Oct 5, 2010

Get Out of Your Own Way

The other day, I saw The Social Network. Much has been written about the movie and its underlying events. But, as usual, the movie got me thinking about my own less rarefied circumstances.

In the movie, the character played by Jesse Eisenberg pursues a vision of a website for holders of "Harvard.edu" email addresses. Repeatedly, he seems surprised by the ideas others have for expanding on his idea. In my opinion, his vision of success was fairly humble. But It was enough to goad him into action and keep him working.

In the small business space, I see many people with great ideas who could move forward with reasonable success and safety but hesitate because they cannot see the end of the road. They let themselves be stymied because they have no clear idea of what should be their tenth steps—even though they have taken only a first step. I wish I could say to them, “Sometimes you don’t know what turns your business idea will take, so don’t worry about it—just keep moving forward.” People passionate about an idea should pursue it. And they should expect surprises around the bend. That’s what happened to Brian Backus.

Brian is the founder of a hot new start-up called Kidlandia. That’s right – as in "Kid’s Land". As a hobby and a labor of love, he started creating personalized maps of “fantasy lands” named after kids of friends and friends of friends. He had no idea how to scale the idea, and it seemed like a dead end, as a business. But now, with the help of some of his technology-savvy customers, www.kidlandia.com is on the Internet, he has automated the map production, and he is well on his way to founding a successful company. (I just created a map for my grandkids and I had as much fun creating it online, as they will have when they receive it).

One of my friends confessed to me the other day, “I censor myself sometimes. I keep myself from running with an idea, most of the time from fear that it won’t be successful.” Well, we all do that from time to time. But sometimes we learn lots from ideas that don’t work out….wisdom we bring to the next idea.

My thought for the day: don’t over analyze your idea. Unless you are gifted with precognition, you can’t know what will happen. Give your idea a chance to grow. Give yourself a chance to grow into your idea. Get out of your own way. Don’t let your drive to create the “best of the best” business keep you from exploring ideas that remain vague. You just might discover a treasure map.