Gerhard Schehm’s dream was to analyze a comet’s composition for insight into how earth and the solar system were formulated. It would be like the discovery of carved written inscriptions in both Greek and Egyptian on the Rosetta Stone that helped historian translate the mysterious hieroglyphics language of ancient Egypt. Gerhard became the lead scientist in 1985 on the aptly named Rosetta mission, which landed a probe this week on a comet 317 million miles away.
Rosetta was approved for funding in 1993 and was launched into space on a rocket in 2004. The mission’s ten year journey through space will continue into 2015.
So what about your dream or big idea equivalent of landing on a comet? When is it a good idea to share it with people? People that have achieved big ideas suggest you wait as long as possible. Self-made billionaire Sara Blakely kept her big idea of making a new women undergarment under wraps for an entire year while working on developing the prototype. She waited until she was 100% committed and ready to launch before she sat her friends down and explained her new direction.
Sara believes ideas are fragile and should not be shared with the world too soon. “Wait until you’re completely ready to move forward before you share it with people. Meaning, they’ll shoot it down, offering all the reasons why it won’t work. But when they do, you’ll be ready to deal with it.”
Peter Thiel is the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and first outside investor of Facebook. He writes in his book Zero to One, “Unless you have perfectly conventional beliefs, it’s rarely a good idea to tell everyone you know. So who do you tell? Whoever you need to and no more”.
Even if dream or big idea is within conventional wisdom, it’s likely a departure from people’s perception of you. Once we share our dream or big idea, we are measured and/or defined by it. Who wants to be reminded of that gas station you were once going to convert into an ice cream stand? People may suggest that you are crazy to protect you or to determine your seriousness. They may encourage or discourage you based on how it impacts them personally, adding even more pressure to your pursuit.
This creates quite a challenge in socializing, shaping and evaluating your dream. The people that know you best may not be helpful evaluators of whether it’s a good idea. It often requires reaching out to people with specific knowledge and an understanding of what it would take. They must be objective and willing to share their time.
Yet, vulnerability and risking relationships can’t be skipped during the pursuit of a dream or big idea. At some point Abraham Lincoln had to tell his wife Mary that he was going to run for President after losing 8 elections. Edward Jenner had to get permission from parents of a 12 year old boy to inject him with pus extracted from a women’s sore to prevent him from getting small pox. Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Suess) must have told someone he was going to submit his manuscript to the 28th publisher after 27 publishers already rejected it.
The best time to share your dream may be when:
- You absolutely need to share it
- You are 100% committed
- You are willing let it be a part of how others define you
“Yah sure Gerhard, you are going to land on a comet”, must have been spoken or imagined many times over the 30 years prior to the landing. A fragile dream or an idea that defies conventional wisdom needs time to mature and grow. The best time to share may be when you are confident that you have what it takes to make almost anything happen.