The Real Obstacle To Turning Big Ideas Into Actual Things

Achieving big ideas is not limited by our ability to execute, it’s what we permit ourselves to consider possible.


When I was six years old I really wanted a Nintendo. At some point my mom accidentally said ‘sure…if you buy it yourself.’

I have a vivid memory of the day I counted out 100 crumpled $1 bills and sent her to go fetch my prize.

It was the first experience I can remember at turning a thought into a thing.

The Moon, Nuclear Fission, Live Aid 1985

Humans are actually dream making machines. It’s not the execution of dreams that stops us, it’s our personal beliefs about what is ok to pursue.

Say in high school you told your parents you had a dream that was gonna take 10 years and cost a quarter million dollars to try. And you’d be so focused that you wouldn’t have time for a side job but not to worry, you could borrow all the money from a bank.  Your folks would desperately try to talk some sense into you until you explained that you were trying to become a doctor.

Two things make becoming a doctor a conceivable pursuit: social lubrication + role models.

People will be lining up to applaud you on your journey and the 10 years’ worth of steps to get there are a well-documented path.

Even though becoming a doctor is hard AF[1] it’s an available option in our society, if you so choose to pursue.


Roz Savage gave a popular TED talk[2] about quitting her job in management consulting to row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean by herself. If you know any management consultants you know this was a good idea.

There were not many precedents or role models for her in this particular quest.

At the outset she made an Excel list of the hundreds of steps required to achieve this. When she looked at any individual task she realized there was not a single one too insurmountable to execute.

The only question was…was she allowed?

Not At The Career Office

Your big thought might not be a common story within your immediate sphere of influence.

This is why we have to seek far and wide for the mentors and role models who tell us yes, you can do this. It’s ok. Go ahead. It’s why we have to immerse ourselves, read their books, see their movies, watch their TED talks. We may never get to meet them. They may not even be alive. But the effort to make their narratives part of the available options we see for ourselves is the biggest hurdle to getting on our way.

As human actors we are designed to achieve impossible things. We just have to get our hands on the right kinds of scripts.


Photo Credits: Queen performs at Live Aid in London in 1985. (Neal Preston)