Your Ideas Matter

For years, I had the idea.  Sometimes it was stronger, sometimes it was closer to happening, sometimes it was barely there.

But it was always tucked inside somewhere, ever since I started writing online.

A place where fellow writers could congregate, a place to blast out creativity and energy and also be a good, a great, source for content, something that people would actually want to read.

I read about Jewish websites and newspapers that made $1 million in revenue, mostly from donations from old institutions, and they were just the same as the rest.  And I thought, “This isn’t right.”

And so the idea continued to build slowly.

Every now and then, I’d inch towards it.  I’d think up names.  I’d work out plans.  I’d think who I’d want on board.

This would usually happen during moments of transition, when I was looking for an activity to give meaning to my life.

But something always stopped me.  Held me back as I grasped for the goal.  

I would find different excuses: Life got better, busier.  I got a new job, or a new child, or I moved.

But I knew there was something else going on, something deeper.

“This might not work.  It probably won’t.  How will you get people on board?  How will you pay?  How will you make time for it?  You don’t have connections with those million dollar places.  People will just realize that you don’t know what you’re doing.  It could fail.  Or worse (so much worse), it could succeed, and then fail.”

Those thoughts invade my mind whenever I have an idea.  The more I care about an idea, the more they come up.  When I sit down to write, they come.  When I publish, they come.  When I sit down for work, they come again.  When I start a new project, when I propose a project to someone else, when the project starts… they come and come and come.

It may sound weird or exaggerated.  But I think the truth is that many people have these voices, but they are, perhaps, less aware of them.  Often, they’re couched in practicality:

“Don’t try to the an actor: do you know how rare it is for actors to succeed?”

“Start a Jewish media site?  Aren’t there, like, a billion of those?”

“If you want to get married, you shouldn’t pursue that career as a writer.  No one wants to marry someone who will be poor.” (That’s for the religious audience, something I was told by many people.)

“Start a startup?  Do you have funding?  Are you sure your idea is good?  Do you know that 80% of startups fail?”

As often is the case with these things, when someone says these things to us, it’s because that’s the way they think themselves.  It’s what they tell themselves when they have a dream, a vision, an idea.  They are being “practical”, you understand.  And by practical, I mean that they have swallowed the myths our world spins out so that people will accept lives of mediocrity.  So that we will never have to face failure or defeat.  Lives of comfort with neither highs nor lows.

Every day, those thoughts exist in my mind.

And so, I suppose, it is a wonder that I ever start anything.  It is a wonder that anyone starts anything.  Failure and success are all seen as part of the same equation: putting yourself at risk.

And the truth is that, until recently, I truly did not pursue my dreams.  Not in the dogged, not-getting-distracted-by-anything, driven way that a person has to pursue their dreams.

The idea would come out, half-formed, and a quarter executed.  Just enough energy put in to give me a bit of praise, and then I’d run for the hills.

It took me a while, a lot of learning, a lot of discussions with my wonderful therapist, a lot of reading of wonderful, inspirational people, a lot of meditating and thinking and encouragement from others to realize the cycle of negativity that exists in our “educated” western mindset, this fear of success, fear of failure, and fear of risk.

As time went on, I learned certain principles in order to reverse my thinking:

1. Embrace failure

Failure is your friend.  Failure is the best thing that can ever happen to you.  It’s the teacher of your passion, the guide that tells you, “You did this right, this wrong, and now you can redo this even better.”

2. It’s a journey

Or a process.  However you want to put it.  The point is that wherever you are now, whether it is up or down, is simply a way station.  Failure and success are fluid, and what matters is how we approach things, not the external results that come after.

3. You are worthy

The thing that holds so many of us back, really, is the feeling that we don’t deserve success.  We don’t deserve to be heard, valued, even loved.  “Who am I?” our voices ask us.  Let me tell you: You are worthy.  You matter.  G-d created you (not the physical you, the soul, the energy, that passion inside you) because no one else can do what you can do.  You may be full of nicks, scars, screw-ups: but that’s part of #2, the journey.  You matter.  Do you hear me?  You matter, you have value, and you are worthy.

4. It’s for you

Often, we don’t realize that an unfed passion, an unrealized idea, an uncreated creation… these things aren’t just about sacrificing external success.  They eat at us, and it’s unhealthy.  The great Julia Cameron terms folks living such lives as “blocked artists”.  That applies to artists, but it also applies to anyone with an unactualized, untried dream.

A week ago, I finally launched that dream media site.  It’s called Hevria.  It has some of my favorite people and writers.

It was created with the fact that we have no money or resources in mind (no one is paid, everyone just believes in the dream, and posts go up without editors).

And as I look back on only one week, and how well it went, and how exciting it is now that it’s here… I can’t help but think back to when it was just an idea.  When I was delaying it, afraid of it, running away from it.

I can’t help but think: what a relief.  The idea is out.  It is alive.

And then this: what if it had never happened, like so many other ideas?  Now I see an example in front of my eyes of an idea in action.  But what of the other ideas I ran away from?

Imagine if our ideas were people.  They would be the most abused, ignored, criticized people in the world.  Kicked around, laughed at, mocked by their own parents.

Now imagine if we treated our ideas like our children: with the belief that they matter.  That they have inherent worth, and simply need to be guided into beautiful creations.  That we need to commit our lives to them, our hearts.  That we will love them no matter what their failures.

What a world that would be.  A world of nurtured, loved, cherished ideas.  A world where ideas would flourish.  And as they flourished, so would we.






53 responses to “Your Ideas Matter”

  1. daniel.saunders Avatar

    How does one learn these principles? I can sometimes believe #2. I can’t believe the others at all, ever. I know that’s why my idea for a Jewish
    cultural journal never got outside my head and yours did. But I don’t know how to change. Any ideas?

    1. Adam Avatar

      This may sound trite, but it’s the same thing that I tell my students: the only way to do something is to do it. You may be clumsy at first, you will make a lot of mistakes, and you will see a lot of failures. But eventually, it will become easier, it will become more like second nature, and it will make a lot more sense. That’s the essence of faith: doing it, even when you’re not really sure how to do it.

      1. daniel.saunders Avatar

        I’ve been thinking about this over the last few days. This is probably too much to say in public, doubly so without a pseudonym, but here goes:
        the problem is that as a child, it was drilled into me by my peers that failure was not an option for me. It just led to bullying. But success wasn’t an option either: that led to far more bullying (and I tended to be frequently successful at school). So now I’m terrified of success as much as of failure.

        I made some significant achievements over the summer. But I felt embarrassment more than pride in them and spent ages telling myself (and anyone who would listen) that really I had failed. And now my clinical depression has come back, which may be a delayed reaction to my successes this year. This has been the pattern my whole adult life: whenever I achieve, I get depressed. It is hard to know how to move on from here, except through continuing painful psychotherapy for a long time.

        1. Adam Avatar

          I had the same experience. Peers, parents and teachers all. (I was a gifted child in the 1970s. It sucked.) I had to be perfect, but I also had to avoid screwing things up for everyone else.

          But this can be overcome. I am an example of it. Once you understand why you feel the way you do, you can begin to address it. It also helps to learn that incremental steps towards a goal are more important than the goal. Focus on the process and you’ll reach the goal much more easily than you thought possible. (Same thing I tell my students: focus on the work, never on the grade. The work will become better as a result, and the grade will show up automatically.)

          I won’t deny that clinical depression can be a significant barrier. I would suggest a support group in addition to therapy, because for me, finding a support board for children of personality-disordered parents made a huge difference for me. I still have bad days, but I can keep moving forward.

          I wish you luck.

          1. daniel.saunders Avatar

            I’ve had the Brenda Ueland book on my Amazon wishlist for ages without buying it. I don’t have enough regard for my own work to be motivated to improve it. I get into phases where I actively do not want to write because my writing seems worthless.

            I suppose the bottom line is that, just as in real life, most abusers were themselves abused, similarly people who ‘abuse’ their ideas are people who grew up having their ideas abused, until they get scared to share them with anyone. I can write long comments online because I forget other people are reading, but in real life I hardly talk to anyone at all.

          2. Elad Nehorai Avatar

            Daniel, please buy these books. They are not about improving art, but about learning how to tap into your creative self. They are especially suited for people like you and me who, for whatever reason, have this fearful block around our creativity. They have nothing to do with skill and all to do with soul.

            Promise me you’ll be them all and read at least one.

            Despite what you may think, there are ways to deal with these difficulties and people much smarter than you and I have made it their life’s work to find those ways. Not only that, this is much more common than you are aware of.

            Please please please promise you will buy and read.

          3. daniel.saunders Avatar

            I’m sorry, I really can’t promise. Right now I have so many commitments I made when I was feeling better a few months ago that I am now scared I won’t be able to meet and this is just fuelling the depression. Even buying books without reading them (which I do a lot!) makes me feel guilty. I’m sorry.

          4. Elad Nehorai Avatar

            I didn’t mean to pressure you 🙂 If you could buy them, that would be great. I do believe they will be a great help for you. If you don’t, I understand.

          5. daniel.saunders Avatar

            No, it’s my fault. I want to apologise for being so overwhelmingly negative in the comments here. Even in the four days between my first and previous comments my mood and confidence dropped significantly. I guess creativity is a sore point for me right now. I’ll keep the books on my Amazon wish list and decide what to do when I’m in a better frame of mind.

  2. Elisheva Har Shoshan Avatar
    Elisheva Har Shoshan


    Thank you so very much for this. I have just checked out the new site and am beyond excited. At the risk of speaking for others, I think so many of us needed something like that without even realizing it.

    As for the principles you’ve listed in this piece: they are worth heeding. That being said, #3 is the most challenging concept to take to heart!


    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Baruch Hashem, glad to hear you’re excited 🙂

      And yeah, that #3 can be a toughy.

  3. suzy Avatar

    I was on there. Then came here. And now linked backed to there. Awesome

  4. Rochel Spangenthal Avatar
    Rochel Spangenthal

    “Imagine if our ideas were people. They would be the most abused, ignored, criticized people in the world. Kicked around, laughed at, mocked by their own parents. Now imagine if we treated our ideas like our children: with the belief that they matter. That they have inherent worth, and simply need to be guided into beautiful creations. That we need to commit our lives to them, our hearts. That we will love them no matter what their failures.”

    So, so awesome.

  5. Jeffrey Dowling Avatar

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