Ideas are bamboo forest

Ideas pop out out of nowhere. When I am drinking coffee, taking a shower, sleeping on a couch, a thought just “appears” and captures my mind for a moment. I want to go to Argentina. Is there someone selling a DIY apartment from scratch? If breathing through liquid is possible, someone can build a portable oxygen filter and we can all scuba dive without air tanks. How does the world look like to a bird? I have no idea where the idea came from. I only know it exists, and it has nothing to do with what I was doing (or not doing) at that moment. It floats in the air for three seconds, and then it disappears.

Those out-of-nowhere ideas are inspirations. They happen all the time, everywhere, and to everybody (I believe). Nevertheless we all worry about lack of inspirations, don’t we? Everything we attract is those “junk” thoughts. Nothing useful comes to our mind.

I think we are confusing inspirations with solutions. The former is the seed, and the latter is the fruit. We are constantly looking for a fruit to magically appear in our head, ignoring all the seeds scattered around.

We quickly brush off inspirations (seeds) because they do not resemble the supposed solutions (fruit) at all. Of course; an apple seed looks or smells or tastes nothing like a real apple. We think if an idea isn’t clear or ready for use, it isn’t worth it. I certainly lived along this policy for a long time.

I believe the common success stories of a CEO or a designer or a project manager taking a shower and magically getting the answer to the pending problem he was carrying do exists. If one hundred seeds are scattered, one of them is going to match perfectly with an urgent issue. But on the other hand, we ignore the other 99 seeds, because they aren’t “related” to the tasks on hand.

I used to think ideas should “fall” from above in bright illuminations and complete instruction manuals. In the meantime I ignored those creepy mental weeds popping up everywhere on the ground of my mind. I removed them day by day to create space for the promised “grand idea” that would save my life once and for all.

But it was those weeds that held the key to truly great ideas. If I took time to nurture them and wait until they blossomed, I could have seen beautiful flowers and fruits in the end.

The reason why the real “underground” seeds of inspirations are small, vulnerable, fragile, and look nothing like their fruit is because they have traveled a long way from the core of my inner world. Just like a stream of water flowing out of a fountain is connected to a gigantic pool of underground water vein, the weak strings of spontaneous ideas have also traveled from the big inner core. The core emits radio signals to our consciousness all the time, but by the time the signal reaches our physical antenna, it has been tweaked and weakened and modulated. That’s why those ideas look so out of place and time.

But because each signal is coming out of the same core as if a whole bamboo forest is connected through underground roots, beneath the seemingly random thoughts we may be able to see a common theme, which is far more powerful and important than the “urgent” problem we are carrying.

Therefore, if we jump onto a single idea, believing it is “it,” we may only find a dead end. It is similar to dig a bamboo shoot and plant it in a pot. Without being connected to the large underground root network, the bamboo will soon die.

What we should do is to take a bite at a signal and see where it leads to. We might not need to chase that single idea too far. If we keep tracing each signal to some degree, eventually the paths intertwine and form a large theme.

I can’t claim this method works, because I am also in the process of “weaving.” But something tells me that it is far more promising than chasing the nonexistent big idea.