Good Ideas Are Always Crazy Until They’re Not

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wrightbrothers

“Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.” – Larry Page

Do you want to make something that’s never been built? Do you want to solve a problem that other people don’t believe exists? Want to go down a career path that doesn’t make sense to anyone else you know? Want to upset an industry that is allergic to innovation? The validity of your idea or path does not depend upon other people’s approval. Stop waiting for permission to proceed.

I’m writing this post because I’ve often had crazy ideas (and unconventional paths) over the past 20 years, and I was often alone in the belief they could succeed. It’s not fun being alone, so if you can relate, I hope to encourage you today.

Many of the major decisions I’ve made in the past 15-20 years, I’ve had people in my life try to change my mind, talk me out of it, or just flat out call me crazy. I became a Christian, I’d surely been brainwashed. Ten years ago I met and married my wife in 6 months, surely sentencing ourselves to a quick and painful divorce. I dropped out college, before it was cool to do so, and was well on the road to ruin. My wife and I have had 5 incredible children, and are single handedly overpopulating the earth. I decided to earn my living on Craigslist and daily risked being beaten by strangers. I decided to start a blog, along with 10 million other people. I went into the used appliance business and somehow didn’t have to take a second job. I started consulting and teaching people on the side how they too could start an appliance business, all without a teaching degree! I started ApplianceSchool (now Tradeskills.io) and someone actually enrolled, then hundreds! The two ideas I’m working on now are also completely crazy, and I’m more excited than ever before to be working on them!


I just got done reading Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. It’s an incredible book and I highly recommend it. Elon helped start Paypal, which revolutionized the online payment industry. But first, it was crazy. Then he started Space X, an American aerospace manufacturer, and space transport services company. He wanted to build rockets and turn the space industry upside down. This was again fantastically crazy until he succeeded. At the same time, he started Tesla, an electric car company with the goal of reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. He was laughed at, made fun of, and called exceedingly crazy. Yet once again he succeeded and is now revolutionizing the car industry. Somewhere in there he also helped start SolarCity while many American solar companies were going out of business. Again, he succeeded. Now he’s in the process of building his own giant battery packs to improve energy storage and launch 4,000 satellites that will beam internet everywhere in the world. Both crazy ideas that will likely succeed judging on Elon’s recent track record. Invest in Elon Musk.

How to come up with good ideas?

1. Get out in the real world. Get a job or work on something where what you are learning while you work is worth more than the money you are making. This could mean working for free if the education is valuable enough.

2. Observe how things are changing. Often things changing in one sector can be an indicator of how things will eventually change in another. This knowledge of the past will help you become better at predicting the future.

3. Spend a lot of time thinking about how things should be, not how they currently are.

4. Keep your eyes open and always be looking for problems that need to be solved. Look for ways that you could add value to other people or businesses.

5. Write your ideas down as they come. Review them and scratch off the ones that you realize are terrible once you had a good nights sleep. The ones that hold your attention after a week, month, or even a year, might be worth pursuing.

6. Do you have a secret? Do you know something that other people don’t know? Have you noticed that a problem is surfacing that other people don’t know about? Do you know about some sort of consumer behavior that has changed that others don’t? Then that’s your idea and run with it!

7. Settle on an idea and then put it through the fire. Is someone else already doing it? If so, are you going to do it much better? If not, scrap the idea. If no one is doing it, why not? Be honest with yourself here as you don’t want to waste your time. If the answer is that the idea seems hard, or even impossible, or other people simply don’t see the need for it yet, and you do, then that might be your idea.

8. Now go and do it. Build it. Make it. Write it. Sing it. Paint it. Craft it. Program it. Do whatever it takes to get it built.

How to use people’s unbelief to your advantage

Once an idea is proven to work or becomes popular, it becomes an all-out gold rush. But if you are the crazy person with the idea, you can get a massive head start ahead of your eventual competitors, even years sometimes. If people think an idea is crazy, or don’t see the need for it, or don’t see how it could be profitable, they won’t be working on it. This is a huge advantage and is why the first companies to bring an idea to market are often dominate their market.

What if I fail?

You’re going to fail, but this is good. No one has learned to walk without falling, fly without crashing or do anything without making mistakes. That’s ok because you will get better at coming up with good ideas. Just learn from your mistakes. You aren’t crazy for trying and giving it your best shot. Those who have good ideas but never do anything about them are crazy. They are the ones that never put themselves in the position to succeed.

Now stop for a second and look at the greatest inventions and new products that have come about over the past 150 years. Almost all of their creators were treated as if they were crazy when they were working on their ideas. Consider the airplane, the car, the computer, the cell phone, the smartphone, the private space company, the electric car, solar panels, and robots. And then the crazy people that wanted to use the internet to watch movies, and send money, to actually purchase things, find a spouse, connect with friends, get your groceries delivered, press a button and have a regular car pick you up or find lodging at someone’s house or even tree house.

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Not safe, not possible, too expensive, people don’t want to deal with a machine, too complicated and besides, people already have blah and don’t need something new. People want to touch and see before they buy. They won’t want to buy it online. All these things might have been true at some point until they were not true anymore.

Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.

Do you have a good idea?  Then pursue it, and don’t let other people discourage you.

Have a story where people thought you were crazy and it ended up being a good idea? We’d love to hear it!

16 COMMENTS

  1. Fantastic post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the 3rd paragraph, the format of the pessimistic sentences is great. Hope you’re getting accustomed to Hawaii. I have kept up on all your previous posts and know there have been many challenges but I know you will figure out a way to thrive as always. Keep the updates coming!

  2. I’m glad you’re sharing about the issue of critics because I believe all achievers will experience them. Everyone isn’t groomed for success. There is a price we pay because it requires strength and determination, and overcoming adversities. Critics are not people we need to pay attention to. They lack vision and strength to achieve. Their mentality is about their small thinking and fear and is not about our situation. Once we realize that, we can breeze past them and their opinion will mean nothing to us. Thanks, Ryan!

  3. Ryan,
    You make so many excellent points in this blog–it is a true home run! Congratulations to you and your family for all your success and I really love to read what you write. Keep it up! Brad

  4. We’ve got to get you around some more positive people!!!

    But I hear you. While it’s good to be a little crazy, it can get a little lonely, too.

    I’ve been thinking I need to work on my creative juices. I’ve always been a linear thinker, and it has served me well. But envisioning the world as it SHOULD be? that’s a challenge I need to take on.

    • Amazing post, and very thought provoking and motivating on a deep level. These are the thoughts of people who are world changers! I need to spend time thinking like this, and will use the idea of considering the world how it SHOULD be, with my children. WE ARE THE WORLD CHANGERS! I also regularly deal with people trying to take me down with their comments, but I think that things only look impossible until they are done! We have to understand that God does the impossible, and we can be the tools he uses for change 🙂

      Nice to see you writing again Ryan 🙂 Glad things are going well for you in Hawaii.

      • Thanks Lisa! What you wrote caused me to think back to when I was in public school growing up. I remember hearing about how we could change the world, and do this and that, and then there was this disconnect when it came to practice. What we spent all our time learning the rest of those first 12 years in school had little to figuring out how to do things differently. I had some great teachers, but it takes more than teaching to inspire children to actually believe they can make a difference in the world to the point they actually try.

  5. Excellent post, Ryan! I’m going to print and share at dinner with my family tonight. Keep up the great work. A lot of people are pulling for you – and happy to see your success! All the best!

  6. Thanks for writing this cool little article. Although I already know how solid my crazy ideas are, it is nice finding a website like this and this information you shared about Elon Musk. People like us go into a logical idea, but are just seen as crazy because of the difficulty to accept such a new paradigm before it exists. Also, people just generally play it safe because they think that it will spare the economy damage, which is actually opposite the truth.

    It seems like the reason why Elon Musk went on to achieve three amazing goals is because he knew the necessity of a person relying upon themselves when they are going beyond the frontier of the existing world.

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