Catching Lightning in a Bottle: 7 Ways to Find and Do Something That Hasn't Been Done

Unless you have a new product that is disruptive, an amazing innovation, you’re going to have to work hard to have a successful business. If, on the other hand, you catch lightening in a bottle, something no one else has, that changes everything. It differentiates you, makes the product you are selling, the service you are offering, unique.  

More than not, businesses do not have this luxury. It’s therefore not as easy for them to be successful. They have to find ways to compete in the market place, usually on cost or customer service, something everyone else is doing. Why not make it easier on yourself - catch lightening when it strikes. Here’s how to find and catch new ideas. 

1. Throw the Map Away  

Not all who wander are lost - J.R.R. Tolkien 

Unplug. Technology can lead to the wrong conclusion. You have to get physical with reality. In Desert Towers: A Hundred Years of Adventures on the Sandstone Towers of the Colorado Plateau, author Steve Crusher Bartlett begins with “Get Lost.” He suggests that when you’re on a highway driving to where everyone else is going, to take a random turn and get lost somewhere in a nameless place. He says to park, get out of the car, and start hiking with open eyes and an open heart. Who knows what you might find. Maybe somewhere out there is the largest remaining unclimbed mountain. There’s only one way to find out. 

The first time I really got lost - that’s when noticed mountains that had never been climbed. Whereas I had been focused and rushing past them to climb the mountains that were in guidebooks, when I was lost, that’s when I stopped to ask myself what the other mountains were. It was the start of a pattern. The more mountains I climbed, the more I noticed mountains that had not been climbed before. 

2. Change the Rules 

Successful managers have people look at problems from a different angle than what’s normal, and ask them to reach. It’s required to do stuff that has never been done, and sets an example for others in the company to get out of their comfort zones. Some managers, however, think they have to follow a playbook, an imaginary book of company rules. They don’t realize that they were put in their positions because those higher up want them to make decisions and excel, not just follow the manual.  

Fred and Barney 

Have you ever been in a meeting where you were frustrated? Fred, the manager at a large corporation, sat frustrated, as Barney, the manager of another division, presented his ideas. All Barney could say was, “We can’t do that because of this... this is the way we do things... so we can’t do that... this is the way that works...” 

Fred rolled his eyes and wished for Barney to stop, wondering if Barney realized how he was pigeonholing himself and his division. It was painful to listen to. Fred wanted to raise his hand and tell Barney, “As manager of a department in this company, you have the ability to change any policy, anything you want. In fact, shouldn’t you be expected to? These rules only exist because someone at some point had a reason for them. You have the ability, the power, to change the rules now.” 

3. Break from Tradition. Don’t Follow the Crowd. 

I don’t know where I’m going but I promise it won’t be boring - David Bowie 

If you're hoping to read a guidebook on how to bottle lighting, one that includes step-by-step instructions, you won’t be a trailblazer. If it’s in the book it’s been done. To be an innovator, let go of the status quo.  

The Beatles were not the first to write and record their own songs. Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys, and hundreds of others, wrote their own. Like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles first two albums were recordings of cover songs, other people’s song. That’s what was normal and expected. But when the Beatles decided they were only going to record their original songs, that’s when they set precedence and made it the de facto-standard that is expected today from top music artists.  

Don’t assume that because something has not been done that there is a reason. The crazier an idea is, the greater the potential it can work.  

4. Look in Your Own Backyard 

Some people ask me if I have climbed Mt. Everest. The answer is no. It’s not because I don’t have the money and time off from work. (I have neither, but if desired, I could find a  way). It is, rather, because it’s been done. I prefer to spend my time and money trying to climb something that has never been done. While everyone else was climbing Mt. Everest I was quietly climbing the remaining unclimbed mountains in the United States. 

Each one of use has a unique set of skills and experiences, which has caused us to become and think like no other. Respect who you are. Stay in your lane. Be authentic and focus on what you do best. Let creative ideas come to you. 

Sara Blakely is the inventor and founder of Spanx, a company that manufactures pantyhose and underwear for women, and since 2010, men. Men could not have invented the product. In fact, she was turned away by every company in the industry, companies run by men who were not using the products and did not see the value of her idea. She designed a prototype and paid for initial expenses using her credit card. Forbes magazine has called her the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. 

5. Don’t Let Other’s Failures Be Your Own   

Twenty year from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did - Mark Twain 

Did you know that light bulbs had been invented before Thomas Edison was born? They burnt out in few hours, making them unsuitable for use in homes. Edison realized the problem was the filament. He tried thousands of alternative materials for filaments before he found one that lasted. He then formed a partnership with his competitor who was better at manufacturing than he, and Edison-Swan United became the world’s largest manufacturer of light bulbs. 

Never think, if they couldn’t do it, I can’t. The more others fail, the greater the chance you will succeed. Learn from what others did and don’t repeat their mistakes. The bigger the failure by others, the more you should be inspired to try, in a different way.   

6. You Don’t Need to be an Expert 

A journey is like a person - no two are alike - John Steinbeck 

A lot of people who didn’t know anything, but had an idea and took action anyways, are now considered experts. When Albert Einstein came up with new concepts for how gravity, time, and space behave, he didn’t possess the math skills to develop them into equations. He turned to childhood friend and mathematician, Marcel Grossmann. Marcel is credited with fusing Einstein’s theories with mathematics to create what are considered the most elegant and powerful equations in modern Physics: the general theory of relativity.  

You’ll never be ready and perfect. If you need more expertise, find a partner with the skills, someone you trust. Sometimes the less you know the better. Knowing less keeps your mind open to unbiased, creative thinking.  

7. Take Your Opportunities 

Do not wait for an opportunity to be all that you want it to be. When an opportunity to be more than you are now is presented and you feel impelled toward it, take it - Wallace D. Wattles 

Those that are successful are not lucky. When they see an opportunity, they act. Take your opportunities when they present themselves. If you cease to act on them God will stop presenting them. 

Some self-help books teach that all you need to do is think positive thoughts and you will receive what you want. They say if you keep holding positive thoughts about what you do want, your job is done, and you don't need to do anything else. That’s wishful thinking. If I only thought about climbing a mountain, and never stepped foot on it, I would not reach the top.  

You can’t plan for opportunities. When they present themselves, start following your roadmap. Don't be afraid to alter your plans. It might be you were dreaming off driving from Cleveland to L.A., and a friend suddenly offers you a free air ticket or loans you a more reliable car. 


If you want to do something that’s never been done, you don’t need to be the fastest, strongest, or richest. You need to look outside the box by stepping outside of it, and go somewhere not on the map. You must have the courage to go, and to try, where others failed. Those who are first don’t concern themselves with the opinions and failures or others. Their strengths lay in not knowing everything, and in trying until they succeed. The first are those who simply do something in a way others have not, and are not distracted by those who say it can’t be done. 

I hope the above has stimulated you to think beyond conventional wisdom. 

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