As with most serial entrepreneurs, I’ve had lots of good ideas, at least at the time they were formed. Two of the good ideas had great legs. One sat quietly for 10 years and then sprouted legs and ran. The rest had half lives that ranged from years, to months, to the time it took to finish the beer and throw the drawing on the back of the napkin into the trash.
What the successful ideas had in common was that when it came time for me to walk up to the edge of the cliff and believe in my idea, I didn’t just look over, I didn’t accidentally fall over into the abyss, I fully embraced the ideas and the promises they held, and I jumped–full swan dives, head held high.
Seth Godin reminded me last week, at HubSpot’s Inbound conference, of a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” We may not fully understand the implications of the jump. The business plan may not yet be fully baked. But the promise of success and sometimes the threat of failure, allows us to develop our wings. (side note, there is debate over this being a Kurt Vonnegut quote or a Ray Bradbury quote, but Seth said Kurt, so Kurt it is).
In the mid 90′s I was told by Dick Morley, the founder of the company I was then working for, that if I didn’t quit my job and get on with my project, the great idea would go nowhere. In fact, he said that if I quit my day job he would lead an angel funding effort to get me going. I called him two days later with the news that I had quit and was 100% committed to the idea. The next morning I had a check for $150k and a software company was born.
After that ran its course, and a couple great (read, “bad”) ideas later, I was heading up demand gen for a company and one of the sales directors had resigned to join another software company. He asked me to do some work on the side. I initially said no, but then decided that if I could find one more customer, what the heck? So I actually convinced the CEO of the company I was employed at to let me quit, start Green Leads, serve this other client, and still provide demand gen services to them as client number two. Jump, sprout wings, seven years later, we’re at 100 employees on two continents.
Believe in yourself. Believe in your great ideas. Know that you can control the unknown as it comes at you. Your great ideas can dwindle away if not acted upon, and that can be a loss to all of us.
I wouldn’t have three Apple devices within reach right now if it weren’t for Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak holding hands and running for the cliff in 1977.