Two Percent Inspiration

Genius is 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration. – Thomas Edison

The more you spend time in business and entrepreneurship circles, you hear more and more quotes like the one above. You hear things such as “everyone has ideas, but it’s the ones who execute that will win” or some odd variation therein. And in a sense that’s true.

Inspiration by itself isn’t enough. Ideas and inspiration can often come rapidly and leave just as quickly. Great ideas require great execution.

But I think sometimes inspiration gets a bad rap. It’s important to remember that every good invention, piece of software, and product started with inspiration. Without inspiration, we wouldn’t have telephones, lightbulbs, space travel, automobiles, or any number of the other millions of daily amenities we’ve come to know and love. Even Thomas Edison when inventing the lightbulb believed that somehow he could convert electricity into light. He believed that there in fact was a way, and he committed to finding it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in equality no matter the color of your skin. And he inspired others to stand with him and ultimately changed the course of an entire country. The journey wasn’t easy. It required lots of work (and pain), and he could’ve given up at anytime. But he pushed through. It was the perspiration that made it possible but the inspiration that made it imaginable. Look at any great achievement and you’ll see it was the fusion of hard work and inspiration. One is never enough on its own.

If we use the analogy of a ship, perspiration (work) is the engines, but inspiration (ideas) is the rudder. One moves you forward, the other tells you where to go. If you have one without the other, then you’re indeed not going to get where you want. Together they move us toward our goals.

For every person who has ideas and lacks the work ethic to make them happen, I know another person who has a great work ethic and lacks good ideas. So if you’re missing one, find someone to partner with. Together you’ll make a great team.

So the next time someone tells you how pointless good ideas are, find out what he’s been working on. Chances are it isn’t anything great.

Conveniently Edison also said: To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”