A couple years ago, I started a children’s leaders conference at my church called “Napkin Conference.” Though I have moved on to SoCal since launching that conference, the “napkin concept” which God birthed in me is still alive. I wanted to set this post up this way because many people remember as the “napkin guy” and want to make sure people understand this has nothing to do with the conference (though it’s going to be an even better conference this year), but with what God birthed in me.
Ideas are plentiful. Everyone has one. So, what separates an idea from a “napkin idea?” First, an idea is defined as ‘a thought, an impression, an opinion, and/or a plan of action.’ The very thought of this book stemmed from an idea I had about leaders coming together to share their ideas and learn from other people’s ideas. Sometimes I ask my wife in the late morning hours if she has any idea what we are going to have for dinner and then she will proceed to give me her ideas for dinner.
Napkin ideas are not just any ideas. Have you ever been sitting in a restaurant either by yourself or talking with someone when all of a sudden you get an “aha moment”? You’re listening to someone talk when all of a sudden you ask them to stop talking as you frantically look around for something to write on. You don’t go for your iphone because that will take too long to type. You don’t go for your notebook because you either left it at the office or it’s squeezed tightly into your briefcase. What do you grab for? You grab that napkin that’s been sitting next to you the entire time. Maybe it’s slightly used, but it’s good enough for what you’re about to do.
You start writing these amazing ideas that have just popped into your head. Maybe you’re jotting down some quick thoughts or perhaps you are drawing a graph or sketching out a product plan. Whatever it is it’s a napkin idea. It’s an idea that most of the time you don’t have to try to think about—it just comes about and often times when you least expect it. It’s something that’s new to you. Sure, maybe later you find out that it has already been done, but at the time you wrote your idea down you didn’t know that. So, in essence it’s your idea. If the idea has already been thought of maybe you are the one to make the original idea better—to improve it.
Napkin ideas drive you. They are your passion. Whether it’s an idea that your boss has asked you to come up with by a deadline or a dream session you had on your own, you want to accomplish it. When your idea stops being just an idea and is instead developed and put into action—that is a napkin idea.
As I already mentioned at the beginning—everyone has an idea. In fact, Earl Nightingale said,
“Everything begins with an idea.”
But, if was Albert Einstein who said,
“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”
Earl Nightingale stated a very true statement, however Albert Einstein understood the difference between a normal, everyday idea from a napkin idea. For napkin ideas are not normal. They test your innermost thoughts and reason. They aim to get you out of your comfort box and cause you to completely rely on God. Napkin ideas are faith ideas put into action. The Bible states in James 2:26 (NLT),
“Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”
You can have a great looking body, but if you can’t breathe, then your body is worthless. You can have great faith, but if you don’t do anything with your faith then your faith is for nothing. You can have great ideas that could possibly change your sphere of influence or even the world, however if you never develop the idea; if you never step out and make it happen then that’s all it will ever be—a good idea and nothing else.
We were created with an innate ability to dream or think of great ideas. Cemeteries house many of the greatest ideas in the world that you’ve never even heard about because many people have died without ever putting feet to their napkin ideas. I know napkin ideas force you to take risks, but that’s the point. Unless you take risks or what I like to say, “step out in faith” then you will never know if your idea will be just an idea or a napkin idea.