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What’s the Big Idea?

books.jpgThe nonfiction publishing world is ruled by the Big Idea: the concise, single-sentence statement of a book’s theme—and why it’s important. Once in book form, the Big Idea must grab bookstore browsers, convert them to buyers, then satisfy them as readers.

But all this starts farther up the food chain. Authors hoping to sell manuscripts to publishers must have crystalline statements of their Big Ideas (and increasingly, either celebrity status or a “platform” through which they can reach a substantial audience).

I’m pitching a book to a new publisher, so lately I’ve been struggling to articulate my Big Idea. That’s forcing me to dig down to the work’s true underpinnings. But along the way it raised a peripheral, far more fundamental issue: What’s the Big Idea of my life?

That question stopped me cold.

Somehow I’ve never articulated the Big Idea of my own life. To tell the truth, it took me longer than most to figure out that one creates rather than finds meaning in one’s life. We can hardly expect to wake up one day and intellectually fix upon a purpose for living. Purpose evolves over time and by doing, not merely thinking.

Yet it seems to me we could all use a Big Idea for our lives. It needn’t be world-changing. But neither should it be small.light_bulb_green_background.jpg

The best thing that’s happened for me since starting Soul Shelter is that community members have been inspiring me with the Big Ideas of their own lives.

In Michigan, for instance, Spiritual River blogger Patrick has dedicated himself to helping addicts recover. At age 32, he’s created more meaning in his life than most 50-plus Deferred Life Plan multimillionaires.

Chris, a world citizen in action, has dedicated himself to advocating nonconformity. J.D., who recently quit his job to write full time, is resolved to inspiring others to eliminate debt and achieve prosperity. And Mark, my blogging partner, is committed to pursuing truth and beauty through literature. His latest post, The Heroic Journey is, at heart, about pursuing your own Big Idea.

Patrick, Chris, J. D., and Mark share a common value: making a lot of money is not part of their Big Idea. “Making a lot of money” is a boring, uninspired notion. In fact, it’s a Little Idea (you can take it from me; I’m no armchair philosopher on this particular topic). Money helps, but it falls short in inspiring behavior that transcends short-term self-interest. Remember the difference between pull and drive? Our Big Ideas should pull us.

So what’s my Big Idea? I’ve been moving toward it for years, and it’s high time I declared it:

Through teaching and writing, to help others start their own ventures—particularly ones that span national borders.

There, I feel better already. Wish me luck with my Big Idea. In coming months I’ll share steps I’m taking to live it.

You may also enjoy:

Opting Out of the Deferred Life Plan

Time for Everything

You’ve Got to Jump

The Heroic Journey

3 Comments to What’s the Big Idea?

On Apr 28, 2010, Kevin commented:

that last quote you have has stirred up all the right ideas in my head about my life. i’ve always wanted to help the world, not just the greedy selfabsorbed people in the US. If i could reach out to the world and have just a small percentage get what life can truly be, i would be able to die a happy and fulfilled man. well i just wanted to get that out of my head, no one around to talk their ear off. thanks for listening.

On Jul 26, 2010, David Vallieres commented:

Tim that was a great post. I found you while doing a search on google for the keyword ‘determination’. I have always used “the Big Idea” in my business. In fact I’ve written about it many times. I create digital information products such as books, videos, reports and more that other entrepreneurs can resell.

Finding the Big Idea is another matter. As you say, you’ve “been struggling to articulate” your Big Idea. It’s not as easy as it sounds as you’ve noted. It requires that you take the complex and simplify it to it’s essence so that it can be spoken in a single phrase. Ideally the Big Idea will also include a huge benefit to the reader.

I also agree that the purpose of life is a ‘pull’ not a ‘drive’- that your true purpose is like magnet – pulling you towards it. Most people rebel against it, fight it, but your true purpose can only be revealed by giving up of one’s ego and following it.

On Aug 2, 2010, by Tim commented:

Thanks, David. I’m working on it, and pulling closer :-)

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