Original ideas – no matter how great – often take a backseat to ideas that have worked in the past. But I was reading the Samson story the other day from Judges 15:14-17: “As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. Then Samson said,
“With a donkey’s jawbone
I have made donkeys of them.
With a donkey’s jawbone
I have killed a thousand men.”
When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi. (NIV)
I find two things fascinating about that story: First, when he was finished, he didn’t get a drink, report to the Israelite leaders, or take a nap – he wrote a poem. He recorded the incident, and he did it in an artistic, poetic way. The value of recording incidents, telling stories, and videotaping or filming events is critical in the life of the culture. But more important, he didn’t teach or preach a sermon about it. He expressed it through art.
Second, even when something works – don’t be afraid to toss it away, in an effort to continually update and move to the next level. He just killed a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone. I would have framed the jawbone, or put it in a nice leather holster – maybe even sold replicas. But no, Samson tossed it. Don’t get locked into techniques, styles, forms, or ways of doing things – even when they’re working. I find graphic designers and video producers still working in styles that were popular 20 years ago – because back then, they were successful.
But not today.
Once people become successful, far too many just keep following that model, and doing the same thing over and over again. That’s why Las Vegas casinos are filled with lounge acts performing their best selling songs decades after those songs were hits.
The lesson? Always be pushing your limits and moving forward. Keep looking for the next step in your evolution as a creative thinker. Stop worrying about failure and focus on unexplored territory.