Step 1: Don't Fail
September 4, 2016
I am not a failure. But I have failed.
Before I go any further, let me give you a bit of context. It is a bit dry, but hang in there with me. Over the last couple of years, I have been lucky enough to be involved in various “innovation” type projects. By this, I mean, projects that were born out of a mere idea and/or concept with which they culminate in a mass roll out within an organization and/or in the society at large. Not surprisingly, by working on these kinds of projects, I have learned a great deal about what it means to fail, and what guarantees failure. I must sadly admit, that I have also learned what it means to fail with grace; though that is a topic for another day. In any case, there is one thing that I have found to be absolutely critical in the success and failure of a project; whether it be within a team/organization or a personal venture. This is, the ability to remain focused.
It is hard to express how excited I become when I find myself with an idea that has yet to be created. My imagination goes wild and I begin to run about frantically trying to bring this idea to fruition; especially before anybody catches wind of it. However, within just a few short days, I often find that this excitement turns into anxiety as I begin to wonder if someone else is already working on the same concept. As this happens, excitement, and the love of an idea, quickly morphs into panic and frustration. My work becomes sloppy and I become disorganized. Before you know it, the project has been derailed and the idea becomes shelved thereby leaving me with nothing more than another cluttered directory on all of my computers (you know… since EVERYTHING syncs nowadays). A year later, I look back and think, “Man that would have been a good idea” since, you know, not a single person, or company for that matter, was ever working on the same idea to begin with. Funny enough, while all of this is happening, the cycle happens three of four times over while I am working to get the first idea off the ground. Having had this happen more times that I would like to admit, I am left with one very important question. How can I avoid this type of failure?
Steve Jobs said it best:
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.
As you begin to think tank, make it a point to stop and ask yourself… “Is this a project worth engaging?” Better yet, “Is this an idea that I truly care about?” I can assure you, if you do not care about the idea now, you won't be able to maintain focus all the way to the end. You will become distracted. You will become frustrated. You will be discouraged. In short, you will fail. That is not always a bad thing though. It just means you did not care enough in the beginning to overcome. Or, maybe the idea was be good one, but it is not the right idea for you. Heck, it may be the right idea for you but not the right time. Can you dedicate your all to it at this very moment? If not, are you ok with releasing a half hearted effort at a great idea? Don't be afraid to embrace your ability to say no. You won't die, I promise.
But if you do say no, I implore you to do one thing. WRITE IT DOWN! You may return to it later. As I have said, it may not be one anyone's radar. For all you know, it could be the next big thing. But if you do not write it down, it will never see the light of day. It will be a quick thought that evaporates into the thin air. Where would we be if Disney, Jobs, Einstein, etc, had their thoughts evaporate? Now, that is a world I do not want to be apart of.