In 19th Century Russian literature, there is the wonderful archetype of the Superfluous Man.

This is an individual who represents being unnecessary and not achieving what they could with their position.

According to Wikipedia:

It refers to an individual, perhaps talented and capable, who does not fit into social norms.

In most cases, this person is born into wealth and privilege. Typical characteristics are disregard for social values, cynicism, and existential boredom; … He is often unmindful, indifferent or unempathetic with society’s issues and can carelessly distress others with his actions, despite his position of power.

He will often use his power for his own comfort and security and will have very little interest in being charitable or using it for the greater good.

A superfluous man (Eugene Onegin) idly polishing his fingernails. Illustration by Elena Samokysh-Sudkovskaya, 1908

A superfluous man (Eugene Onegin) idly polishing his fingernails. Illustration by Elena Samokysh-Sudkovskaya, 1908

The danger is that in today’s society, many people with good ideas fall into the trap of thinking that merely having the idea is enough. That they should be rewarded for having the idea.

Some people even think that their job should just to be “The idea guy”.

Even if you have an idea, for it to add value, you need to actually express your creativity and bring your ideas into the world.

They are worth nothing if they stay in your head.

If they do, they are completely unnecessary. They are superfluous.

Don’t be a Superfluous Man (or woman).

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Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time
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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.