They Know What You’re Thinking

Here’s a nice litte factoid to tuck away somewhere: From my many years working with clients, I can safely tell you that… if a great idea pops into your head… chances are somewhere between 12 and 12,000 other people have had the exact thought.

At the exact time.

This is why we have trademark and copyright laws. Because most people aren’t hip to this inconvenient factoid… and they get pissed off when someone “rips ’em off”.

There are simple reasons why this happens. First… many inventions and brainstorms come about when advances in technology meet economic opportunity. Several people “invented” electricity at the turn of the last century, when certain scientific breakthroughs made it possible. Edison just had better PR… plus the vision to get government to fund it. Without public financing, electricity would still be a curiosity, and we’d be running our computers with gas.

Color television was available in the 1920s, for example. However, while the technology was there, no one could afford to buy the sets. So no one broadcast anything. TV only got going when other technology became available to make black and white broadcasting feasible.

The other reason for simultaneous brilliance… is something Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious. Each individual is hooked into a larger mind-meld with every other human alive, through our common biology. Sort of like being tuned into the same short-wave radio signal.

Don’t scoff. David Ogilvy and other top copywriters were great fans (as I am) of using the power of our unconscious minds. I often “sleep” on ideas… literally… and ask my brain to come up with a headline or concept or whatever when I wake up.

Works like magic.

As a professional creative-type, however, it’s also a source of high anxiety.

I have piles of ideas for books, seminars, new business models, and cool ways to completely transform my life… more brainstorm material than I could ever get to in two lifetimes.

I know many other creative business folks suffer from the same overload.

And it just kills me that — merely by thinking of them — I have sent all these ideas out into the collective open-air market… to be looted by others.

Of course, I seldom consider that I may have had my little brainstorms because some other poor guy had the thought first, and it escaped into my unconscious.

Interesting voodoo here.

The lesson: When you have a truly great idea, jump on it. Not so it doesn’t get away… but because if you don’t, you’ll probably see it on the cover of USA Today in a month or so. With some other slob getting all the credit.

Remember — paranoia is only a problem if they AREN’T after you.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

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  • Wes Hopper says:

    You’ve hit upon a great truth which corresponds with the findings of just about every successful person I’ve ever run into. They all say there are more good ideas than any one person can act on.

    Heck, this is now the next big thing in biology and physics – the idea that the universe’s essential structure is really information, not “stuff”. There’s actually books written about it.

    The number of good ideas is almost infinite but the number of people actually listening for good ideas is much smaller, and those who will act on them is even less. Much less.

    I find if I bounce all my wild ass ideas off my life purpose I can whittle the list down to something manageable and work on the best ones. Keeps me from getting too distracted.

    Thanks for bring this up. Good topic!

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