THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson
Compelled by an Idea
I was leaving my last class for the day when I saw my friend, Ken Frankel, working out in the hallway with one of those pistol-grip label makers. I stopped and asked what he was doing.
“The Dean asked me to put the room numbers up in Braille so the blind students can find their classrooms.”
As I watched Ken work, I thought of some of the blind students I knew there at Georgia State University. Suddenly the devil got into me and I asked, “Does that thing do the alphabet as well?”
“Yes.” Ken replied.
“Excellent! Let’s take it over to the men’s restroom in the Student Center and put up some graffiti in Braille!”
So we did. The next day we made a point of running into our blind friends, and asking them if they had been keeping up with the graffiti that people were putting up in the stalls.
The typical answer was, “Come on man, why are you asking me that when you know I can’t see it?”
So we replied, “Next time you’re in there, feel above the toilet paper dispenser.”
They did, and within 48 hours every blind student on campus had heard about it. Then they were after us to put up some more! They told us, “This stuff is great!”
Feeling obligated to get some new material, we hit the bars for inspiration. One night we found the mother lode: the men’s room at Moe’s & Joe’s, a 50 year old pub where they never painted over the witticisms scrawled on the walls.
Several mugs of beer and several trips to the restroom later, we filled several sheets of paper with funny bathroom graffiti to take back with us. As we looked at our collection, we came to two conclusions: first that we’d had way too much beer, and second that we should keep collecting graffiti until we had enough for a book.
Little did we know how long that would take! After a few days of active searching we had little to show for our efforts. Somewhat frustrated, we made a decision to just collect new material whenever we happened upon it.
A decade passed, but it was an idea I couldn’t forget. It still made me laugh every time I thought of it. I kept the idea alive, and we kept collecting. Finally, 15 years later, our collection was big enough and we found a publisher who agreed with us that it was a very funny idea.
Sometimes an idea is so exciting that we can’t leave it alone. We have to see it to fruition. I’ve been compelled by ideas to start new businesses, erect buildings, write novels, and even create new recipes.
My friend Jordan Graye, a radio personality in Atlanta, became energized by an idea when she learned that the actual inventor of radio, Nikola Tesla, never got credit for it in his lifetime. Like many people in radio, she believed that Gugliomo Marconi was the man who discovered it.
As she read more about Tesla, she learned that he was also the inventor of alternating current electricity – the type of electricity that powers our homes and offices. She became incensed that history had forgotten this real-life Prometheus; and made it her mission to remind the world of his gifts.
She thought the best way to restore Tesla’s fame would be in a film. That she had never made a movie before (and knew next to nothing about making one), did not deter her one bit.
Jordan did her research and composed a story. She then hired writers, actors, camera operators, and lighting people. She committed her time, energy and a sizable portion of her life savings to realizing her dream. Three years later, MegaHertz was complete and Nikola Tesla’s life revived.
What idea is motivating you? Are you working on it?
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.
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