I Wish I Had Known: Perspiration is More Important than Inspiration

“After all is said and done, more is said than done.” -Aesop

Everyone has had this experience: someone tells them their ‘million dollar idea’.

The dialogue goes something like this:

Them: “I have this great idea, but if I tell you – you have to promise not to tell anyone, okay?”

You: “Sure”

Them: “Okay, well I am going to…. (they proceed to explain their idea)”

You: “Cool – that’s an amazing idea – so what have you done so far?”

Them: “Well, right now I am looking for someone to finance it. I am trying to get some meetings with potential investors. After that, I am going to find someone to build it – I mean, I don’t code, I am a thinker! I do the strategy. Then I’m going to find someone to market it. Then I’m going to sell to Microsoft and retire.”

You: “So, have you quit your job to pursue this?”

Them: “No, I’m just going to do it on evenings and weekends”

Right… and we all know how much gets done on evenings and weekends by most people. Anyways, that is the dialogue that you will hear over and over again – people think the value is in the idea. Idea’s do hold value – don’t get me wrong; but like a seed holds a potential tree inside, that tree will never come to fruition unless you plant it, water it, and nurture it as it grows.

I Thought it was all About A Great Idea

I not only thought it was about a great idea, I also thought that it made up the majority of the process. Surely, once you have a great idea, actually building it is the easy part – right? Wrong!

Having a brother who dropped out of University to pursue an idea, and seeing several others encouraged to do so, I found myself contemplating why one would do such a thing. Surely you go to university largely because of the promise of a degree – a degree which you only get upon completion.

However, I think a university degree carries a lot of value not only because it indicates and area of expertise and knowledge, but it shows a capability to commit to a project. You didn’t talk about getting a degree, you actually went and got one. It might seem like a very subtle difference, but I think it is the essence of this post.

A great idea is fantastic in and of itself – put if you aren’t putting your blood, sweat and tears into it, then you haven’t showed that commitment to it. People who drop everything, quit their job, and take up the challenge show that they are ready to put in the commitment needed to turn a great idea into a reality.

If you are serious about your idea, you need to be serious about your level of commitment. If it’s just a side project, treat it as such – but very few people have ever gotten rich and famous, or changed an industry, with a ‘side project’.

I Learned it was all about a Great Idea and a Great Commitment

Turning a great idea into reality is not about thinking it up – it’s about turning it into something tangible. That will mean making one of the biggest commitments you ever have in your life.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that starting a new business (which I would assume would be similar to a not for profit) is an emotional rollercoaster. You will find yourself questioning it, and you are crazy if you don’t. However, your commitment to the idea – to the vision – has to be strong enough to carry you through those storms.

You need to be willing to drop everything and run with all your energy towards your goal. Learn the skills you need, make the connections you need, and find or scrape together the resources you need.

It’s exciting to jump up and down and talk about how you will change the world with your new product, but at the end of the day you have to be willing to sit in the chair and grind out the work that needs to be done.

If I Could Go Back

If I could go back, I would of kept an eye out for those who turned their convictions into actions. It’s quite common to find someone with a good idea – or someone who can build  on a good idea. It’s very rare to find someone who can have a good idea, then follow it up with the self discipline and management to turn it into a reality. Those are the people you want to stay close to in your University and professional career.

Also, realize that coming up with a great idea is not the be all end all it seems to be. Coming up with a great idea is a good start, but it is certainly not a finish. When you come up with a good idea that you passionately believe in, have the determination and perseverance to follow through.

Finally, understand that the world will not align for you. It is a rare situation when you will be able to arrange financing, talent, additional resources and customers before day 1. Those are things that you must complete as you go – and your commitment will be tested. You will hit road blocks, experience disappointments, and perhaps fail; but if you never take that first step you will never know – and you’ll just be another person rattling on about your ‘great idea’.


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