Thanks Olisa. It seems to me that generosity is at the centre of entrepreneurship, people want to help each other out and it's something we should all make the most of. Idea-goblinning never helped anyone.
Like you, I’m a big fan of ideas. They’re fantastically fun to throw out and thrash around, but making them happen is a daunting prospect. Especially when you’re looking for an idea that can bloom into a business.
So how do you know if your idea is strong enough to plough ahead? Or invest? Or quit your day job? There’s certainly no science to it, but there are some things that help make the decision easier—so that when you do take the plunge, it feels less like a plunge and more like a shallow dive.
In an attempt to make this a more interesting read, let’s check out some signature moves from famous old prodigies and see what they can teach us.
1. The Darwin: Share Your Idea
Darwin didn’t hide away in a black box and magically resurface with his theory of evolution. He wrote stacks of letters to other scientists, journalists, and friends to pressure test and develop his theory before he was ready to share it with the world.
I find it deeply infuriating when people say “I have an idea” and follow it quickly with “but I can’t tell you about it.” The notion that people are idea-goblins, waiting to steal your genius and launch it before you do is, on the whole, quite absurd. Having ideas is the easy bit. Making them happen is where the real hard slog starts.
So set aside the conspiracy theories and get sharing. It really is critical. By circulating an idea, you strengthen, build, and evolve it into a more robust thing. In short, you’re upping its chance of survival by allowing it to adapt to feedback and input. As a bonus, sharing also gets you in the habit of pitching (and defending) your idea; and the sooner you can practice conversing like an entrepreneur, the better.
2. The Alexander: Have a Cunning Plan
If planning battles was as sexy as fighting them, perhaps we would have celebrated Alexander the Great’s strategic chops as well as his swordsmanship. Whether invading Thessaly or Thebes, he knew exactly what had to be done and how to do it.
The same diligence must be applied to start-ups; and writing a business plan is a great place to start. It forces you to address your shortcomings and decide whether or not you can overcome them. No idea is perfect, but deciding early on where your weaknesses are and how to conquer them is a big time and energy saver in the long run.
Writing a business plan will also give you a taste for the hard work involved with starting a business. There’s a Hollywood-style myth currently doing the rounds about the start-up that gets acquired for a billion dollars after a year or so of what looks like very fun work. Start-ups are indeed fun, but it’s important to not gloss over the intense hours, sweat, and work—and the planning—they require.
3. The Galileo: Trust Your Gut
This isn’t the “are you willing to be incarcerated for your idea” test, but there is something to be said about trusting your gut. Only a lunatic would have rocked the boat as much as Galileo did without dogmatic belief in his idea.
My own “trust your gut” moment came eight months in. I’d been trying relentlessly to find partners to help me build my site. It had been fruitless and laborious and I had pretty much given up. But then I noticed a pattern. When I went out on the town, I’d find myself talking about my idea heatedly, and repeatedly. I realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t abandon it. I believed in it too much to let it slide.
4. The JFK: Up the Ante
Once JFK announced to the world that America would be the first nation to put a man on the moon, there was no turning back. An ambition had been declared and now it had to happen.
As an entrepreneur, start looking for ways to up your own ante and terrify yourself (just a little). Yes, start-ups are lean and should operate with prudence, but until you take a bold action to transport your idea from your head to the real world, it really is just an idea. Actively pursuing ways to make it real will force you to commit with new tenacity. For me, this moment came when I wrote my first check. I felt the stakes rise and my commitment triple once I paid for logo design. Until then, my idea was just an idea.
If you have a business idea of your own, these are all things you can do, and should be doing, now. They’re more than just best practices, they’re tricks to help you build confidence. And confidence counts. Having conviction in your idea and conviction that you can deliver on it is what will make “taking the plunge” feel less like a risk and more like an inevitability.
So there you have it; some ways to get going now and avoid entering the history books as a Louis XVI—or Milli Vanilli.