October 8, 2018
Last night, I walked up a hill in our neighborhood and sat down with my daughter and watched the SpaceX rocket launch that was a mere 25 miles down the road. It was so close that our 6-year-old was afraid the rocket was going to land on us.
As she sat in my lap, I was transported back in time to when I was her age living in a little town with one traffic light. I would have given anything back then to see what she sort of took for granted.
I’m frankly awed by the power of the imagination. To think that literally everything we experience today – from video chats on our phones to the ice cubes in my glass of water – were all born out of the imagination of human beings.
And, after working with 1000s of people over the past 20 years, I’m keenly aware of the power of imagination to steal the dreams, hopes, and potential of so many human beings.
We all have imaginations. In fact, all of us use our imaginations every day. Everything we imagine is a creative force. But I think most people sit around with a lot of idle thinking, unfiltered thoughts, and unchecked daydreaming.
I see wasted potential every day. I talk to people every day who are terrified of stepping into what they’re made for. It’s amazing to me that the fear they are experiencing that feels so real is actually the product of their own imagination.
Most of the things they fear haven’t happened and may not ever happen. But the imagination is so powerful, those fears will keep them stuck where they are.
For me, I think the answer lies in learning to harness the power of the imagination like so many men and women, inventors, leaders, etc. have done that has changed the world.
What did the people who changed the world do through their imagination that most people don’t?
Here are a few insights that I’ve taken from some truly remarkable imaginative people who’ve changed history.
Many of the things we experience today aren’t inventions, but they were things that were unimaginable by humanity even decades ago.
Martin Luther King, Jr. imagined a world where an individual would achieve based on their merits rather than the color of their skin. Most probably couldn’t have imagined they would see an African-American President of the United States. Why? Well, one reason is that no one had ever seen it before.
But more than 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. imagined it.
In his “I have a Dream” speech he said:
“I have a dream that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
This wasn’t the national conversation. It wasn’t even the conversation of the religious establishment that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a part of.
The only place this existed was in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s imagination.
Where would we be today if he hadn’t imagined it? Where would we be if he hadn’t seen something that no one else had ever seen before?
Most people call this visualization.
And if you’re one of those people who think visualization is just some new agey thing or a corny technique that doesn’t have any science behind it, let me say this: you actually use the technique every day of your life, but you do it in an undisciplined way.
For instance, you can re-imagine your past. We do it through fear of being disappointed again or we do it by looking back as though there was a better time than right now.
Have ever worried about the future? Have you worried about paying a bill that was due?
Well, that means you’re already using visualization.
And your imagination is powerful. It can get your heart rate up. It can create such prolonged stress, you’ll have holes in your stomach lining.
Have you ever spent time regretting the past? Well, that’s undisciplined, negative visualization. You probably felt the pain again – sadness, disappointment, brokenheartedness.
To me, that’s a terrible waste of the imagination.
But what if we got disciplined and stopped all the idle thinking and began to allow our imaginations to create the future that we want to see?
To use your imagination, you have to get out of logic. I’m not telling you to problem solve. When you go into critical thinking, you’re using your left brain, and you’ll keep finding obstacles.
In your imagination, you don’t have limits. That means you can be bold. You can walk up to strangers and introduce yourself. You can walk on stage and give a speech and not feel a bit of nerves.
Visualization doesn’t just mean seeing pictures; you can actually engage the other 4 senses. You could sit on a beach, feel the warmth of the sun, taste a fruity drink, feel the sand of the beach, the wind in your hair, smell the ocean, etc.
And here’s the best part: your brain cannot tell the difference between past, present, future, or imagined or real.
I think most people are fearful because they’ve imagined defeat so many times in their life, that, even though it hasn’t happened in reality, it actually has in their subconscious.
This is a very powerful tool to start removing barriers and limitations.
It all starts with taking control of what you’re imagining.
SpaceX is a private space exploration company founded by Elon Musk. Most of us probably assume that he was some sort of math or science prodigy who rose through the ranks before starting his company. After all, what kinds of people get to go to space?
Well, Musk has undergraduate degrees in business and physics and began his professional career working with internet companies.
He said himself:
“The odds of me coming into the rocket business, not knowing anything about rockets, not having ever built anything, I mean, I would have to be insane if I thought the odds were in my favor.
I had so many people try to talk me out of starting a rocket company, it was crazy.”
This is the kind of thinking and these are the kinds of people that I try to surround myself with.
I totally appreciate people who are responsible, practical, and who look out for us. Looking back, there is definitely some wisdom I should have heeded.
But to truly become whom I’m meant to become, I realize that person doesn’t exist yet. That individual is still in the future. And if I live in the box, if I stop being stretched, if I fail to confront my own biases, my conventional thinking, then I’m going to level out.
I could very well turn into people in days past that said, “If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us wings.”
We look back and we can’t believe someone could think like that. But I guarantee you, they were more the norm than the uncommon.
Harness the power of your imagination. It’s an extraordinary gift that will allow you to create worlds for generations to come.