I’m known to be, at least to myself, capable of sprouting overly enthusiasm for almost random thoughts that in my own small personal world at times feel to be like the greatest ever. Remember the feeling when you got together your first sand castle or snowman and you called for mom «watch!» or when you suddenly realized that what you are seeing written on paper as li-mo-ne can be pronounced limone, after looking at an actual lemon and being asked, by mom, what that yellow fruit is? (*) That’s what I’m talking about, I think.
I vividly remember my bus trip from Las Vegas to San Diego late Summer 2005. I was reading a short biography of Van Gogh, just came from Virginia where I first saw digital photography prints on canvas when, suddenly, my mind started to combine the two. Imagine a canvas with Van Gogh’s rendering of a sunset over the Grand Canyon that blends with a real digital picture. For half the trip to San Diego and the next few days I was head over heels about the idea until I shared it with one of my best friends who’s answer was “Markus, blending paintings with photography is as old as photography.” Calling me back to earth came with a price tag but was necessary else I might have thrown overboard my, then, yet to complete computer science studies for painting academy. (Yes, it wouldn’t have been my worst idea ever.)
Such events actually happen to me on a regular basis, perhaps echoing the still ongoing enthusiasm for limone. However, whenever I share thoughts with people I consider light years ahead of me – which happen to be most of the folks I know – in both computer science, economics and, more recently, environmental science – not to mention the rest of human knowledge and life experiences – I need to overcome the fear of spreading nonsense and, consequently, appearing like an idiot. All this wouldn’t be much of an issue if “keeping quite because I might be wrong” wouldn’t happen to be also one of the most significant deterrents to personal growth and development.
An interesting note is that this fear is currently greatest in the exchange with folks in exactly that corner of the world west of the Atlantic where I learned to love and value sharing ideas no matter of the risk of spreading nonsense, where I started to maintain a blog with a sequence of posts in which I may be utterly wrong and uninteresting. As I recently said to someone across the Atlantic, I think not to share thoughts may well avoid the pain of exposing others to 80% of nonsense but it will equally not expose others to the 20% that may actually be interesting.
It is not critique that I’m afraid of but the silence that may follow sharing a thought, a silence that occasionally precedes wondering whether own thoughts may not be worth commenting. Yes, I’m talking about a lack of self-confidence here and if you never experience it, congratulations. For the rest of us, assuming I’m not alone, I think it is a repeated courageous act to share what in the small personal world may evoke the enthusiasm of having discovered “the next big thing” and in the greater world out there is likely, and possibly correctly, interpreted as the smallest of the steps – if at all it is one.
(*) This actually is a true event in my life and I think it marks one of my earliest memories and likely the first time my mother went almost insane because of me. Limone is the Italian translation for lemon.