Graduates: One idea is all you need

By Kevin Wilson

To the graduating class of 2005:
Your future could not be brighter, as you are set to move on to the next step from whatever high school/college/trade school you’re graduating from this month. I’d like to be the first to congratulate you, but I’d really like to thank you for not inviting me to be your graduation speaker.
Being a graduation speaker usually means filling a 10-minute block, and it’s usually at the halfway point when people start to realize they’re going to be there a while. It’s at that point the audience gets more critical of anything that is said, and I’m sure that my stories would be taken down a peg or two.
Instead, I’m going to take this opportunity to address you early, to give you the inspiration you need to be a big success.
All you really need in life is one good idea, combined with the know-how and stubbornness to stretch it out over a few decades.
• Star Wars: Somewhere, somebody is camping out right now. He’s camping out with more than a week remaining before Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. He’s camping out because more than 25 years ago, some man named George Lucas had a concept of a young man with robot pals befriending a drifter and a space-ape, all because of some power called the Force.
Can you imagine the first film studio to hear this idea? Or what the actor slated to play Chewbacca told his family when he first got the role? It’s probably what people think now about the person camping out for Episode III tickets. All of these items may seem ridiculous, but ridiculous has bought George Lucas a dream home and the adulation of millions of men who apparently have nothing better to do.
• Pac-Man: It took a team of programmers nearly a year and a half to complete this video game that has raked in billions and still takes quarters from me on a regular basis.
Pac-Man turns 25 this year, with the same concept familiar in current video games. Consider the following two games.
Pac-Man, 1980: Round man eats everything he can before he’s caught by ghosts.
Grand Theft Auto, 2001: Armed man destroys everything he can before he’s caught by police.
• The Pet Rock: The classic example of a dumb idea that worked because somebody wouldn’t let it fail. In 1975, California-based advertiser Ronald Dahl was talking with friends about how much trouble it was to keep a pet, and the idea of a maintenance-free companion was born.
Dahl and his friends made up a cardboard box for each pet rock and bought Rosarito Beach Stones for a penny each from a hardware store. He sold the package for $3.95 each — a large enough amount for a ridiculous margin of profit, yet small enough for consumers to spend without guilt — Dahl was a millionaire in less than six months.
The next idea could be yours. Be persistent. I thank you for your time in reading this.
I also thank you again for not inviting me to your graduation. I’m sure I don’t want to know how my Pac-Man speech would have gone over.

Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail:
kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com