THE BLOG
07/14/2014 11:32 EDT | Updated 09/13/2014 05:59 EDT

What I Learned This Week: The Danger of Imagination

Next to "E=MC squared," perhaps the most famous quote to emerge from Albert Einstein's mouth is the oft-cited: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." What I'm sure Einstein didn't consider at the time of uttering was the offshoot of his observation, namely: "Imagination is a DisTortEr of knowledge."

Next to "E=MC squared," perhaps the most famous quote to emerge from Albert Einstein's mouth is the oft-cited:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

While the meaning of these words is primary and easily understood, their use has been a constant source of positive inspiration to dreamers everywhere for years. What I'm sure Einstein didn't consider at the time of uttering was the offshoot of his observation, namely:

"Imagination is a DisTortEr of knowledge."

To explain, let me take you on a walk down the main downtown artery on which I live. Last Wednesday, I was speedily heading to an art vernissage at the Ritz Carlton Hotel a few blocks away, and I crossed paths with an acquaintance of mine, a woman I've known for many years. I smiled and said hello.

"Are you going to walk right by me again?" she asked.

"Huh? When did I walk right by you?" was my stunned reply.

"A few weeks ago, right on this very street!"

Yikes! I may not be the most social guy on earth, but I'm not usually this insensitive.

"Was I wearing my headphones, because when I'm listening to music, which is what I usually do when I walk downtown, I zone out a little bit."

She didn't answer that question, but shifted gears dramatically.

"I know you're still mad at me for what happened with that app," she said, referring to a truly minor inconvenience that took place about six or seven years ago, when I was working in the tech space with my Airborne Mobile company.

"No, not at all," I said.

"And you never used me to sell your properties!" (Said acquaintance is in sales, to put this in perspective.)

Well, that was indeed true, but for a completely different, totally innocuous reason, one which was miles away from what she felt was the cataclysmic event that spawned my perceived ignoring behaviour. And as for the kerfuffle over the app, it was so insignificant I had forgotten it had ever happened...that is, until she brought it up again.

Nonetheless, the absence of valid, accurate information and the fact that she couldn't read my thoughts -- then or now -- allowed her imagination to run wild, and conjured up all sorts of offbeat, obtuse scenarios that were so far away from the truth, they needed a new area code and a passport.

And therein lies my point, and this week's lesson.

Imagination is a wonderful and most valuable tool when used properly. When exploiting and exploring it trying to come up with next big start-up idea, a hit song, an out-of-the-box solution to a pesky problem, or a new way to cook chicken, imagination is great.

But like nitroglycerin, which can both re-start a stalled heart and blow a city block to smithereens, imagination can also be a dangerous weapon.

Probing its depths to explain why that guy or girl passed you by, why you didn't get the job, or why you weren't invited to some party may be hazardous to your mental health...and to that of those you are imagining about.

So the next time you find your inner thoughts summoning up outlandish, cockamamie reasons about the way things seem, consider the words of another great philosopher, namely The Temptations, and remember that it may be "Just my imagination / Running away with me."

A simple ask may save you hours, weeks, even years of unnecessary -- and erroneous -- worrying.