The Time We Created Pinterest

In college, I had two jobs. First, I had a customer service phone job. Remember 411, the only way to find out where stuff was at before smartphones were a thing? Yeah, that was me. My second job was one my good friend Allen Herbert hooked me up with. We were research assistants at an airplane disassembly shop associated with our university.

Sounds cool, right? Mostly what we did was scrape crusty old sealant off of greasy skin panels and take pictures of hundreds of inch-long clips, but the job was pretty educational, the pay was good for a bunch of college interns, and thanks to some heavy ebb and flow times, we were occasionally afforded other luxuries, like time to work on school stuff or just time to kick back and mess around while sections of the plane were being taken apart for us to do our cataloging.

They say idle hands are the devil’s playthings, and that’s even more true when you get half a dozen college age guys together. Over the course of the year or so that a whole bunch of my college buddies worked there together, we had lots of interesting conversations and did some silly things. We still have epic conversations about the crap that happened there.

One of the things we did was when we had the chance, we would work on these images we created for our computer backgrounds. I’m not exactly sure who came up with the idea, but we eventually came to call it Life Collage. We would take pictures from the internet of things we were interested in and squeeze them into a static image of all the other things we liked. We had pictures of our dream cars, pictures of girlfriends, pictures from TV shows that we watched, guitars, engineering stuff, whatever we wanted. In our little office of a bunch of bestie friend college dudes, it took off like a rocket. Everyone had a Life Collage.

At some point, we made the following proposal:

What if we could make a website based on this, where you’d have your own Life Collage as a home page? You could either add images with tags, like add a picture of your guitar with the tags “guitar, music, Epiphone Sheraton II” or add pictures from other people’s collages to your own. The social aspect comes from connecting you with friends and with people using the same images and tags, so you can get in touch with other people of similar interests. You could have groups that like certain things, and we could even have search functionality that lets you look for people with the most matching interests.

…sound familiar?

We were reasonably serious about it, and even talked to a few people we knew that were in the Computer Science department or had some experience with building websites. It just never materialized.

It was a few months ago, years after we’d all archived Life Collage in the remotest recesses of our minds, that Gabe, one of the guys that worked with us and dreamed about becoming social media moguls together came to my house for a Saturday evening get together and dropped the bomb: “Do you guys realize we created Pinterest?”

We all took a minute to ponder if Gabe was off his rocker, until he started describing the similarities. First reaction, I think, was just shock. Then came the rage. None of us have since become multi-millionaires, and we had a great idea that quite possibly could have skyrocketed us into vast wealth and social status that we just didn’t act on.

To be honest, I’m mostly sharing this just because I’m still angry about it and wanted to complain. But I do think there’s a lesson in this, other than if you find out you and your friends missed becoming wealthy by a narrow thread, keep it to your darn self, Gabe.

I think the lesson is that thinking of something, creating an idea, strategizing… it’s just the beginning of the process. Everyone has thought about what they would do to get in better shape. Everyone has created an idea for strengthening their relationships. Everyone has strategized about starting a business or looking for a job they’re passionate about.

And yet, it’s not worth a thing if you don’t act on it. The best plan in the world doesn’t make you one bit more successful until you execute it. Let your goal this week be to identify your plans, ideas, and strategies, and get them out of the mental phase and into actions that you start taking to improve your life.

My friends and I missed creating Pinterest. You don’t want to find out what you’re missing by your inaction. Go and get on it, starting today.