The dominion of ideas 1

The world is full of several people who choose to live on Mediocre Street. They simply lay back and consume value provided by others. Whenever they lack the capacity to feed their consumption binge, they whine and complain about how terrible the socio-economic conditions are. These are the ones who, even several years after getting out of school, are constantly on the job queues, complaining about why more jobs are not being created. They are the hangers-on around politicians and public officers. They are the willing conduits for the public servant’s penchant for siphoning the collective patrimony through inflated contracts. When the easy money is no longer flowing, they create the impression that the world is coming to an end. Unfortunately, the population of people in this category is very high and so the din of the noise they are able to generate in a recession pitches at very high decibels.

Such people, even when they know why there is a recession, do not care and must find someone to constantly blame for their personal predicament. According to the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, Nigeria lost over twenty-three million barrels of oil to pipeline vandalism in the 21 days between August 15 and September 6. At the conservative rate of $45/barrel, that translates to about $50 million/day or N20 billion/day at the current exchange rate of about N400/$1. The implication of this is that the free money that used to oil consumption appetites has stopped flowing. But for the mediocre consumer mind, none of these facts matter.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the current economic crisis may be the best time in the development of this nation. Every nation that ever became great became so on the back of a recession. America that we all point to as the bastion of economic progress, rose to world prominence sequel to a crippling recession in the 1930s. So did China. So did Singapore which was derogatorily referred to in the 1960s as a big fishing village. Japan rose out of the devastation inflicted by the Second World War on the strength of ideas. So did Germany. Prosperity in any society has never been initiated by value consumers and naysayers. It has always been by those who generate ideas that sustainably create or add value to the collective. Consequently, for the next few weeks, I will be discussing the power of ideas as the bedrock of meaningful progress. Those who are ready to roll up their sleeves and put on their thinking caps will ride the current storm using its waves as the raw materials for their advancement. They will later be celebrated by those who are sold out to complaints.

Ideas are the raw materials for ever creative endeavour. And the creative spirit always uses chaos or disorder as its foundation to thrive. Every significant achievement first begins as an idea. Creation was God’s idea for bringing order to a formless world. Ideas are the response of the creative spirit to every crisis. Verily so, it has been said that Ideas rule the world! Every invention that has significantly shaped human history and development began in the seed of an idea.

According to Napoleon Hill, famous author of the classic, Think and Grow Rich, “All achievements, all earned riches have their beginning in an idea”.

Ideas are birthed in various ways. An understanding of these ways will help us to take advantage of the opportunities in such situations or moments when they come. An idea often begins as what we sometimes regard as a flash of inspiration, almost like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle whose significance only unfolds as we behold the bigger picture. God never brings achievement wholesale in one fell swoop. He begins with snippets of revelation, like unfolding scenes in a feature film. The story only unfolds as we stay glued to each scene. It is sometimes a long-drawn pictorial adventure that progresses with “a little here, a little there, precept upon precept…line upon line” to quote the Holy Bible. At other times, it could come in a long-drawn revelatory process like a dream or an open vision that leaves the recipient in no doubt that something unusual was in the offing. Ideas significantly engage the imagination because they actually paint a picture of a hitherto uncharted possibility, even though remote at the time they occur. Ideas may start small, but when vigorously pursued, they become bigger than we ever imagined. Pablo Picasso remains one of the greatest artists that ever lived. A virtuoso of the abstract genre of the visual arts, he was quoted as having said, in response to how he received inspiration for his works, “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else”

Another important way by which ideas come to us is serendipity. Several inventions that have shaped the development of humanity came by accident or what some would regard as a fortuitous stroke of coincidence. In other words, they were not in the original plan or line of pursuit. According to Albert Szent-Gyorgi, “A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind”.

Alexander Fleming, a Scottish bacteriologist credited with the discovery of penicillin did not set out to invent a life-saving drug. Returning to his laboratory from a two-week vacation in 1928, he discovered that one of the vases in the laboratory had grown a mysterious mold. More intriguing was the fact that the existing bacteria in the vase tactically moved away from where the mold grew. This was a sign that the mold had the capacity to ward off unwholesome micro-organisms. He then went ahead to isolate, classify and describe the mold. Thirteen years after this discovery, researchers Howard Florey, Norman Heatley and Andrew Moyer took it to the next level by the development of a better growing mold that made it possible to isolate the quantity required for medical testing. Penicillin has since then become a classic antibiotic that has saved many lives from several life-threatening bacterial infections.

Will Kellogg didn’t set out to make cornflakes. All he did was help his medical doctor brother with his patients’ diet. One day, while making dough for bread for the patients, he forgot the main ingredient, boiled wheat in the open for several hours. By the time he remembered and returned, the wheat had become flaky. Curiosity got the better of him and he baked the flaky dough, creating a snack that became an instant hit with the patients. He decided to push the frontiers by trying the same thing with corn. The success of that led to the establishment in 1906 of his company, “The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company” which later became the Kelloggs Company that has sold cornflakes all over the world! … continued

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!