This whole thing is so obvious.
I was shaking my head in self-loathing at what I’d just written.
It was an article about why facts don’t change people’s minds. The insights in it were obvious to me. As a former rocket scientist, I had spent much of my life trying to convince people with irrefutable data that I was right and they were wrong. I eventually discovered a significant problem with this approach: It doesn’t work. If someone has made up their mind, they won’t change it, even if you drown them in facts and statistics.
People will take one look at this article and scroll down immediately to the unsubscribe button, I thought. I was tempted to leave the whole thing on the cutting room floor. But my newsletter was due out the next morning, and I had nothing else in the works.
I asked my inner critic for a pass and reluctantly hit publish.
This was in 2017. At that point, I had been blogging for less than a year. There were only about a thousand subscribers on my email list, and the word “viral” didn’t appear anywhere in my vocabulary.
After I published the article, a series of strange events revealed themselves in rapid succession.
People started sharing it on social media. These weren’t just friends or regular readers. They were complete strangers who had somehow come across the article and liked it enough to share it.
Then, an editor from the website Heleo—the predecessor to the Next Big Idea Club—asked if they could share the article on their website.
“Really interesting and well-written,” the editor said.
“I see,” I said, not seeing at all.
A few days later, I got a message from my web developer. “Something strange is happening,” she said. “Take a look at your website stats.”
You know the scene in The Matrix where Keanu Reeves goes “woah”? That was my reaction as I looked, jaw dropped and head cocked, at the hockey-stick-shaped graph depicting the exponential rise in traffic to my website—most of it coming from the article published on Heleo.
The article had gone viral. It quickly became the most popular article ever published on Heleo. Several authors I deeply admired but didn’t personally know—including Adam Grant, Susan Cain, and Dan Pink—shared my article with their audiences, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to my website.
The last I checked, the article had over 423,000 views and 164,000 social shares.
The success of that article prompted an introduction to the world’s best literary agent, who agreed to represent me for my next book. Six months later, I had a pinch-me-now publishing deal to write Think Like a Rocket Scientist.
There are several morals to this story, but I’ll focus on one.
You are a terrible judge of your own ideas. You’re too close to them to evaluate them objectively.
This happens to me all the time. I publish an article that I think is brilliant, and it gets crickets. I publish an article that I think is obvious, and it goes viral.
The Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman had it right: “Nobody knows anything.” In the movie industry, as in life, no one knows what will be a hit and what will be a flop.
That is, until you try. I can spend days mulling over the pros and cons of an idea—which my overthinking mind is prone to doing—or I can just give it a shot.
So if you have an idea, don’t hoard it.
Just remember how close I came to not sharing the article that changed my life.
Raise your hand and speak up—even if you think the idea is “obvious.”
What’s obvious to you could be groundbreaking for someone else.
P.S. The same idea applies to business. What’s obvious in one industry can be revolutionary in the other. This is why I created the Moonshot Mastermind, an elite program for 6 high-caliber leaders from multiple industries who support each other across the finish line of their most intimidating goals.
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