What Harry Potter Taught Me About Ideas

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry, Ron, and Hermione must battle through a series of obstacles at the climax of the book. One of those tasks brings them to a room full of winged keys.

Hermione: ‘These birds... they can’t be here just for decoration.’
Harry: ‘They’re not birds! They’re keys! Winged keys.’
— Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The keys are just out of reach. Conventional methods won't work—there's no way to pick the lock. They have to find the right key that works. 

So they start by doing what anyone would do: Jumping up and down, trying to catch any key that comes close enough to try it in the door. It's only after some quick thinking that Harry sees a broomstick nearby and realizes that he needs to go to the keys and find a specific one, rather than try each one.

That's exactly what it's like when you're trying to find your next idea. Ideas are delicate, fluttering keys just out of reach—keys that can open doors to wealth, power, fame, enlightenment. We spend most of our lives never making it to jumping up and down. Instead, we continue to pound at the same door, trying the same old techniques that worked before. We spend our days in corporate gigs or 9-to-5s we're not totally passionate about because we need stability. The door can wait, we say. 

Instead, we must mount the broomstick and seek out the right idea—perhaps discarding many others that seem right but aren't—to know what we're capable of. To be able to make a change in the world, to be able to spend our days doing something that lights us up instead of drags us down, requires that little bit of courage (and quite a bit of luck) to fly.

Chances are, you already know in your heart what you wish you were doing. Maybe that's an online business. Maybe it's traveling the world. Maybe it's being at home with your kids. The question is, do you have the courage to make that happen?