What Do You Do When You Haven’t Got Any Ideas?


Thursday, 6.53pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. – Linus Pauling

I had an idea for a post as I was driving but now that I am at the keyboard it’s lost – and I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was good. Maybe it will return.

In the meantime let’s talk about something else, anything else.

I’ve been thinking a lot about slowing down, about taking time to do things over, learning a little more each time and making whatever you’re doing better. And then I think about speed and getting whatever it is done fast and moving on to the next thing.

The danger with slowing down is that you never get anything done so it helps to have an external deadline, one you can’t miss. If you have to write a talk by a certain date it needs to get done or you’ll be speechless when it matters.

But you can’t slow down for everything – so you have to be selective. Most things can be done fast but you have to take time and take care over what matters. To do that you need to know what matters.

Things that matter are all about art. I was reading somewhere that art is what appeals to your emotions. It’s music and painting and novels that tell your story, that tell all our stories.

Even when you have data, the story is what makes the data come alive.

I wonder if what drives successful people – ones that are successful at what they do and at who they are – is that they are working on their art when you strip it all away.

Perhaps engineers are sculptors – Elon Musk seems to see his projects as a mission – a calling. Warren Buffett has talked about his collection of businesses – like a collection of old masters at a gallery. Maybe that’s why they do what they do – because their work is really their art.

And creating good art takes time. It takes practice. It takes effort and reflection and frustration – and yet more work.

And you do it even if you don’t need to.


Karthik Suresh

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