“Hey Mom are you awake?” I texted her at 10pm. (I always check before calling otherwise they think someone cut their hand off and is in the emergency room).
“Yea what’s up??” she replied.
I called her right away and let her know we’d be in town because I had a lunch meeting with a local entrepreneur to get his thoughts on my idea.
“Lately alllll you’ve been doing is TALKING about your idea, just get out there and DO something, stop meeting with people just to ‘run it by them’.”
At first I wanted to hang up, but then I realized she was right.
You may be asking what this idea is, and that’s not the point. It’s NOT a subscription service for hamster blankets, BUT EVEN IF IT WAS, that’s not why I’m telling this story.
I’m telling you this because for so long I would rail about people always talking to me about business ideas that they never took action on. I would ask them 2 months later how it’s going and then they mumble and tell me something about needing to do more research and that their goldfish broke an ankle.
Noah Kagen would call these people “wantreprenuers”.
When my Mom had uttered those words “STOP TALKING ABOUT IT”, I realized I had become one.
When I took a hard look at why I wasn’t in action, I realized three traps I was in.
The Research Trap
I’ve been diving deep into customer development processes and have learned a TON about finding problem/solution fit before product/market fit. I interviewed a bunch of different potential customers for my idea and found plenty of useful insights.
But after a while those customer interviews became more like a sounding board for my idea. Instead of asking them about their problems and figuring out pain points to solve, I would go on and on about the idea, mostly trying to impress them with fancy words I learned 5 minutes ago on Twitter.
I’ve read over and over the importance of validating ideas, but it seems I was blurring the lines between market validation and personal validation. I wasn’t looking for them to say “yes I would definitely pay for that”. I was looking for “Jack you are awesome, please grace us with more of your infinite wisdom”.
In a sense I was looking for them to validate me, rather than my idea. I kept going because I was getting wonderful feedback about me and my idea, and who in the world would stop that ego gravy-train and actually go build something?
The Money vs. Passion Trap
Have you ever had this conversation to yourself?
“Man I would love to build something to feed starving children” “Crap, how am I going to make money doing that?” “Hmm, maybe I’ll just write that ‘How To Make Money Telling Other People How To Make Money Selling Ebooks’ ebook I’ve been meaning to write. I’ll take that money throw it in the bank and THEN I’ll feed those starving children.”
Starting a business based purely on money is the most fulfilling thing in the world. I cannot describe to joy of getting that first sale and realizing that money alone WILL make you happy. YES!
That feeling lasts usually about 24 hours…
Can you make money at something your passionate about? Gary Vaynerchuk says yes. I say it depends.
I love playing music, writing music and recording music. How much time do I spend doing that? Honestly, I haven’t picked up my guitar in six months. If I was TRULY passionate about it, I would be sleeping with my guitar and be filling notebooks up with songs that would make a Pilgrim cry.
Can you make money at something you do every day without thinking because it just feels like a part of you? Yes.
I love building things on the web, I’m passionate about it. How do I know this? I’ve been up since 6am writing this post and can’t WAIT to jump into Fireworks and work on a feature for Goodsie. Sometimes I think if I were a sleep walker, I wouldn’t do anything cool like go outside and try to drive a car, I would probably stumble over to my laptop like Weekend at Bernie’s and fire up TextMate.
If I have to pump myself up to do something, and then yell at myself for not doing it, that may not be my passion.
The Focus Trap
The worst thing about this whole process was I didn’t even know what I wanted yet. At the end of every conversation I had about the idea, the other person would ask “so what exactly can I do for you?”.
Truth is, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it yet, let alone ask someone to help.
That’s because this idea changed weekly.
That’s right, I didn’t tell you the idea because there were like 10 different ideas depending on how I felt at the moment.
If I hadn’t started dating Marisa at age 15 and married her at 27, I guarantee this is how I would’ve dated. (we broke up a couple times, but got back together once we realized how many CRAZIES are out there).
“THIS IS THE ONE! THIS IS THE GIRL I WANT TO MARRY!”
“OK FOR REAL THIS OTHER GIRL, SHE’S THE ONE I KNOW IT IN MY HEART OF HEARTS!”
…and on and on it would have gone.
This is also how I treat ideas.
I bounce from idea to idea so fast it makes my families heads collectively spin.
The reason for this lack of focus usually comes from this next trap.
The But-What-If-It-Doesnt-Work and the Rest-Of-My-Life Trap
I combined these two because they go hand in hand.
What if you spend the rest of your life building something that doesn’t work?
What if it actually DOES work and you realize it’s not something you want to do the rest of your life?
This is a dream killing combination.
This is why writing is so important. Literally as I’m typing this I realized these are the two questions I ask myself over and over and over and over.
I have no idea how to get out of this trap yet, but I think I just nailed down the core of it. SON-OF-A.
I guess this is another one of those posts where I lead to no logical conclusion. Why? Because if I came up with some really great answer about how I overcame these traps, my Mom would eventually read this, realize I’m still doing these things, and CALL ME OUT AGAIN.