Like most entrepreneurs, I am constantly thinking of new business ideas. Sometimes they are ideas to grow my current business, other times they are ideas to start an entirely new business. The ideas come at all times of the day, no matter what I’m doing at the moment. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night with a “great” idea I’m ready to implement the next day.
Unfortunately, out of all these thousands of ideas that cross my mind, maybe one percent of them are successfully turned into some kind of action. Some of the ideas are obvious duds right from the start, others fail in the early stages of implementing them and most of them are forgotten before I ever even get a chance to take action on them.
The “Wow” vs. The “How”
In John Acuff’s excellent book, Start (as recommended in Dane Bauerle’s episode of Success Profiles) he talks about how most marriages have a “wow” spouse and a “how” spouse. The wow spouse comes up with idea after idea, while the how spouse shoots most of them down by asking practical questions about the idea. Here is how Acuff describes it:
In most relationships there is a “how person” and a “wow person.” When the wow person tells the how person ‘I’ve got a crazy idea, we should start a business and then learn how to paint and then go camping, etc, etc, etc, the how person will ask questions like ‘where will we get the money for that, what about your job, when would we have the time?
This theory works great in marriages where you have a “how” person to balance a “wow” person, but what happens in the small, one man shop businesses where there is no “how” to compliment your “wow”? Here are three tips to balancing your wow with some how:
1. Find an Accountability Partner
You don’t have to have a business partner, employees or even a spouse to bring some “how” into your ideas. All you need to do is find an accountability partner. This can be as simple as a friend who you value the opinion of and email your ideas to once a day or once a week or whatever works for you.
The idea is to bounce your ideas off another person so you can get an outside opinion on the challenges, obstacles and opportunities involved in it. You will take advantage of more good ideas and not waste time on as many bad ideas if you have an accountability partner you are sharing them with.
2. Play Devils Advocate with Yourself
If you can’t find an accountability partner you can trust, give the job to yourself (and also, find new friends!). Every time you have an idea, be your own devils advocate. List out reasons why it may not work and obstacles that could prevent it from being successful.
The idea isn’t to talk yourself out of any ideas, it’s to improve the odds of their success by recognizing the challenges ahead of time.
The shortest pencil will always beat the longest memory. – Proverb
How many times have you come up with a great idea, couldn’t wait to get started on it and by the next day you couldn’t even remember what it was? For me that happens all the time. The best way to solve that problem is to begin writing down every idea you have in some sort of journal.
Not only will keeping a journal prevent you from forgetting your ideas, it will also allow you to pick them apart with the “how” questions that will detail how exactly the idea will work and turn into action.
A journal will also give your kids and grandkids something really cool to look at someday. I’ve never been a big pencil and paper writer or note taker, but I began journaling this year and I can definitely see why so many success gurus are high on it.
Keep the “Wow”
None of this is to say you need to lose the wow and start thinking “realistically”. My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is coming up with a million ideas and seeing which ones I can make stick. The “wow” is the fun part and part of what separates us from a 9-5 employee.
But if we can balance the “wow” moments with just a little bit of “how”, our chances of actually acting on our ideas and turning them into successes will go up dramatically.