In the 1940s Jacque Fresco, industrial designer and futurist, was asked to make a film projector that could show a 3D image without the need for glasses. He discovered a solution that involved projecting the image from behind the screen, but there was one little catch: in order to see the image a person had to sit in a very specific spot, a focal point. Move slightly beyond the focal point and the image would disappear entirely.
Getting to this stage in development, Fresco decided he needed a little backing, financially speaking, to move forward. He met with Technicolor and they were awed by what they saw. They wanted to know everything about how the system worked, but Fresco wasn’t giving up any of his secrets. After talking for a while they noticed something was a little off. “Did you know that if you move to the side a little the image disappears?”
Finally, the point. “Yes, I know,” Fresco said. With their backing, he explained, he would continue the project and find a solution to the problem. Technicolor considered the situation saying that once he had solved the focal point problem they would be happy to back him. He explained again—you back me and I make it work; they explained again—you make it work and we back you.
Fresco was frustrated by the impasse, but being a logical human being he began to break down the reality of the situation. As he thought he said to himself, “Alexander Graham Bell didn’t receive funding until after he had created the telephone, Thomas Edison didn’t get any support until after he had created the lightbulb.” Jacque Fresco realized when you’ve got something new you have to take it all the way, you have to develop it, before people can see what you are getting at.
You may have a grand vision for a new product, a new technology, a new app, a new cartoon or a new experience that you know will be a runaway sensation. Your concepts would blow people away if only you could get a little backing, if only you could get a little support, if only if only…
In this situation there’s just one “if” and just one “only”—the project will get done only if you go ahead and get it done. You’ve got to build it, you’ve got to develop it, you’ve got to chase it all night and not stop short in hopes that someone else will take you the rest the way. You have to accept that other people cannot see into your brain and cannot automatically see the intrinsic value of what you have in mind. You have to get them there and if you can’t then you just have to keep going.
There is also the temptation to hold back to protect intellectual property. “If I just give them what I’ve got, they will steal my idea and cut me out of the loop.” The truth is no one pays people to have an idea, they pay people to have ideas on top of ideas and, most importantly, to see them through to completion. The breadth of your ability is far more valuable than any single idea, and to hide all of yourself for the protection of just one thought is like burning down the bakery to protect one loaf of bread.
Fresco’s 3D projector died, but the lesson he learned did not. This was one small event in the life of a fascinating human being. Learn more about Jacque Fresco in the very poorly produced documentary, Future by Design, streaming now on Netflix.