There are moments in every innovator's life when they become sure of the path that lies before them. An idea has come into their minds that they can't escape. It's there 24 – 7 whether they are awake or asleep , popping up in everyday thoughts and as they go about their work. It's impossible to ignore.
Be careful — not everyone will have your enthusiasm. Sometimes, people are downright cruel a. They'll tear it apart, insisting that there's no way that idea could possibly be successful. They'll have dozens of reasons why it just doesn't make sense. Your story shouldn't be told, an invention that should never make it out of the planning stages, a new way of doing things that should just be ignored. Even Albert Einstein acknowledged that the greatest innovators of the age will always be opposed by lesser minds – that is, those who have never experienced that moment of epiphany where the way forward becomes clear in spite of the obstacles in the way.
Consider, for example, The Rite of Spring, a ballet written by Igor Stravinsky. Instead of the delicate, classical strains so well known in the ballet world prior to that point, Stravinsky began with a story of pagan sacrifice. The music was dissonant (last weeks podcast on dissonence) and unpredictable, the dancing “shocking” – everything about this ballet was completely unprecedented. There were surely plenty of people along the way who insisted that The Rite of Spring should never be produced, and yet Stravinsky prevailed. At the first performance, the audience rioted because the ballet was such an extreme deviation from the norm – and yet now, The Rite of Spring is regarded as one of the greatest contributions to the art form, a shift that has redefined ballet over the last century. Now, it's not at all uncommon to see unique forms of dance, unusual costuming, and themes that depart drastically from the classics; this is all due in part to Stravinsky’s moment of absolute clarity and unwillingness to compromise his vision.
Of course, there are countless authors who experienced rejection before publishing world-changing creative works. Dr. Seuss once received a rejection letter telling him that his children's books were too drastically different from the rest of the books in the field, and that his work wasn't even worth publishing. Today, few children learn to read without at some point picking up The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham.
J.K. Rowling received what is rumored to be twenty-five rejections for the first book in her Harry Potter series. Ultimately, that book would lead to six sequels, eight movies, and a theme park, not to mention countless amounts of merchandise and a website dedicated entirely to further exploring the wizarding world Rowling created.
Agatha Cristie, who is one of the best-selling authors in the world, received rejection letters for five years before one of her books was finally accepted for publication.
All of these authors, along with countless others, have one thing in common: they had an idea, and they had to share it. They were passionate, they were determined, and they kept trying even in the face of rejection. They experienced those moments when they couldn't ignore the idea, and they moved forward to share it even though agents, publishers, and even potential fans ignored their concepts outright.
They aren't alone. Pasteur's idea that disease was transmitted by germs and the initial design for the personal computer received rejection when they were first offered to the scientific or industrial powers of their time. Others in these fields struggled with concepts that went against common wisdom or established practices, and rather than changing their outlook and imagining a world in which these ideas would have value, they chose to reject them outright – and yet their originators persevered, because they just had to.
“Can Not Do” Moments
That “can't not do” moment is lurking in your mind somewhere, too. If you're an innovator filled with ideas and concepts that will change the world forever, — there will be that world-changing moment when you have an idea that everyone rejects. That's okay! Rejection serves a number of purposes.
First, it gives you the idea that you might just be on the right track. Often, rejection is society's reaction to an idea that challenges their norms, an automatic response to anything that might change day-to-day life as they know it.
Second, rejection gives your idea the opportunity to push through boundaries you didn't even know existed. You'll get a good look at the reasons why others think that your idea might not work, and you'll have the chance to work through them one by one.
Furthermore, rejection shows you just how passionate you are about your idea. If you fold at the first sign of rejection, it's not a “can't not do” moment. If your less than 100% committed to the idea, then set it on the back burner for now. If, on the other hand, rejection only makes you more passionate, you may have a great idea on your hands, and now you need to bring it to life.
Listen to this episode of the Killer Innovations Podcast: Can Not Do Innovation S11 Ep14
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- Music by Bensound