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|Vast Ideas .|
... and Half-Vast Execution
Lately I have talked to some independent webmasters who are serious underachievers. The business ambitions they talk about and the real-life actions they have taken are wayyyy out of synch. They have big dreams and great ideas, but not much that is actually up and running, ready to promote.
I'm seeing a pattern here ... numerous ideas hatched and numerous projects started then left to drag around unfinished, with too few things seen through to completion.
Unfinished business wastes resources, drains your psychic energy, chews up your schedule, and makes it harder to focus on productive new actions.
It's very easy for a creative mind to be seduced by new ideas and drawn into new projects. That's okay unless the next bright idea comes along before the last project is completed, or the work has at least reached a logical pausing point. That's the problem I'm seeing here.
I've been getting a strong sense that lack of focus is the biggest thing holding a lot of people back from major achievement.
Sometimes our focus gets scattered because life throws stuff at us and we have no choice but to respond. When that happens, do what you need to do, then get back on course.
But often the problem is our own creation: we have ideas and try to chase them all, without a realistic action plan. We spread ourselves too thin and achieve less, not more.
Worse, we start new things with no clear idea of how they'd advance our larger goals. We can't get "back on course" because we haven't defined our course in the first place.
A successful business owner whom I love dearly says that it's just as important to decide what we're NOT going to do as what we are. "Walking away from a great idea might be the smartest decision you make all year," he once told me.
I challenge you: take an inventory of your existing projects that are dragging around unfinished. Then, one by one, plan out specific action steps to finish the project and do them, or else find someone to help you. Sometimes the most sensible decision would be to cancel the project.
Resist the temptation to save a project "for later". In most cases your goal should be to deal with it or dump it!
A person (or a company) with too many unfinished projects is like a ship with barnacles and too much ballast. They can't move forward nearly as easily as they should.
They'd make more progress with a few projects executed well and others not even started yet, than a bunch of things half done.
First, I like the allusion to something more explicit in "Half-Vast Execution"...
Your gripe reminds me of lyrics from what is, IMHO, a great song:
|You can dream a little dream |
Or you can live a little dream
I'd rather live it
'Cause dreamers always chase
But never get it
Song = No Regrets
Artist = Aesop Rock
Essentially, it's easier to envision a grand scheme than it is to enact one. For this reason, you will always have more thought than action. Which is why those who can move from the draft table to factory floor are called entrepreneurs and are often rewarded handsomely for their time and energy. Any why, I think, those who find success once find it time and again. I think fear of failure also plays prominently. Your ideas are always successfull, your actions are not. Therefore, it's much more rewarding psychologically to think big thoughts and imagine reaping the rewards of success than it is to try and fail...
Reminds me of another little quip: Those who can, do. The rest are consultants.
Nice post, I agree with some of it, it reminds me of Seth Godins book on successful quitting " The Dip".
I think you first have to figure out what busienss you are in . If you are in the busienss of programming or web designing then you shouldnt have great business ambitions as these are not really the skills of successfull busiess people - be realistic, can you create demand and montetise it.
Most people I know can make a better burger than macdonalds but are not as sucessfull as them, they totally dont understand what busienss macdonalds are in..
|these are not really the skills of successfull busiess people |
Please share your thoughts on what ARE the skills of successful business people.
I know that all too well, mainly because I can observe that kind of behaviour all the time in the mirror. I don't agree with the "don't do it"-part though, because dragging ideads along, trashing and reassembling them in my mind dozens of time, letting them age and re-evaluate them a few months later has often brought interesting new angles and I've used quite a few things I "developed" in my mind for my plan for total web domination in clients' projects. I never came around doing any of my projects, but my clients profit alot from me planning and designing and 95%-finishing them, and that's what they pay me for.
>Please share your thoughts on what ARE the skills of successful business people.
I think yopu nailed it pretty good in your own advice:
>I challenge you: - Likes challenges
>take an inventory of your existing projects that are dragging around unfinished. - Can face reality, ca step back from the detail and see objectively
>Then, one by one, plan out specific action steps to finish the project - Good at planning the steps to actually complete
>and do them - Gets things done, can work long/hard when needed even if it means sacrificing other things
>or else find someone to help you - Good at delegating or has the skills to outsource, has a newtork of skillsed people to utilise
>Sometimes the most sensible decision would be to cancel the project. - Can make and take tough decisions. Come on, how many of those "great ideas" are you actually prepared to take a 2nd mortage out to finance, if not then move on from it.
Im definetely feeling challenged to bin a couple of projects this weekend, thanks for the post.
Sometimes letting ideas just stay ideas, at least for a while, isn't always a bad thing. I have let ideas simmer a year or two and as a result decided in a couple of situations they weren't that good, this saving me a lot of time and effort. In other cases letting the ideas simmer actually made them better.
There are also cases where someone has A LOT of good ideas and simply doesn't have time to put all of them into play. Not a bad place to be either as long as some of the better ones make it to the production phase.
Ok, so let's look at this topic through a different lense -- How do you evaluate an idea and determine whether or not to green light or deep-six it?
1) Metrics: Compare ROIs if at all possible. A simple cost-benefit analysis; which of your ideas will have the most immediate impact on your site.
2) Common Sense: Is it something you can do easily with the resources available or will it require significant investment of outside resources?
Nice post Buckworks.
In my experience this is simply the difference between an inventor and an entrepreneur.
3) Opportunity cost: What other possibilities would I have to set aside in order to develop Idea X?
Well you hit that one right on the head, I have half a dozen sites that are live but unfinished and a dozen more domain names and ideas that are pulling me in all sorts of direction.
I think one way to make a proper go at some project would be to postpone their launch to the latest time possible (ie. don't launch them half finished as I tend to do). That way, only a few hours are necessary for them to 'roll' rather than as much time as you've already put in.
Unfortunately, for me, the project that bring the money is a boring one and the 'fun' ones are the ones I start every couple of month and never finish.
Does anybody want to buy some unfinished sites? :)
Classic post. Confronting, actually ;)
I think it's particularly true for those of us in the web field as it's so "easy" to start a project. In a lot of cases, you don't need to hire premises, you don't need staff and you don't need initial capital.
This is a blessing and a curse as quite often the harder something is to achieve, the better it's planned, thought through and executed as there is much more on the line if it fails.
Idea + > Research + > Hard work + > Persistence + > Some Funds + > (In some cases) Luck = Success
Any of the above missing = Scrap the project
Idea 2 + > ...
I always have more ideas than time to work on them, I stick them in folders and discard perhaps more than half after a few months. I think this is just a state of being for most creative people.
A degree of waste is necessary, because coming up with the right idea is often a process of elimination. It's like writing down 30 or so ideas for a domain and then crossing out 29 of them to arrive at the one you really like (and how often is that the first one you thought of?).
It's not a bad thing unless it's coupled with a lack of action. If you try to measure your achievements against your dreams you will always fall short. The key is to get a balance between perspiration (99%) and inspiration.
I've got a million ideas, and a tendency to dip a bit into all of them. The difficulty I find is sorting out the 'good' ideas from the time/money wasters.
I spent roughly 6 figures on a webproject a few years ago. When I refocussed and laid out my various plans/alternatives to my business mentor, he called it a 'nice hobby project'. Geeesh! So there it sits, not earning a dime :).
buckworks, I agree with you completely, and trillianjedi you nailed it. I totally identify with the "inventor type" - I have at any given time a dozen half-finished hobby projects, any of which could be churned into a viable product. I guess the reason is that when a new idea inspires me, I start working on it immediately, sketching in a rough underpainting (the canvas is my Apache localhost, the pigments are the 5 primary colours HTML,CSS,PHP,SQL,JS). Sometimes I get a working prototype done, sometimes not. But starting the project is important - if I don't do that initial rough sketch, the idea might be lost, and to my personality the loss of a good idea is greater than the loss of opportunity by leaving it unfinished.
Seriously, I have unfinished website projects dating back to 1996. One of the earliest is a music theory textbook, 200 interactive pages, collecting dust on my hard drive.
|There are also cases where someone has A LOT of good ideas and simply doesn't have time to put all of them into play. Not a bad place to be either as long as some of the better ones make it to the production phase. |
I do have several that I've taken to completion, or at least to the point where they're running live on the www. I am very proud of those. But what if I were to take all the time I devote to sketching dozens of in vitro concepts, and spend that time focused on one project?
Every once in a while, I do "dump" piles of dead projects. It's like spring cleaning. It often means also dumping domains that I earmarked for those projects. Only once have I regretted it - an early "wiki" project for which I had a killer .com, that I wish I had back again.
Excelent post. Many of us like to create & develop but get bored managing the created project. This 2008, the "crisis" thing made me realize many things: I focus on the projects I like and enjoy, but those are not precisely the productive ones (a hobby is not always a project, even that we talk about building things around the things we love). I just rearranged the list of my priorities after thinking about the "crisis thing".
Honestly, more than coming to this forum to deal with technical issues, I get more inspired about reading on the hard work others do, and I stop complaining and get back to work :) Good luck to all of you.
Good post. Another thing that I encourage everyone to consider the people you surround yourself with.
A person I respect greatly(and have deference for his having sold multiple businesses for over 100m) told me something that changed my perspective greatly when it comes to projects you choose to run with.
Choose who you want to work with, then choose what.
Great people can get rich with an average idea, mediocre people will likely struggle with even a great idea.
By that, I mean, it takes more than a coder or a graphic designer or a smooth talker to build successful projects over the longrun. I think the problem buckworks mentions grows exponentially when people start taking the attitude of "I can do it all myself, I want to retain 100% ownership." What's better, 100% of 100k or 5% of 100m?
Just food for thought. Merry Christmas all.
"For every successful entrepreneur there are five homeless people"
|I've been getting a strong sense that lack of focus is the biggest thing holding a lot of people back from major achievement. |
Sometimes it's a lack of focus, but often it's simply a lack of self-discipline and persistence. The number of people who begin writing a novel, nonfiction book, or screenplay is huge, but most of their projects get abandoned after the first 10 or 20 or 30 pages.
Still, that doesn't mean people who have trouble with focus, self-discipline, or persistence are doomed to fail. It simply means they may be doing the wrong type of work. The person who lacks the focus, discipline, or persistence to build a Web site might be a great blog contributor, for example. (I know one self-described "ADHD" type who writes professionally for several blogs in different fields; the job is perfect for him, because he writes in 250-word chunks and can flit from tech topics to travel topics within a single day.)
buckworks, excellent post
|3) Opportunity cost: What other possibilities would I have to set aside in order to develop Idea X? |
This always gets ya, doesn't it? This is where men are separated from the boys (and that includes you ladies too).
I have a project that is dragging along for 7 years now. We already top-3 in the niche...in a large, non-commercial niche. We are barely making some money, not something I can live on, but enough to drag it along into "maybe hopefully some day it will be the largest in the niche and make a killing". Not too likely. Had the same project been developed in a commercial niche, with this traffic I'd be driving Porsche and owning a yacht. wheel, If I had a mentor, he'd say "nice hobby project" too. Hey, but I've learned a lot of interesting stuff while doing it, and it helped me to get rid of 9-5 job drag.
So yes, do it.
I know working on my old, established sites makes the most money for me, but it is kind of boring to keep writing about the same topics after ten years.
I'm an idea generator and can personally relate to this post, being one who has to practice restraint. Most of my effort goes toward things other people want and not my own ideas -- the stuff I get paid to do, even if it's not so much fun at times...after all, fun isn't the point of a paying job is it. Having kids, payments to make every month, and promises to keep, I can't afford to mess around with too much entrepreneurial spirit.
However, I do try to make my ideas happen somehow. In one case, over the years I've stuck to developing a particular side project, for a number of personal reasons, partly interest in learning a subject and for its recreational value, and to apply new Web techniques that I can use in my paid job. I don't make money from this personal site, but I did target and fill an empty information space with link glue that I suspect contributed to the benefit of others, based on an independent federal study that indicates a $500 million/year increase in regional spending in the niche that this site would be expected to influence, and based on other economic metrics that indicate its region is healthier than comparable areas despite the economic downturn.
For projects that relate to work, I regularly propose funding and work program ideas -- sometimes suggestions fall flat, maybe I come across as foolish, sometimes it attracts funding and gets on the schedule, and we can do something new. We've done this sort of thing many times and funding is the key to it, as well as standing back letting other people run with ideas.
I also try to pass along ideas to companies that can act on them and benefit everyone-- software companies mainly. Though I don't claim (and would be presumptuous if not megalomaniacal to claim) to have been the originator of ideas underlying others' work, I do know I passed along ideas and then, later, the company I offered the idea to accomplished what fit it. For example, a long time ago I offered an idea to Adobe tech support to build a graphic file translator that uses Adobe postscript language to convert graphics from competing graphics software (any software that can print to a postscript printer anyway) to import into their Illustration software-- before they came out with PDF. Another one to Google, on this board, to suggest they work on a geographic search engine that uses proximity as a ranking factor, a year or so before they bought keyhole. Also one idea to Microsoft (actually to our internal programmers to ask Microsoft) to incorporate low-level logic into its SQL server to handle geographic queries fast and simply.
I've had several system ideas percolating for years now that I think are timely, one I contacted a particular software developer who might apply it (and who politely declined to even hear it because his people are already too busy). Another I offered as part of a public process. I submitted two recently to Google’s 10-to-the-100 competition, and if the ideas make the grade may be available for voting at the end of January for $2 mm funding.
The point being that ideas are meant to be shared, and worked on, assuming they're sensible. So, anyone interested to vote on an idea to develop a new transportation system?
I also enjoy writing ideas on a paper (and keep them out the picture), as a way of focusing on what is at hand. Having too many projects (ideas) running at the same time is not much different than having none.
My monitor is framed with sticky notes full of bright ideas for my own site but I'm too busy working on client sites to act on them. My site is even listed on websites that suck because it's so outdated. However that doesn't stop people from reading my articles and hiring me to work on their sites. Quality isn't always measured in what you can see.
|It's very easy for a creative mind to be seduced by new ideas and drawn into new projects. |
That's me 100% a few years ago, I can't agree more. In my case I love to code, it takes me a lot longer to get a project completed because I pour over every line looking for ways to improve a project and as we all know improvements, and new ideas, never end.
I just wanted to point out that I think this is a right of passage for webmasters. The majority of webmasters storm out of the gates and fade away quickly due primarily to boredom, disillusionment or frustration. I think most webmasters who succeed long term started out this way too.
Stay the course, now there is some good advice. Many websites gather dust because they didn't generate the income a webmaster anticipated when he/she launched the site... I wonder how many sites sit inactive out there that with very little effort could become a huge success.
Ironic, isn't it?
|too busy working on client sites |
Ideas for me always seem to take the backseat whenever the client sites are involved.
Sure, I've started projects, get them 1/2 or more completed, only to shuffle them off onto another disk to wait until I don't know when. It's not for any great lack of motivation or money however. The business we're in seems to prevent any sort of real time to blow the dust off and continue. Still, I'll hang on to them in the event that I take a longer than normal vacation.
In the past 10 years, I've only fully completed two out of roughly 5 and put them on. They do fine as far as holding their own on the monitary end.
I find that putting a project together is much more fun than having to maintain the project once it's completed.
Creativity is a process, so as one who was a front-end Windows programmer for many years and now designs websites, I never think that any project is in vain--whether I choose to implement it or not.
With the interactive tools available to programmers and end users for the Internet finally catching up and in some cases surpassing those offered by Windows and other highly interactive development platforms, many projects become obsolete almost before completion.
The question for me is often whether to work on creating unified systems/sites or to find open-ended ways to link together various technologies or modules.
In any event, no project development seems to be a waste--unless you have a problem completing any of them!
And the bottom line is income for me, as I would rather be traveling the globe than sitting in front of a computer, so if an "older" interface is generating income, why seek to create a state-of-the-art website with full social-networking functionality, etc... but offering little income generation? Many sites offer laudable cutting-edge aesthetics, but they often generate no income.
|putting a project together is much more fun than having to maintain the project once it's completed |
I recognize that one! Putting a project together, means conceptualizing a bunch of ideas and melding them together - immediate reward there. Even if only a prototype, the pilot/prototype shows that "it" can be done. From that point on, it's mostly execution and fine tuning to reach completion. Unfortunately, I'm a lot better at the first part than the second...
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