Don’t stop chasing the next big thing

2868288357_d30bea71ebI’m obsessed with the next big thing. I want to beta test any app I can get my hands on. I invest in companies who aren’t afraid to push the limit. I scribble down even the craziest idea because you just never know.

I’ve certainly seen tons of companies and individuals make the next big thing a reality. It is inspiring to watch a product or concept go from a napkin sketch to reality.

Just this week, I read about Sharpie’s new Liquid Pencil. The tool writes just like a pen, erases like a pencil for three days and then becomes permanent like traditional ink. How awesome is that? That is the kind of innovation I love reading about — the next big thing.

However, every time I read about a new writing utensil, a new banking system, or any other far-out idea, I can’t help but cringe a little bit. It’s not reading about the ideas that is frustrating — it is wondering what else is out there that I’m not reading about.

I’m sure when some product manager or research guru at Sharpie proposed the idea of a non-erasable pencil with time sensitive ink it wasn’t greeted with open arms. When Twitter engineer Alex Payne left the company to co-found a startup focused on simply making a “bank that doesn’t suck,” eyebrows were raised.

The next big thing is never easy or obvious. In fact, it usually finds more jeers than cheers. It is upsetting to think about how many awesome ideas never graduate from a boardroom table or a dusty garage shelf.

Moreover, it is  arguably more difficult now than ever before to pursue the next big thing. The economy is crippled. Gadgets can’t be opened up without voiding half a dozen warranties. Societal expectations are large.

A lot of times it makes more sense to let an idea slowly die.

Fortunately, the great innovators all understood that chasing the next big thing meant taking a few (sometimes giant) leaps of faith. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both famously dropped out of college. Thomas Edison was fired for experimenting with lead-acid batteries. Only 12 out of 140 potential bidders thought Vint Cerf’s ARPANet was worth their time in 1968.

The risks are widespread when it comes to pursuing an idea.  But the greater danger lies in abandoning the quest for knowledge and the curiosity that has helped make so many people and companies successful.

Photo by: swamibu