ETC 02 – It’s Not About Ideas: It’s About Making Ideas Happen

It’s not about ideas it’s about making ideas happen.

Ideas are only multipliers

It’s not about ideas it’s about making ideas happen.

We spend far too much time on ideas.

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Ideas take you so far, but if you want to Escape the Cubicle you have to spend less time on ideas and more time on hustle.

It’s like asking a girl or a guy out on date. Ideas are the preparation. Hustle is the ask. You can’t avoid it. Some people spend months or even years tiptoeing around the issue but getting nowhere. Some people are just good at asking.

Ideas are comfortable, but they can also be show-stoppers. You can spend a long time working on an idea, but the moment you put that idea out into the wild, everything changes. In military circles they say, “no plan ever survives the enemy.” The same is true in business. No plan ever survives the customer.

Everything you assume about your customer and your idea will be wrong the moment you ask for the money. That’s why there’s a big difference between an idea and a successful business. And that’s also why you should spend as little time as possible on the ideas and the most on execution and hustle.

Dan Norris talks about the difference between Entrepreneurs and Wantrepreneurs in his book “The 7 Day Startup”. Successful entrepreneurs focus on the activities that bring customers, like hustling for business. By contrast, Wantrepreneurs focus on the activities that are comfortable, like ideas.

entrepreneur wantrepreneur

In his book “Anything You Want”, Derek Sivers refers to ideas as being “only multipliers”. Consider this table for example:

Bad Idea: $1
Good Idea: $100
Excellent Idea: $100

Bad Execution: $0
Good Execution: $100,000
Excellent Execution: $1,000,000

So, let’s put this together.

You have a good idea and bad execution. Your business is worth $0
You have a bad idea and excellent execution. Your business is worth $1,000,000

Where should you be spending your time?

The myth of the genius idea

Legend has it that the Empress of China discovered silk by accident. She dropped a silk worm into her hot tea. Removing the husk, she noticed how it unraveled slowly as a long, flexible fiber strand.

It’s a classic story that repeats in our culture.

It could be the shaggy-haired Einstein or Doc from Back to the Future. It could be the Mark Zuckerberg teen-in-the-hoodie. The media lionizes the genius inventor.

The reality is often very different. Silk farmers were around long before the Empress of China, but it doesn’t make a good story to tell your grand children.

So, what’s that got to do with being a successful entrepreneur?


You see, we’ve grown up being told that ideas and inventions have a special place in society. We put ideas and their inventors on pedestals.

In business, too, the reality is very different. Sure, you need an idea to get started, but the difference between success and failure has little to do with idea. It’s all about making ideas happen.

There are no bad ideas, so get over yours

If you want to be successful, don’t get stuck on the idea. That means thinking of a company slogan, designing a logo, a domain name or your product. All of this is a sideshow to the main event – launching.

In the book, “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20”, Tina Seeling describes a task she sets her entrepreneur course students at Stanford University. She asks them to list up the worst possible ideas for a business. Some examples include:

* A heart-attack museum
* Cockroach sushi

Take cockroach sushi, for example. You’re probably thinking “WTF?”

But, what Seelig does is say to the students that they have to now take that idea and turn it into a successful business. The results are revealing. In almost all cases, students overcome the bad idea and turn it to their advantage. Cockroach sushi isn’t for everyone but it’s a great talking point. Cockroach sushi becomes an experience for the adventurous. It’s bragging rites. It’s content to share on Instagram and Snapchat. Cockroach sushi, when pushed, becomes a potential business.

The point is this. There are no bad ideas, so get over yours.

Stop worrying about perfect.

Stop worrying about the right time.

It’s much better to start with a half-baked idea and work from there, because everything you assume about your idea will change anyway.

As Einstein once said, “it’s much easier to steer a moving bicycle.”

To many entrepreneurs get lost on the theory stage of learning how to ride a bike from the text book. The only way to learn is get on the saddle and crash a few times.


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  1. Pingback: Adventure Update Sunday 16th April 2017 - New Bikes, Thai Dreams and Podcasts - Graham D Brown

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