US High School students are taught that Samuel Coleridge conceived one of the most anthologized poems in Western literature, Kubla Kahn, in an epiphany. As Mr. Coleridge described in the poem’s preface, he dozed after smoking opium and reading Samuel Purchas’ The Pilgrimage. He suddenly awoke and manically began documenting the first few stanzas of Kubla Kahn, which he had “dreamed”, fully formed. Unfortunately, he was interrupted by a visitor and the poem evaporated like the dream in which it originated, never to be finished.
Despite the fact that Mr. Coleridge wrote Kubla Kahn over 200-years ago, the epiphany story has endured for good reason. It is romantic and compelling. Unfortunately, it is untrue.
Recent research has uncovered evidence that Mr. Coleridge labored on Kubla Kahn for well over a decade. It was years later, when the poem was first published, that Coleridge created the myth of the epiphany to add to the poem’s enchantment and to explainwhy it remained unfinished.
Wantrepreneurs desperately cling to the myth of the epiphany. It is seductive to believe one can achieve great things by daydreaming, sleeping or even becoming intoxicated. Unfortunately, most accomplishments, especially in the startup world, require a sustained and concerted effort. Overnight success is usually achieved over numerous sleepless nights.