Treat ideas with contempt

I’m an ideas man. I love brainstorming, out-the-box thinking, stringing together concepts and frameworks, finding opportunities and finding gems. It’s who I am, and it’s my happy place – my safe place.

Being an ideas man has stood me well as an entrepreneur. I have always found it easy to navigate new ways around problems.

There is, however, a big lesson that I have learnt that does not come easy – not all ideas are good ideas. Most ideas are bad ones. I sunk two million in a bad idea a few years ago and I have run with many other bad ideas. Yes, I have learned from each one, but I wish I didn’t have to – I wish you don’t have to either.

So here it is, an idea-man and his sobering conclusion.

Treat your ideas in contempt until they prove themselves to you.

Don’t think of ideas as ‘your baby’ – they don’t deserve to be adopted into your family. They are selfish, will only take from you and will not call you Mom or Dad.

See ideas more like employees who want a salary increase, who have potential but have yet to show you what they are capable of. Give them a firm foundation to succeed but inspect closely to see if it is performing the way you hope. See the best in your ideas but withhold your total investment until it proves that it’s worthy.

In business and life, your ideas should make life better. Its should unlock what’s important to you – and you should focus all your energy and resources on that.

Ideas are massive culprits of distraction. They draw us away and intrigue us without offering any value. They fun to think about, but they don’t add anything to your life – unless they prove themselves to you.

I spoke earlier about losing two million on a bad idea. It distracted me, and I was blindsided by some many pieces of shiny opportunity that I took on way too much risk for the reward.

The next year, I had another idea, and I decided to make it prove itself. I put the concept through its paces. I took it to a prospective client and closed the first sale before I even built the product. I then spent R50k developing the product and built a business that returned tenfold that its first year of business.

Make your idea work for the attention it wants from you. Make it prove itself valuable enough for your time. Give it only enough to help it succeed but then let it stand on its own.

The upside is you’ll have more time to focus on those ideas that are working, and you’ll watch those bad ideas fail to impress you, and you can move one to the next one.

Don’t make your ideas your babies – make them work and be ready to walk away when they don’t impress you.

On a slightly different note – this is the model I developed to validate my ideas.

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