Over the years I’ve spoken to countless people who had a dream, a big idea, a new company or an exciting project they had always wanted to launch.
I love these conversations - always so full of excitement, getting drunk on the endless possibilities of future glories.
Invariably, they often include huge funding raises, offices around the world and billion-dollar valuations.
However, the truth is that most of these big dreams never come to pass. And it is almost always for the same reason.
The person involved didn’t press go. They froze.
Instead of taking action, they decided not to proceed.
The enormity of their project became too much.
Faced with overwhelming uncertainty, they turned away from the big opportunity.
As a result, most brilliant ideas are destined to remain locked in time, as a set of ideas, conversations and notes. Like Han Solo, not much can happen if you're frozen in Carbonite.
Sometimes, this is for the best. As I look back through my notebook, there are quite a few terrible business ideas, new shows and potential projects in there.
And for would-be entrepreneurs who are planning to quit their job to birth their very own new business, the stakes are indeed high.
Their inner voice is working hard to ensure this big decision is going to improve their life, not make it harder.
I recently found myself feeling exactly like this.
After some time out, I was keen to collaborate with my peers again, to discuss ideas and to help people out. Over my 6 month break, I had written down a long list of good - and dreadful - ideas.
As I read through them, developed some, discussed others with friends, the voice in my head kept butting in…
“That’s going to be really, really hard to deliver”,
“You’ve no experience in that, what are you thinking?”
“Why are you bothering with that, nobody will care and it won’t make a difference…."
It’s tough! But through years of entrepreneurial experience, I now see my negative inner voice as less of a threat and more of a helpful challenger.
If you can look at your idea from all angles, do your best to destroy it, and it remains important and exciting, you’re onto something life-changing.
And the key to turning these dreams into reality?
Figure out the smallest first step you can make, and DO IT ASAP.
Whether it's a new video show, a different way of selling yourself, or even a new relationship you want to forge, the main thing is to take action.
How do you do that? Start with the simplest of instruction manuals.
I have developed a set of five rules I follow when I find myself needing to start something new.
- Write it up. Give yourself 24 hours to get the idea into words and images. You can do a few drafts, but by the end of your time, you need your idea clearly set out across a single slide, a sixty-second video, or no more than one side of A4 paper. It needs to be simple enough for a child to understand, and your project must have a big, bold name.
- Benchmark it. You need to ensure you build with an intimate knowledge of who is already out there, competing in your lane. Unless you are offering something entirely new (lucky you), you need to ensure your brand name is unique, you have a clear difference from others, and you have identified those competitors you think you could out-perform.
- Work it up. Time to figure out the practicalities of turning your big idea into action. How will it work? What needs to happen? Have you figured out your objective? Your strategy and your tactics? Choose a trusted set of people and pitch your idea to them. Listen hard. Feedback is a gift.
- Figure out your smallest start. Instead of planning a huge launch that will propel you and your business into the stratosphere, try a different approach. Identify the very smallest first step which can gently start your project. This could be as simple as registering a domain name, writing up your first product proposal, or approaching a potential partner or client.
- Deliver to an immovable deadline. Once you’ve figured out your tiny start, set a deadline for your initial tasks in stone. Make the date completely non-negotiable. And tell people. This will ensure you are accountable to others, giving you a much higher likelihood of following through.
This all sounds simple, but it's very scary. Committing to birthing something new is a huge test of taking ultimate responsibility.
Commitment takes courage. Courage tastes disgusting. But like medicine, the outcome is hopefully worth the temporary discomfort.
And, most projects, plans or beginnings are reversible - if it doesn't work, it's unlikely to destroy you. You will care a lot more about your project than the rest of the world will.
Taking the first step along any new path is often the hardest part of the journey, but without it, nothing else can happen.
If you're keen to change your life for the better, dig into the tasks above, and take that first, small step.