I’m currently reading Seth Godin’s new book, “What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn)” and there are some profound, reflective lessons in this book.
One of the lessons that hits home for me, and I’m sure you’ll be able to relate also, is the idea of failing and being at peace with your bad ideas.
Here’s a brief excerpt that I think you’ll find powerful (and then you should go purchase the book… you won’t regret it!):
“The rule is simple: the person who fails the most will win. If I fail more than you do, I will win. Because in order to keep failing, you’ve got to be good enough to keep playing. So, if you fail cataclysmically and never play again, you only fail once. But if you are always there shipping, putting your work into the world, creating and starting things, you will learn endless things. You will learn to see more accurately, you will learn the difference between a good idea and a bad idea and, most of all, you will keep producing.”
I spent the better part of the last ten years producing at what felt like warp speed. I produced e-books, programs, audio programs, websites, services and endless projects for our clients. I have been a high producer for a very long time. Throughout this time, some of my ideas were bad. Some were downright terrible. Others were good and the few that have stayed the course have been brilliant.
Bad Ideas and Failures
>> Test Tube Biz <<
A few years ago, I created a service called Test Tube Biz and provided people a business in a box. If you wanted to be a coach, we had a fully packaged business for you. If you wanted to be a virtual assistant, you could buy that business and run with it.
The problem with this idea, aside from the terrible name, is that it was assuming that the people buying it had the drive and interest level to actually make the business a success. Selling a “boxed” business was also difficult because everyone’s needs are different. We dissolved that idea and instead, moved people to custom solutions over at Next Dev Media.
>> Selling the “Thing” First, Creating It Second <<
I also used to subscribe to the idea of selling programs, products, etc. before you create them. The idea, at first look, is a smart one. Sell spots in the program or pre-sell your book to gauge interest. If there’s sales, create the program / product. If there isn’t, don’t.
While this idea is fantastic for someone with impeccable follow-through, I realized something about myself through the process. I created a program called the Business Accelerator Bootcamp and I was REALLY excited about it at first. I packaged it as a 10-week program. However, by week 3 my interest had begun to wane. I no longer had the same attention span for it and the program’s quality suffered because of it. Now, I finish things to completion (not perfection) and then ship it out and get a feel for it. It’s riskier, as people may not be interested in it, but it disappoints fewer people.
>> Lack of Leadership <<
Nearly three years ago now, I built a website called Ottawa Valley Moms. I was a new parent and wanted to share my experience online, blogging and as an influencer with my best girlfriends — most of whom were also parents. I finished the site, sent them an e-mail and invited them to be a part of it.
I had huge dreams for it and imagined us having our own local parenting show and being able to produce high quality content. It turns out, group dynamics aren’t always how you imagine them to be and in the end, the project broke apart a few of my friendships. The idea is still a solid one but I would have approached it differently. The challenge was giving everyone ownership whereas I now know that it’s better when one person leads and other people own various areas.
>> The Social Inbox <<
Last year we created a service called The Social Inbox. The idea was solid. We were going to provide people with “in-the-moment” social media support. If they were out and about and didn’t have time to share their updates, they could e-mail them to us and we’d post them on their behalf.
We had done this for a client during her live, in-person event and it was SO valuable so I thought we had a stellar idea on our hands. However, upon launching it and executing it with a client, we realized that it wasn’t as cut and dry with every client as it had been with our first client. In fact, it was really challenging on the integration and setup side to get them to a point where we could simply post on their behalf. We put a wait list up on the website and instead send people to Next Dev Media for more custom solutions.
What I’ve Learned Through Failure & Bad Ideas
Through all of these experiences, I never felt like a failure. The ideas turned out to be less than stellar and some of them downright failed but through it all, I simply let what didn’t work go, took the lesson and moved forward. I have learned a few key things though and I’d love to share those with you.
>> Speed of Implementation <<
I used to believe that the speed of implementation had to be “warp speed” or not at all. Now, I still pour myself into a project until it is complete but I’m also completely okay if it takes a little extra time. When I released Destiny: A Love Story recently, I had spent an entire week / weekend writing the book, preparing the graphics (that little heart? I painted it!) and since it didn’t feel right on the old container that was ErinBlaskie.com, I redid the website using my own photos and artwork.
Sometimes fast is necessary and sometimes slow is but either is okay. Trust that you’ll produce “the thing” in due time but don’t fall into the trap of perfectionism. Set a date, work toward it and launch it as is. You can always create iterations of your work down the road.
>> Don’t Hang Onto an Idea As Though It’s the Only One You’ll Have <<
How many times have you, or someone you know, hung on to an idea for dear life… even if the idea was a terrible one or it was a failure? I do think it’s smart to give things some time to progress and percolate but if it’s not working, it’s also a great idea to take a deep breath, pick up the lessons and let go of the thing that isn’t working. This is particularly true if you’re bleeding money from it, dipping into life savings to keep it alive or feeling uninspired by it. Let. It. Go.
Don’t be afraid that your idea will be the only idea you’ll have. Trust me, the more you fail and the more bad ideas you have means that you’ll get the contrast you need to be able to tell a good idea from a bad one. Through failure you’ll create solutions. Through your bad ideas, and the experience that follows, you’ll learn to trust yourself regardless of what happens. It sounds counter-intuitive but it works.
How have you navigated your bad ideas and failures? Have you become gun-shy or do you pick yourself up, brush yourself off and keep going? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.