I had a long discussion with a friend of mine the other day. We were talking about various inventions or otherwise genial ideas that have emerged from humble circumstances. A lot of big names were thrown around: Google, Apple, IKEA, LM Ericson, Nobel.

My friend noted how truly astonishing many of the inventions we today take for granted are. He also remarked that it “sure would be nice to invent something like that.” Well? What is really stopping you from achieving something of note, to be successful on nothing but your own imagination?


That is right. You heard me. You are the stumbling block for your own success. It is so easy to sit there and be envious of the successful, and fail to realize that you can be just as successful if you are not afraid to fail.

Imagine if Thomas Edison had given up after his first few tries in his development of the first commercially practical incandescent lightbulb. In fact, his success was partly founded upon various aborted failed attempts by others.

I shall pause here for a moment and make a shameless plug for my homeland, Sweden. Sweden is an old, but small, kingdom in northern Europe. It is unique in that it has never been under occupation or foreign rule, unlike so many other countries around the world. Until about 1000 AD it was inhabited by vikings, a people generally viewed as savage, although they can more accurately be described as farmers, traders, and craftsmen. Since 1814, Sweden has been at peace, avoiding involvement in various conflicts, including the two World Wars. Due to its relatively long and unique history, coupled with unbroken sovereignty, creative and imaginative individuals have been able to convert their ideas into reality.

Today, Sweden remains a strong neutral power in Europe, despite its humble population of just over 9 million. It is therefore interesting to find that the list of notable Swedish inventions is quite impressive. Or, how about the Celsius scale for measuring temperature? Then there is the safety match, a revolver (developed independently of Samuel Colt and, ironically enough, by a priest), dynamite, mobile telephony, the adjustable wrench, the blowtorch, ship propellers (the same guy who built the Monitor), dialysis machines, the three-point safety belt, the spherical bearing, Tetra Paks, the digitizer, the AIS, the pacemaker, the Mecanum wheel, and the gamma knife. I could go on, but will spare you, dear reader, from my Swedish rant.

The point of this list is that seemingly average people with a simple idea are now listed among the great inventors of the world.

Have you ever had a moment of surprising brilliance, where a genial idea popped into your head? Or, have you been so utterly annoyed by something that you came up with a way to improve the situation? More importantly — did you do something about it? If yes, well done! You have my admiration and respect, whether the idea ultimately turned out to be successful or not. If, on the other hand, the idea never went past that initial spark, SHAME ON YOU! Way to give up before you have even put your idea into action. Way to be too comfortable in your current situation and too afraid to fail an innovative experience!

Imagination is a wonderful thing … but only when developed. What if Leonardo da Vinci never would have put the brush to the canvas? What if Antonio Vivaldi had never penned the musical movements he is now so celebrated for? Neither of them would be a name in history. They would have been nothing more than an average everyday Joe of their time.

It is not imagination and great ideas that make success. It is doing something that makes the difference! Anything! Do not just sit there and burn calories. Get off your butt and develop your ideas. Write them down. Take action.

I am not saying that everyone can be a truly great inventor. In fact, some of us may have incredibly imaginative professions but never actually amount to anything remotely approaching revolutionary creativity. But that does not prevent you from being successful, regardless of your circumstance. Whether your great ideas ever garner worldwide recognition or not, whether your creativity ever amounts to anything worthy of a newspaper notice or not … the difference between taking action and just letting the spark of imagination die can be life changing.

Success is not something that happens to you. It is something you work to bring yourself.

Share a success story of your own. If you belong to the other camp — who are you the most envious of?

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”
Herm Albright (1876–1944)