All of us likely daydream about bringing a new idea into the world. It could be a product, a cause, a film—could be anything. But when we actually consider the time, energy, cost and logistics it would take to make it happen, we tend to abandon those ideas pretty quickly. Because the reality is that it’s daunting to turn nothing into something.
I just launched a KickStarter that has been almost 12 years in the making. It’s a storybook called Winter Woven, and I invite you to see it for yourself at www.winterwoven.com/Kickstarter. Finally seeing this project come to life, I wanted to come alongside those of you who are conspiring to do something remarkable, or chasing a vision that no one can yet see.
Everyone should have a white board or Moleskine journal nearby, because ideas are fun to flirt with. But be warned: although an idea may start as an inconsequential thought, it can quickly become a real threat to the normalcy of your life. Be prepared.
Here are five ways to act upon your ideas.
1) PROVE THE CONCEPT
We may tinker with our ideas, or even turn them into a hobby. It’s during this non-threatening time that we are free to explore whether the world finds them valuable. How are a few trusted (and mildly cynical) friends responding to your idea? BTW, your mom doesn’t count, and neither does your spouse. Aside from that, collecting data and doing a low-budget prototype or test can be very telling. Go forward once there’s a “proof of concept.”
2) GET COMMITTED
Being a part of a few large endeavors, I’ve learned that pursuing them requires 110% worth of commitment. It means that saying “yes” to something is saying “no” to other things. It means early mornings, late nights, packed lunches, disappointing others, and starting over again and again, if need be. Commitment is a willingness to be fatigued, to feel pain, and to even suffer. But on the other side of that is either the elation of success or the relief of failure. Either is quite pleasant.
3) HAVE A PLAN
I think the most valuable part of a plan is not necessarily knowing what do—it’s knowing what to do next. You’ve got to create a roadmap that contains sequential steps, so you don’t put the cart before the horse; so you don’t choose the fun and easy over the tedious and difficult work that is required of you. Sure, the plan needs to be loose, but meeting milestones will provide indicators that you’re on the right track. And to be honest, a failed milestone could serve as a convenient escape hatch.
4) ASK FOR HELP
This has always been the most difficult thing for me to do. I think it’s partially due to pride and partially due to not wanting to impose on others. But more than that, when you ask for help it’s saying to everyone else, “I’m doing this,” and that makes us nervous, because we fear the embarrassment of failure. But, when you surround yourself with others who believe in your idea and you ask for their help, it’s as if they’re willing to fail with you, and that is deeply powerful.
5) DON’T GET DESPERATE (the only “don’t” on the list)
I know your idea is a big deal. But, on the other hand, it isn’t a big deal. It’s okay if it fails. There’s no need whatsoever to hang your significance on any idea. There’s no need to harass your friends to the point you no longer have them. Don’t be weird and annoying. Allow others to take ongoing interest in your idea by not incessantly talking about it. Show confidence, rather than falling apart into a heap of ash smoldering in insecurity. This isn’t your last chance, and this won’t be your last idea.
In conclusion, I want to tell all of the tinkerers out there that the effort you put in and the risks you take are impressive to me, because that fact of the matter is that most of the world is paralyzed with fear or diseased with indifference, and you’ve overcome those things. For that, I applaud you.
Original artwork by Kyle Ragsdale