fellow songwriters refuse to discuss pieces they are working on (or only discuss them in broad terms) because they know that the more they talk about it, the less "need" there is for them to write it. Essentially, they already got it out of their head by speaking about it too often. Treat your best ideas like they are a treasured secret, and reveal them only when you've given them the attention they require.

2) Trust your inner artist. You know your creative self better than anyone. So round them all up and paint, design, write and create  with conviction. Don't let hurdles — inanimate or otherwise — slow down your progress, or your desire. Be your glittery, sprinkled, outlandishly sparkling self, and don't dare do anything halfway. People are attracted to strong will, bold choices and daring ideas (artists, noncomformists and forward-thinkers in the Twittersphere like @AviWisnia, @zen_habits@identifiDesign, @chrisguillebeau, @marshmallowfeev, @SusanAkaSARK, GetIntheHotSpot,  @DyanaValentine and @papercutny — they're doing their thing, and doing it well). If you bask in your shiny-happy glow, others will not only see it, they'll be fascinated by it. And they'll want to know more.

3) Refine, refine, refine. Sometimes ideas just need a bit of tweaking. Before you make a big presentation or announce your next move via some mass blast channel, run it by a trusted colleague, friend or mentor. Then, really listen to that person's feedback and assess whether it will truly make your end result better. Oftentimes, we balk at initial feedback, and treat it like criticism. But if we pause long enough to see it for its constructive qualities, we learn how we can apply it in a way that builds on our plan.

4) Know your audience. Approach your strategies from your target's perspective, and you will hit your mark way more than miss it. Determine not only whom you should tell, but also how best to effectively convey it, and when. Perhaps you need to make things more visual, with photos, charts or dioramas. Or maybe you need an audio component, in the form of an anecdote, a testimonial, historical context or local endorsement. Timing is everything, so don't just squeeze your idea-bursting into a rushed phone call during the five minutes you have before catching a train. Plan, plan, plan.

Now, press on. You've got some idea-bursting to do.


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