The age of idealism

“It will never work in the real world”.

Growing up, I heard this statement everywhere. Several of my friends had branded me as an “idealist”, by which they implied that my ideas were disconnected with reality. By and by, I started believing them. I went from being on the receiving end of that statement to saying it to other people whose ideas I had decided were too good to be real.

But the only way to find out if something would work is to get it out into the world and see what happens. There is no other way of definitively striking down any idea, no matter how crazy or idealistic it seems. And most people making that statement above haven’t tested your idea in the real world. They might have tested a similar idea, but that often doesn’t count.

We are fortunate to live in times where testing crazy ideas has been never easier. The internet is the idealist’s dream – a playground where she can test a wide variety of ideas. A couple of people struggling to make rent wanted to test if they could convince people to host strangers on their living room couches or their extra bedroom. Today, there is AirBnB. A radio host wished to test if his commentaries on the politics of Genghis Khan’s empire would gather a steady following. Enter, the Hardcore History podcast. One nerd (or two) held the wacky belief that perfect strangers would compile and curate the best encyclopedia there has ever been. The internet humoured them and Wikipedia was born.

We live in the era of idealism. Behind every successful business model is an idealist who dreamed of doing things a different way. Today, it is possible to test those ideas out with a few lines of code. So don’t believe anybody who tells you that something won’t work in the real world. Let the real world have its say.

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