Success requires honoring enthusiastic ideas with a plan for iterative execution of a blueprint.
Let’s start with Passion and a brief exercise to show why passion alone is not enough.
Grab a piece of paper (No, a Notion doc is not okay for this, get a real piece of paper). Create a list: 1, 2, and 3. Now follow the instructions below:
- Write what you’re passionate about? I understand that for some of you, the words ‘get rich’ or ‘die trying’ might come up, but try to avoid it. Seriously, what are you passionate about? Write down a phrase. This is your What.
- Now, write Why you are passionate about it.
- Write out the plan of your pursuit in achieving that What.
Finally, write the plan for pursuing your passion — the how.
As an entrepreneur and a math nerd, I believe our successes, failures and plateaus can be plotted through simple exponential and logarithmic functions. In successes, as the value of x gets larger, the function value of f(x) increases more and more dramatically. In failures, as the value of x gets larger, the function value of f(x) drops more and more drastically. A little impact to x, can increase or decrease the outcome radically. And, then there are logarithmic functions that might come into play from time to time. Where beyond a certain point, the value of x increasing doesn’t lead to a radical shift in the outcome. It’s when you’re not winning, or losing — you’re just surviving.
Passion is necessary for exponential growth, but the same passion can also lead to satisfaction in survival for just long enough before the exponential demise. Passion alone isn’t enough. The answer then lies in the plan. And, realistically, even then it might not be enough, you might scale or you might burn out, but the plan gets you to the moment of realization sooner rather than later.
In my line of work, I often meet people with passion who need help devising a plan and executing it. But, I also meet individuals with a solid plan who lack the passion for their project in general. In the latter situation, I can’t help, but the former is why I rise and stay awake. The words following are for the insanely passionate.
I was wrong
It used to be tough saying these words. Initially in my career, my ego wouldn’t let me. I am finding that the older, wiser me is saying it more often now, and it’s not because of some newly discovered humility; it comes from acceptance. I accept that I will not get it right the first time, maybe even the second or the third, but eventually I will. Similarly, a successful blueprint isn’t based on immediate perfection but on the elimination of iterations not leading to success — accepting when you’re wrong, and moving on, over and over again until you’re right.
Perfection is unnecessary
Looking back, I regret almost every time I tried to achieve the perfect solution, including the times when I did achieve it. The trade-off of additional time, money and resources was almost never worth the outcome. The satisfaction factor and outcome margin between excellence and perfection is narrow, too narrow to justify insane passion associated with perfection.
Quick and cheap can be good enough
It’s ironic that I believe this because my job relies on convincing people that it isn’t true. This opinion, however, has an expiration date and there comes a time where quick and cheap will not make the needle move, at least not forward. But, I do believe that we now live in a Deploy or Die world for passionate ideas. Initially, your plan needs to quickly and cheaply validate your idea in market adaptation and financial feasibility before it’s too late and your passion becomes unrealistic infatuation. A key part of your plan should be to verify if it’s worth the sacrifices you’re going to make going forward. If the answer is yes, then and only then, you stride forward.
Being unique is overrated
As Emily mentions in her post on intellectual property laws:
“Uber and Lyft are similarly competing with virtually the same features for riders and drivers, down to vehicle options, rates and tips. They shamelessly steal from each other. Their drivers are often the same…. even their goals are the same.”
Being the first of your kind may have it’s benefits, but it has little to do with success. Legality isn’t a concern unless you’re blatantly stealing, and tenacious passion and will can justify the ethics of it. Where it matters most is defining and delivering on your own key differentiators (what we call the X-factor). Your launch plan needs to shout that differentiator from the rooftops.
I can’t do this alone
An idea’s conception may be a solo act but it is impractical for one person to continuously scale. Even the most introverted among us will need others to grow. Sharing your passion will attract the support you need to stay on the path of exponential growth, and expanding your support group at key intervals will help you skip pitfalls you might otherwise be too close to see. Plan to bring in trusted advisers during each stage so that you’re not going too far into alone. They will not only bring new perspectives but also dedicated expertise in areas you may lack.
Now that you have your passion written down, write down your assumed constraints, write your needs to overcome those constraints, then define what success looks like and finally, get started on the first draft of your plan.
Bonus: Look back
The future may always be a mystery, but the past is written. Go back to the beginning from time to time to look at the paper you inked your passion on, it’s going to ground you back to the wistful love affair that started you on your journey. That optimistic innocence can sometimes be lost in the practical pessimism that comes along with executing plans in the real world.
One of my next posts will go deeper into coming up with an iterative blueprint plan for your passionate idea. Stay tuned...