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Vast Ideas .

... and Half-Vast Execution

9:10 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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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.

1:55 pm on Dec 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Buckworks - the thread starter makes a little sense and i'm guilty of spreading myself too thin on many an occasion.
7:30 pm on Dec 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Idea + > Research + > Hard work + > Persistence + > Some Funds + > (In some cases) Luck = Success
Any of the above missing = Scrap the project

Start again

You might wind up in a infinite loop this way. If you're not the persisting guy you might waste a couple of great ideas.

Maybe think about finding someone who complements your abilities. No, not another super-gifted hacker. Someone who never has an idea by himself put pulls through like a diesel ....

1:20 am on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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it's just as important to decide what we're NOT going to do as what we are.

This is really a key part for anybody who has lots of ideas (the other key part, as you say, is actually DOING the remaining ideas, that's much harder!).

When I finally managed to get away from hourly-paid computer consulting about 5 years ago I thought the most important part was to design the lifestyle first, and then design the business ideas to fit that. Not be forced into a lifestyle I'd hate. So I set myself three rules, which are essentially what NOT to do:

1. NO employees, ever. This immediately rules out many businesses (most retail, larger forum and community sites, anything that bases income on reselling time). But was essential for me, as I'm not a manager, and I know it.

2. Work where and when I want. No (tele)commuting with fixed deadlines, no visiting customer offices, no having to be present anywhere at a given time basically. Of course taken to an extreme this results in no income, but the key thing is it's MY choice when I work (if at all).

3. Business must fit in an airline carry-on bag. Part of the "work anywhere" really, but emphasises that no business idea can include a fixed location (like shipping and returns, unless outsourced), and cannot buy bulky capital equipment (one of the most dangerous temptations for a new business).

So that leaves me with businesses that can be done "off-line" (not on a schedule) from anywhere. Given my background, it's developing my own advertising-supported websites (with the focus on evergreen reference content, not current news), and trading in domain names.

If you set yourself (probably different) rules that fit your intended lifestyle, you can limit your ideas to the ones that fit, and toss the other 90% away.

For example, for some a local community website, plus making websites for local business, perhaps for people you've known all your life in a small local area, would be a great fit. That person would turn down jobs in the "big city" 80 miles away, and jobs on subjects that are outside their experience, and be happier for it.

Having said all this, I still have the remaining 10% of ideas left and still only get to 1% of those! For older websites, it's easy to justify "if it's not broken, don't fix it" but this does mean I have a (successfull, profitable) website that I've been going to update "next month" - since 1996!

1:25 am on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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One more thought on this subject, or an opinion... I think the problems we're in now are pretty serious-- wide, deep, and fundamental, from the economy to global warming and our ever-burgeoning global population that we irrationally assume will continue to grow despite the fact that it breaks new records every year. With such vast and serious problems, it seems their solutions must be proportionally big in scope. And perhaps disruptive to how things work now.

Another thought is that many of the people on this board, as I recall, fall into a Myers-Briggs INTP, INTJ, ENTP and ENTJ types that think about stuff and how to make things work better. It's in our nature, something that is valuable to others who really think short-term, or how things work now, or did in the past. Especially in times like these, vast is good.

4:49 am on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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This topic hit me hard... :(
I have a lot of half baked projects dragging around... and new ideas still coming!
5:50 am on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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This topic has told me that hobby and business are different. I generate lot of ideas and today I don’t have a business because they remained as my passion or hobby only. Need to upgrade my passions to a business.

Some points discussed here are important to me. I also believe that I should operate from any where, from a place where I can enjoy my stay and increase my efficiency but that has to be supported by ground staffs so employees are must. Some place where cheques are to be delivered, accounts to be kept and discussions can be held.

6:28 am on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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More than twenty years ago, in tenth grade, I came home with a report card that was all A's and one B+. That was a big improvement and I was quite proud of it. I showed it to my Dad and he hands it back saying only "what's with the B?"

I never got another B. I never showed him another report card. And no one ever asked. I became the most driven person I've known...but only for myself. Never again for anyone else. I never let something go undone since. It may be done in failure or a success, but it's done. Sometimes, I get inspired and work all evening and it's done in failure after the next morning and I finally eat something. Failures and incomplete things outnumber the success by a very wide margin. The difference I think is in those who NEVER STOP. I think we learn more in failure. The successful people keep going.

My biggest success pretty much failed for four years and I kept working on it every single day of the year. That's a long time in internet years. But now it's been successful for more than five years.

6:50 am on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Failure is always there, no one can say he has only success without failures but difference lies how we take failures. On a setback or failure we stop, we come out, we close… but some people learn and improve, sustain the business for long and keep going.

I was not able to sustain in previous one occasion but now I know the importance of staying in business for long. This is what I am going to apply in my next venture.

4:26 pm on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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@ buckworks:

Thanks for posting this. I see a lot of myself in what you wrote. Surprisingly, I have multiple pages/projects that are virtually ready to go, I just never completed the final step to put them online.

I've made a resolution that the incomplete items need to be finished and online during Q1 2009. And I've finished up a few of them just in the last few weeks.

Priorities change, and focus seems to move with it. Thanks for the reminder that incompleted projects don't contribute anything.

9:52 pm on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Hi, I'm 2oddSox and I'm a...well...you know....I'm an idea-aholic [looks down at shoes].

It took a lot to come here tonight, but I finally realised something had to be done. The final straw for me was when I was driving home the other night with my kids in the car and I was...er, having ideas at the time. I couldn't help it, they just came. And by the time I got home I couldn't remember having driven along the route at all because I was so caught up in my ideas. I then realised just how bad it had become. It's something I've never really admitted to anyone before, let alone myself, but I can hardly go a day without a new idea. I even have ideas first thing in the morning.

It's even affecting my family life. My wife found my secret stash of ideas not long ago - they were in a notebook wrapped in a brown paper bag hidden at the back of a drawer in my office. She wasn't amused. She doesn't know about the ideas hidden in my computer.

Quite often I wake up in the middle of the night and all I can think about is my ideas. Sometimes my heart races and I get excited at the thought of them. I even get out of bed on occasions and sneak into my office in the dead of night just to look through my list of ideas. I have a small hip-notebook that I carry around in my pocket where I have my best ideas with me at all time. I can take them out have have a sneak look at them from time to time when no-one is looking. I use eye drops so people don't know I've been looking at my ideas.

Of course I've tried talking about my ideas to my family and friends, but they don't understand. I mean, how could they? They just look at me like I'm a raving lunatic and I can see the sadness [boredom] in their eyes.

Until tonight I thought I was the only one. I thought I was all alone until a webmaster friend told me about Idea-aholics Anonymous. So I'm glad I've found you all.

Thank you for listening.

[sits nervously down]

10:09 pm on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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2oddSox, speaking of which: ideaholics net has not been registered ;)
8:01 am on Dec 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you're not the persisting

Persistence is there nerd. Scrapping a project comes after everything has been given 100%. Its a hard decision, painful, but sometimes required.

That is why its important to do feasibility study before jumping into a business. That said as far as online business is concerned, feasibility study is possible only after actually investing time and money in a business.

Here are some examples of people scrapping projects:

Aaron scrapped ThreadWatch.

Peter scrapped SearchEngineBlog (alas - Such a great domain but...)

There are many other examples. The fact is sometimes its wise to scrap a project, but first give 100% to it. I am sure 3 out of 5 projects will work.

4:48 pm on Dec 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

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i have placed myself in similar situations by trying to do something new and stopping everything that is working; like leaving a job to freelance; if you have been making money from a job for the last 2 to 5 years, that is what you know best. 11 out of 10 people are putting on their mad scientist hat and experimenting with strategy that is by no way close to being successful. so i say, keep your day job and work on your passion project on the side; use the force, luke - patience and perseverance are lethal success weapons. just ensure it's something you love or could tolerate for a few months to a few years until it makes enough money for you to quit doing what you don't like.

and definitely try to keep those passion projects to a minimum; if you need to get into more projects then you need more people with whom to administer them; otherwise you are spreading yourself thinner than a sheeted of clotted blood.

7:06 pm on Dec 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It is about making good decisions. Good decisions come from experience, experience comes from making bad decisions.
1:59 am on Dec 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I am an ideaholic as well, and I've come to the realization that my very first project, the one everyone told me would never work, the one even people around here told me to give up, is the one making ALL the money.

The problem I have is that I have so many interests, and my original main web site - the one bringing in the bucks - is so boring to work on, that I subconsciously (and often, consciously) ignore it.

It's so big, it's only 10% done. Guess what everyone else is saying here makes sense, but I find it difficult to just crank all day long at the same stuff.

Make a rule: don't get involved in a site or a field which will eventually bore the heck out of you. And if you do, make sure you have an escape plan... or a place like WebmasterWorld in which to vent.

Happy Holidays to all.

3:16 am on Dec 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Make a rule: don't get involved in a site or a field which will eventually bore the heck out of you.

I feel your pain brother! I am getting a little bored with my current business and some of the other side projects I was working on. I am finding my interests and some passions going a totally different direction. The problem is finding ways to generate interest in the work that still pays the bills.

1:30 am on Dec 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Great post. You could have posted it 5 years back ! Kind of a wake up call for me. I need to follow that exactly. Thanks a million.

Multipule half baked projects on the the go . At least I have FTPed some of them across to the web . Not that it is doing much good . LOL

Reminds me of a saying "Knowledge is not power, Applied Knowledge is power"

[edited by: Interent_Yogi at 1:49 am (utc) on Dec. 24, 2008]

1:02 pm on Dec 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

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"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."

Well, anyone who wants to follow this advice, please feel free to send me your unused project ideas.

Spreading yourself too thin is certainly a problem. Ignoring the great ideas that come at random moments .. not so much.

The key is to collect all your great ideas, organise them, categorize them, and see the appropriate patterns and how they connect to the big idea that you're working on anyone one time.

Freemind is a great tool for this.

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