You Have Permission to Use Ideas

A good friend told me when he was younger he would dive deep into all kinds of topics, from philosophy to physics.  His dad was an intelligent guy who took some interest in these subjects, but also a practical man focused on results.  He was a businessman and a pastor, and looked for direct application of ideas.

My friend had a book on quantum mechanics sitting in the house, and his dad asked him what it was all about.  A minute or two in to giving a breakdown, his dad said, “That sounds really interesting”, then moved on to whatever he was doing next.  My friend assumed his dad was just humoring him.  The next Sunday during the sermon his dad worked in some profound points relating concepts of quantum mechanics to the topic at hand.  My friend was amused, impressed, and also a little frustrated.

How could his dad hear two minutes on the concept and then start using it to illustrate a point?  My friend had read dozens of books on it and still did not feel the permission to write or speak on it with laypeople, or attempt to draw life lessons.

Here’s the thing.  You don’t need anyone’s permission to use ideas.  You can dive into new concepts and start playing with them and putting them to use the way a kid might if he discovered a new type of Lego block.  It’s true, you may misunderstand or misuse them, but isn’t that what you did when you first jumped on a bike or first picked up a baseball bat?

Ideas people are so passionate about truth and understanding that they sometimes become slaves to expertise and fear any efforts to describe or utilize ideas.  What if they’re wrong?  It’s prudent to desire a firm grasp of something before you start spouting off, but there is a real danger in believing you can’t act until your understanding is complete.  It’s a paradoxical kind of arrogance to keep your nose in books until you’ve mastered every angle of an idea, because it assumes that you can master every angle of an idea.  You can’t.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but it does mean you can give yourself permission to play with ideas, discuss them, test them, implement them even while you’re exploring them.

Yes, if you read the book instead of watching the movie version, or worse yet the preview alone, you will understand the story better.  Still, a great many stories can be understood enough to be useful based on just the trailer.  As long as you believe only experts can engage certain ideas you will operate with an extremely limited paradigm.

Go ahead, tackle a new topic and see how you can use it right away.  Sometimes the novice understanding opens up new avenues the experts are blind to.