44/300: What’s the Big Idea?

R.L. Stein is a genius.

I was watching the Goosebumps movie a couple weeks ago with my kids and I was struck by that thought. R.L. Stein is a genius. Even though I’ve never read a single one of his books, even though my exposure to him is limited to a couple of podcast interviews and seeing him played by Jack Black in the movie, I realize he is a genius.


Because he had a big idea and executed it in small ways. He had an idea to write about the things that scared him, to write books that kids would love and he wrote them in an iterative way. Each book is only about 15,000 words – about two and a half weeks worth of blogs from me and a comfortable length for young readers – and they all build on one another without being necessarily inter-related. Over five years in the 90s, he cranked out hundreds of books that sold hundreds of millions of copies around the world. He understood how kids think. He understood what they might be interested in and he lead them down a path of his own design.

Aaron Draplin is a genius.

I’ve known this and written about this before. His big idea? He wanted to be able to do the thing he loves the most – design – in his underwear. He wanted the freedom to work on his own terms and designed his life around that idea and, in so doing, he’s more successful than he ever would have had he stayed in the corporate position he had.

I admire people with big ideas. I’m fueled by their resolve. But every once in a while, I am humbled by it. It forces me to challenge my assumptions about what’s possible in life. This happened the other night when my wife sent me the video below via facebook. It’s been seen a lot since it was posted, so forgive me if you have already watched it. But I was so moved by it, so shaken by it that I thought I would devote this space today to sharing it with you. Watch it if you can, but keep in mind, it’s 25 minutes long.

It’s from photographer Jeremy Cowart and, well, I’ll let him tell you his story. But, for me, it begs the question: What’s my Big Idea? What’s the thing that I am aspiring toward? And is it just personal gain or something greater? I’m still wrestling with these questions and, I suppose, on some level I always have been. But I’m wrestling with them now in a whole new way. I’m wrestling with them now in terms of possibility, not frustration; creativity not dilemma.

Give this a watch. Let it sink in. Go to jeremycowart.com if you’re so move.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

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