3 min

What Is The Point of Decorative Hand Towels?

I had just moved into my husband (then-boyfriend)’s apartment. Sam came out of the bathroom.

“Did you dry your hands on the towels hanging behind the toilet?” 

I answered with an obvious, “Yes.”

“Oh… those are decorative.” 


According to Urban Dictionary, decorative towels are “hung up for decorative purposes (normally seasonal). You can not dry dishes with them, dry your hands with them, use them after a shower, or look at them too hard unless of course you want to get bitched at,” ie decorative towels are not meant to be used. 

The only difference between decorative and regular towels is you have to wash regular towels more frequently because they get dirty from use. 

Towels are not art. Even if a towel is pretty to look at, you’re not allowing it to live its best life by preventing it from doing what it was born to do, which is dry, wipe, and absorb water. 

Sometimes we treat ideas like decorative towels.

Towels are meant to be used, just like ideas are meant to be shared. Holding onto an idea for dear life and waiting for it to be perfect is never going to happen. For an idea to live up to its potential, it needs to get dirty.

Have you ever had a brilliant idea for an invention, did nothing, forgot about it, and then one day saw it being sold for a major profit and thought, “Hey! That was my idea!” 

Perhaps it was your idea. Perhaps you had the idea for Sara Blakely’s Spanx. But having an idea is only the beginning. Blakely isn’t a billionaire because she had a great idea. She’s a billionaire because she iterated on her idea and continued to make it better. She’s a billionaire because she never gave up. She’s a billionaire because she pulled the Neiman Marcus saleswoman into the dressing room with her and showed her a before and after with her own butt lines to prove how Spanx worked. 

Ideas are only the beginning. If you do nothing with an idea, Elizabeth Gilbert would ask what you expected the idea to do, sit around and wait while you ignored it? No. That’s not what ideas do. Gilbert explains in her book, Big Magic:

“If inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you, it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you. … Don’t fall into a funk about the one that got away. Don’t beat yourself up. … Find something else to work on - anything, immediately - and get at it.”

The key is work on something. Right now.

So what in the world are you waiting for? 

Living in LA for five years, I witnessed a lot of bullshit speak. Everyone had these wonderful, amazing, badass, passionate ideas. But all they did was talk about them. Derek Sivers recently explained this LA phenomenon:

“At first I was smiling and like, ‘Oh wow, that’s great,’ but after a while I realized everybody’s speaking in future tense about these things that are going to happen. And they never do. ... And I felt like wearing a T-shirt that says, ‘Tell me when it happens.’”

This just in: your wonderful, amazing, badass, passionate idea will definitely not be your last wonderful, amazing, badass, passionate idea. So stop sitting on it. 

Go ahead and talk about your ideas. Noodle. Iterate. But for the love of God, take action.

Publish your essay. Send your newsletter. Start a YouTube channel. Launch your Etsy store. Shoot the movie. Use your hands and make something you can hold. Get your ideas dirty.

Maybe it’s harsh, but I agree with Sivers: 

“I’m not really interested in hearing people’s ideas. It’s just not interesting without the execution.”

When you produce tangible things, regardless of how they turn out, you learn and improve and get better for the next thing. 

So go ahead and dry your hands on those decorative towels. Get ‘em nice and dirty. Throw them in the washer with detergent, toss them in the dryer, hang them back up, and repeat. Let your ideas do what they were born to do.