When a great dream shows up, grab it!
That was the advice offered by Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, at his commencement address at the University of Michigan. He explained how a dream that made him get up in the middle of the night put him on the track of what became Google, the pioneer search engine that grew into one of the world's most powerful and innovative corporations. Here's the story as he told it in Ann Arbor:
"I have a story about following dreams. Or maybe more accurately, it's a story about finding a path to make those dreams real.
"You know what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream? And you know how, if you don't have a pencil and pad by the bed to write it down, it will be completely gone the next morning?
"Well, I had one of those dreams when I was 23. When I suddenly woke up, I was thinking: what if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links and... I grabbed a pen and started writing! Sometimes it is important to wake up and stop dreaming. I spent the middle of that night scribbling out the details and convincing myself it would work. Soon after, I told my advisor, Terry Winograd, it would take a couple of weeks to download the web -- he nodded knowingly, fully aware it would take much longer but wise enough to not tell me. The optimism of youth is often underrated! Amazingly, I had no thought of building a search engine. The idea wasn't even on the radar. But, much later we happened upon a better way of ranking webpages to make a really great search engine, and Google was born. When a really great dream shows up, grab it!..
"I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. I know that sounds completely nuts. But, since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition."
So we can add the co-founder of Google to the long list of creators and world-changers who have discovered in their many fields the truth of John Lennon's observation that "the best songs are the ones that come to you in the middle of the night and you have to get up and write them down, so you can go back to sleep."
The full text of Larry Page's May 2 commencement address isn't hard to find by googling.