The great author, Napoleon Hill, stated that, “All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea.” Ideas are the foundation of human progression. Everything we see around us has its foundations in ideas and ingenuity. The car you travel in began as an idea. The clothes you wear began as an idea. This book you’re reading began as an idea. It is through the generation of good ideas that we have been able to do improve just about every area of our lives.
We travel better and faster because of good ideas. We communicate with greater convenience and more options because people have applied their minds and they’ve come up with good ideas. Ideas are also the foundation to entrepreneurship – one of the key solutions to unemployment, especially amongst the youth.
What is an idea? An idea begins with a question. What if there’s a better way to do this? What if we created something that will give us results faster, easier, and so forth? What if we took this element and combined it with that element? How do we solve this? Ideas are answers to questions asked by curious minds. Curiosity then is an essential element in the generation of ideas. Curiosity is a wonderful thing but it should be directed correctly.
Curiosity has led to great ideas and innovations such as the Personal Computer but it has also dug many graves and destroyed many futures. There are many young men and women who got curious about things such as drugs and never returned from that destructive journey.
Ideas begin in the imagination but they must find life in reality. A good idea that is never implemented is like a diamond mine that is never explored. It stores within it riches but because it’s never explored, those riches remain hidden. There are many people with many good ideas but how many of those people are following through? Some have business ideas. Others have ideas for innovative products that could help millions of people. But how many are doing the necessary research on their ideas? How many are turning their ideas into reality?
Some time back, I attended an event and one of the speakers was a young man named Ludwick Marishane, the inventor of DryBath. DryBath is an innovative gel that does the work of a bath without the need for water. The germ-killing lotion has received praise from many sectors as not just a convenience product but a life-saving invention that could help millions of people throughout the world. I was inspired by Marishane’s story and was impressed by his creativity and willingness to act on an idea.
But how exactly did he come up with the idea? Marishane says the idea was inspired by a question that a friend of his asked while they were laying out in the sun. This friend of his was feeling too lazy to go take a bath and he asked, “Why doesn’t someone invent something that you can put on your skin and then you don’t have to bathe?” It clicked. The idea for DryBath was birthed right there and then. Marishane was living in a rural part of the Limpopo Province and still in high school at the time. Using his internet-connected phone, he went on to Google and Wikipedia and began doing the research.
In 2011, four years after Marishane had come up with the idea, he received an award from the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards program. The GSEAP is an international competition that recognises high school, undergraduate, and graduate students who own businesses. They awarded Marishane with the organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year award, along with $10,000 in cash to finance his start up.
DryBath has appeal for both rich and poor. In poor communities, the gel will protect people who often die from easily treatable diseases caused by bacteria that thrive in stagnant water. This water is transferred onto the skin, and get into either the gut (causing diarrhoea for example), or into an opening like the eye (causing trachoma, an eye infection that can cause blindness). In wealthier areas, the gel can be used in situations where someone is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to rinse.
There are a number of things we can learn from Marishane’s story. Firstly, as stated earlier, ideas begin with questions. But you have to be able to spot the right question that could lead to a great idea. In Marishane’s case, he was able to spot the right question and it was the needed spark for the creation of DryBath. One sure way to spot the right question is to ask yourself whether the idea solves a problem that people are facing. DryBath is certainly solving a human problem – a big one at that. Another lesson here is that the bigger the problem you solve, the bigger the impact you will have on the world.
Secondly, you shouldn’t let limited resources limit you. Marishane could have said to himself ‘I don’t have proper research resources’ and he could have given up right there. Instead, he looked at what he had (his cell-phone) and he used it to do research and to draft his original business plan. So many other young people are choosing to let what seems like limited resources to limit them. They come up with different excuses and then sit back and continue living life at the same old level they’ve been living it on.
Thirdly, you have to take action. Marishane didn’t sit on the idea. He took the necessary steps and those steps led to global success and recognition. What steps are you taking on the idea you have? Are you comfortable to simply sit on it or are you willing to research, to probe, to enlist the right people, to put your idea out there? Remember, when you sit on your ideas, you’re actually sitting on your money, your influence and the impact you could make on the world. Your ideas are the solutions to this world’s problems. They have the potential to change your life and the lives of millions of other people.
Ideas do not make very good chairs either. They are live things. When you use an idea as a chair that you simply sit on, it will prick you, it will gnaw at you, it will snarl and bite at you and it may even run to someone else who is willing to make better use of it.
This article is an excerpt from Confidence’s latest book, “Young and living on purpose”.