“The way to have good ideas is to
have lots of ideas,
and throw away the bad ones.”
Linus Pauling, one of the only two people in history to
win two Nobel Prizes (the other was Marie Curie), was
both a scientific genius and a noted activist against
nuclear weapons. His mind was amazing, but as he
pointed out in this famous quotation, not all of his
ideas (or anyone’s) were good. If you want to have
good ideas, you need to make it a habit and a priority
to generate new ideas.
I remember a story I read, told by a famous author. He
said that a neighbor once commented on the author’s
extraordinarily “lucky” year in which he had both a book
published and a screenplay accepted by a major studio.
The author replied that the neighbor didn’t know that
he’d actually started dozens more projects during that
period, which either remained unfinished or were
rejected. He estimated that maybe five percent of his
ideas actually came to fruition.
We live in a very judgmental society (and school system)
which is very quick to tell people whether or not their
ideas are “good.” And ignoring young people’s ideas is
almost more devastating to the creative spirit than out-
As teachers, we have a deep and important responsi-
bility to encourage children’s creative thinking. We don’t
do this by judging their ideas or their projects, but by
affirming their efforts, their curiosity, and their interest in
everything. And positive judgments are every bit as
destructive as negative ones, since we are sending the
message that it is our approval that is important, not
the creative process itself.
Children need the freedom to have, and express, lots
of ideas without fear of evaluation – to follow their
interests and ideas in their own ways. The more ideas
they’re allowed to have, the more they will have – and
more of those ideas will be good ones.