How seeking approval kills ideas

So I have a great idea, again. I bet you have them all the time too. I’ve filled diaries with ideas, I fill my head with more almost every day. Unfortunately I can’t say the same thing for the amount of ideas that have come to fruition, they wouldn’t even fill a page, actually the ratio to domain names registered vs actual websites isn’t that great.

As the mid point of 2014 draws freakishly close I freak out about tax and start evaluating the projects I started at the beginning of the year. Only one out of the 2 projects has launched but still not fully completed (thinkluke.com) and the biggest project isn’t even at 50% completion. I’m happy this year I only started 2 projects both based around website’s and I have focused solely on those 2 projects. While the incomplete project still suffers from my fear, in the past I would have completely given up by now.

New idea thought process

If you are getting caught up and not pursuing your dreams, goals or simply new ideas, this might help you in the future. The general process which runs through my head whenever I have a new idea looks something like this:

  1. Have amazing idea.
  2. Do some preliminary market research (e.g. target market, competition, related ideas, etc.).
  3. Get some advice from a respected friend and/or peer.
  4. Get more advice from other respected friends and/or peers.
  5. Rethink idea with more realistic goals, based on what others are doing/saying.
  6. Get more advice.
  7. Do more research.
  8. Get more advice.
  9. Completely revise idea, because initial concept seems bound to fail.
  10. Get more advice.
  11. Abandon idea in frustration.
  12. Feel miserable over lack of ability to ship ideas.
  13. Repeat steps one through 1 – 12.

A couple of years ago, I read a great article by Vinicius Vacanti, about how new ideas almost killed his startup.

transition-curve-slide

 

The gist is that when you have a new exciting idea, you are in a state of “uninformed optimism” – yep you are too excited. As you spend more time on the idea and start learning about all of the issues, you get into a state of “informed pessimism”. This is a bad state that eventually leads you to a “crisis of meaning” where you either turn the corner into “informed optimism” or crash and burn.

~ Vinicius Vacanti

Relating this to my list above, I tend to hit informed pessimism around step five and start to “crash and burn” around step 10. The root causes for the pessimism and the crashing and burning are different for each person, but I’ve noticed something in my pattern: I focus so much on validating my idea with good advice that I become paralyzed with fear of failure and eventually give up. It doesn’t necessarily have to just be good advice, it can be as simple as something questioning my plan for a website project.

If you identify with this at all, then you know what a shitty and completely demoralizing experience this is.

Here’s the “trick” to avoiding the paralyzing nature of good advice and other’s: stop asking for it.

Stop asking for approval.

Seeking out good advice is great, but for some of us, it should come after we finish something rather than before we start.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me, you’ll get a lot farther if you build quickly and then get feedback. Here’s why:

You’ll never be able to truly convince yourself your idea will be successful.

God could show up and tell me I’m on the right path, and I still wouldn’t believe him. When I seek out good advice, what I’m really trying to do is convince myself my idea will be successful. But the only way to really know this is to ship it.

So, what to do

Seeking approval from others can kill ideas - walk you own path

Walk your own path

Don’t do something because you think it will be successful. Do it because you want to do it. It’s easy to say, but nearly impossible to put into practice. If you’ve read any of my recent articles, then you know I’m an approval whore. I thrive on being liked and thought successful. And here’s what sucks: I’m guaranteeing my own failure by thinking this way.

I recently watched the best talk I’ve seen in a long time. In it, Dan Harmon (creator of Community, talks about following your bliss. He tells this amazing story:

My mom, when she would take me to the mall when I was a little kid, would always tell me, “If you get separated from me, you stay put and I will scour the mall for you. Because if you don’t do that, if don’t stay put, if you keep looking for me while I keep looking for you, we could theoretically never find each other.”

The logic of that stuck with me and I often think of it when I think to myself, “What am I supposed to do next in my career? Is this joke funny? Or should I do one that I think other people are going to think is funny, even if I don’t think it’s very funny?” The answer is always follow your bliss. Always follow your bliss. Find your voice. Shout it from the rooftops and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you. Stay put.
~ Dan Harmon

So for the rest of 2014, try to stop relying so much on the input of others to validate what you do or don’t do. Do things because they resonate with you, regardless of what others think, regardless of societies expectations for you, regardless of what would make your folks proud.

So, you have an idea. What if you just did it? What if you saved the advice-getting and approval-seeking for after your launch? I think you’ll be happier with the outcome. But that’s just my advice.

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