DON’T THROW IT BACK E-mail Sept 1998

A while back I was sitting on a river bank watching a gentleman do some fishing. It was a rather interesting experience. He caught a fish and then pulled out a ruler. He appeared to be measuring it—the fish looked to me to be somewhat under a foot long—then he put it in his bucket.  He caught another fish that was about 4 inches long. He also put it in his bucket. The next fish he caught was surely well over 13 inches long, and he threw it back in the lake!  Then he caught a real beauty—probably a record—it was a foot and a half long. Beautiful fish!  He measured it and then threw it back in the lake. I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I had to walk over; my curiosity had gotten the better of me.  I said, “Mister, what are you doing? You catch a 4‑inch fish and you throw it in your bucket.  You catch a one and a half‑ foot fish, and you throw it back in the lake. What are you doing? Why?” He said, “I only have a 10‑inch frying pan so I throw anything bigger than that back in the lake.”

Okay, so it didn’t happen, but it could have. The point is, sometimes our brain treats ideas that come into our minds in that exact same way. When big ideas come into our heads, we immediately say, “I only have a 10‑inch brain, I’m going to throw them back.” On the other hand, we keep the little ideas.

It is most assuredly easier this way. The minute we have a great idea, one that will cause us to stretch our capabilities to the limit, along will come someone to tell us that we are not being realistic or that the idea is beyond us. For many people, this outpouring of cold water on their ideas is enough to cause them to quit; and the idea, like a ship that flounders, sinks into the sea of “might have been.”

When a big idea swims by your mind, make sure that the hook is sharp and the net is ready. It may be your chance for fame and fortune or, at the least, a comfortable living. Not unlike a large fish, most big ideas can be cut up into small pieces and, with logical thought and a little preplanning, handled with reasonable ease.

Start the process by keeping your mind open to the possibilities all around you. Do not reject an idea until you have looked at the many ways you might bring it to life. Something that sounds like a silly solution today may indeed be the answer tomorrow. Just as something you looked at yesterday and discarded may be just what you need to solve your problem today.

The polio vaccine, automobiles, dishwashers, and other wonders of our modern age began as big ideas in the minds of their inventors. These people knew that the mind and its capacity are never limited, except by what it is willing to believe, and they believed in never throwing an idea back. Good fishing!