Xavier Jared

TwoShay

Two brothers on personal development, philosophy, and being awesome

Forget the Big Idea

Jared,

This article originally appeared earlier this year on Start Up Blog.

The advice “everyone has something of value to give” used to crop up all the time in my morning RSS feeds, and it used to annoy the hell out of me. It was easy for all those successful internet folks to say it, they were travelling the world with nothing but a back pack and a laptop, or working with people who were at the top of their fields. It was obvious what their value to give was. What could I possibly do that would compare to that? I was always trying to think of that one big idea to set me apart. If I could find that, I’d have it made. I couldn’t find it though. It was my white whale.

You know who else had a white whale? Captain Ahab. His white whale was called Moby Dick and it bit one of his legs clean off. He spent years chasing after the thing so he could get his revenge. Eventually he caught up to big MD and decided to go toe-to-fin with it. Predictably the whale smoked him, and whilst he did get a few good hits in the whole thing makes you wonder—maybe Ahab’s obsession with finding that one big thing just wasn’t worth it.

Captain Ahab
Ahab wondering if it’s worth it.

I got lucky. That could’ve been me—dragged into a watery grave by a whale. I realised I didn’t need to find that one big idea, I just needed to take stock of the life I had already and take notice of the things that I spend every second of every day either doing or thinking about doing. Things that I’d been doing so long they had become routine and boring to me, but were totally interesting to other people. As soon as I discovered this I realised why it was so easy for those annoying successful people. They didn’t start travelling the world or turning themselves into experts just to get readers or sell products—that’s just who they were already.

Let’s suppose Captain Ahab was alive today and he decided to forgive and forget all that whale business. He lead a pretty darn interesting life: He grew up as an orphan, began sailing at age eighteen, got a leg bitten off by a whale and in in forty years spent less than three on land. Now just try and tell me that if he started a blog that you wouldn’t want to read it, or that he couldn’t package together an international sailing guide, or fill a venue on a public speaking tour. He wouldn’t need to go out and find interesting things to do. Just from living his life he’d have all the material he’d ever need.

My life resume might not be quite as impressive but it still has plenty of things I can use to provide value to other people. I’m a musician who teaches and performs regularly, a huge personal development geek, and I exercise everyday. I’ve been cooking and eating vegetarian and vegan food for years. I got through a computer science degree without a computer, can juggle, have tutored maths, and have watched more professional Starcraft than just about anyone outside of South Korea. I’ve been doing most of these things my whole life, and that pretty much makes me an expert by default. Doesn’t mean I’m the best, but it does mean I can provide something of value to others.

Captain Ahab
Yes really, they play computer games in stadiums.

I stopped looking for big ideas and starting using what I already had. I’d already done the hard work. I started blogging about personal development because I’ve spent years reading and practicing it; I began teaching drums because I’ve played the instrument my whole life; I help people learn to cook vegan food because that’s how I live. One out of these three is already profitable. These aren’t new or innovative ideas, but they’re backed with solid life experience.

Everyone’s lives are filled with things they can use to provide value to others. You don’t have to be the best, you only need to get out there and start sharing what you’ve got, even if you can’t immediately see where it’s going to lead.

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