Waiting for the Lightning

When Benjamin Franklin tried to catch lightning in a bottle, he couldn’t just wave his arms and shout at the stormy sky. Instead, he hid in a shed, patiently waiting for the hemp string of his kite to transfer some electricity to a house key attached to the string. Eventually, he held his hand to the key — and voilà, a tiny spark jumped from it to his hand.

When we hope to accomplish something big, it can be harder to wait for inspiration to strike than to supplant it with a lot of uninspired toiling. We think the grind will earn us the lightning, and sometimes, it does. Often, however, the weather just isn’t right. Where there’s no storm, there can be no discharge, but in time, nature always supplies another storm. Why not simply lie and wait?

You can’t write a million-copy bestseller without a brilliant idea, and you can’t grow a movement without a meaningful cause. But these things are hard to find, and so it’s okay to take your time to find them. Just like giving up is still an act of giving, it can be more generous — to yourself, others, and the world — to wait for inspiration to strike than to rush an unfinished project out the door.

If you want to catch sparks in a bottle, you must hold out until the clouds conjure a storm — and if you hope to do something great, it’s best to wait for the lightning.