‘What’s the Big Idea?’

March 5, 2008

Everytime we explain Kickstart to people, they end up asking the same question: ‘So what did you discover? What’s the big idea?’

The question makes sense. It springs from a justifiable belief that people don’t just publish books to recount ‘some stuff that happened;’ they do it because they have no doubt stumbled upon a great, undeniable, and easily marketable truth.

We would love to say that, as Kickstart progressed, we gradually saw a link between the participants, a pattern that all had followed. We would love to say that, after conducting all of our interviews, we managed to produce a roadmap that fits the lives of everyone from Peter Munk to Beverley McLachlin to James Orbinski. But that would be absurd. There are no roadmaps. Some people spent years working jobs they hated, married to people they couldn’t live with, unsure of what they’re meant to be doing, and others, like architect Raymond Moriyama, claim they knew what they wanted to do at the age of five. There is no roadmap, even within particular industries.

That’s why we shied away from creating one through sheer force of will. We tried in the beginning. We went over the transcripts again and again, searching for ‘the thing,’ but it didn’t exist.

The only things that really connects the people in our book are the courage to take risks, active engagement with the world around them, and inexplicable, inexhaustible fonts of energy.

Not everyone knew what they wanted to do with their lives right away, but those who searched, shopped around, and played with different ideas, were never merely wandering idly. They were “searching with intent,” to steal a phrase from James Orbinski. They were approaching the searching period of their twenties with the same vigour and intense engagement with which someone approaches their job while at the top of their game. They were awake to the possibilities of their world and ever-ready to react, engage with new opportunities, and take responsibility.

Finding out what it is you’re meant to be doing is no easy feat, but in every case, once our participants found it, they jumped. They thought big, they didn’t ask for permission, they took huge (and some would say ‘blind’) chances and they didn’t stop working until, well, in most cases, they still haven’t stopped.

These lessons were our lessons, however. They are what we took away from the experience of conducting these interviews. We never wanted to press those lessons on our readers. We want those who approach the book to find what they find. We didn’t want to present the ‘Seven Undeniable Pillars of Success’ or the ‘Eighteen Habits of Highly Successful Canadians.’ Instead, we wanted to focus on stories – we wanted to present them in as pure a way as possible – from the horse’s mouth as they say. We wanted it to seem like, as you’re reading Kickstart, you’re listening to our participants as they talk to you.

We hope we’ve succeeded.

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