Ideas are the foundation of the capitalist society. Actually ideas are the foundation of all society. Someone had an idea to take the teachings of various leaders and the world now has religion. One guy sat down and had an idea about placing dough in the oven with cheese and we now have pizza. Some guy looked at a woman and figured out that the thing between his legs could fit inside the thing between her legs, and pow, children. Seriously though, ideas are born and they give rise to great companies and even better philosophies. What is great about ideas is that anyone can get an idea. The poor, rich, middle class, old people, young people, teens and babies, doctors and homeless guys with golden voices all have ideas. Although everyone awakens at night with an epiphany, this does not mean that we are all capable of actually bringing these ideas to fruition. Very often we will think and think about an idea we have, and we will even go as far as talking with other people about these thoughts. We toss ideas around at bars, during the game, at the mall, in schools and at business meetings. These ideas become the root of discussion for some and the basis for argument for others, but very often ideas, like dreams simply fade away. Why is it that ideas are not taken seriously? What happens from the moment a person writes down a few notes to when they take that sheet of paper, ball it up, and toss it in the trash can? Why do most ideas just go away?
In the 70s and 80s a group of guys sat in a garage and played around with circuit boards and computer languages and chime… Apple computers was born. In the late 60s some guy that was a mediocre distance runner took a trip to China and now Nike is a billion dollar company. I talk to people everyday, and everyday I hear at least one story about a great idea a person has. Everyday, I tell people that the idea sounds good and that they should go for it. I’m what you call a dream builder. I am not the person you speak to about a great idea. Most people tell others about their ideas because they want to be stopped from actually pursuing the idea. Reread that sentence. Most people want to be stopped, they don’t really want to hear you say, “Wow, that sounds great. You should go for it.” What most people want to hear, although they will never tell you, is “I don’t know about that. That will take a lot of money and time,” or “You already have a good job, why do something that risky.” People don’t really look for motivation, they look for reservations.
Most ideas never happen for several reasons:
1. Most people are simply afraid of actually stepping out of their comfort zone. If I’m already getting a salary then there really isn’t a reason to disturb the status quo. I may not be happy with my job, but I have a Lexus and the bills are paid, an idea is for people who don’t have responsibilities.
2. Most people think they don’t have enough money to follow through on an idea. If money is the obstacle, a person will never have enough, but this excuse is simply a crutch made of fear. There is always a way to get started on an idea. If a person is willing to sit down and actually write about the possibilities they can start with 20 dollars and generate enough to do something.
3. People surround themselves with reservations. The typical idea of reservations is what you get before going to dinner. A reservation is actually defined as: a keeping back or withholding. If I’m a person with an idea and I really don’t want to do anything about it, I keep people around who will stop me from pursing my goals. By keeping these people around, I have an excuse for not trying and failing.
4. People lack the work ethic to make an idea a reality. Okay I have to wake up, and go to a place that I don’t want to be in, to do something that may not work. It’s easier for me to stay at home and fake like I’m busy than it is for me to do an OutKast- Get up, get out and do something. A lot of people love to think that they are too busy, but seriously how many people are really that busy? Not many.
5. Most people build a team before even getting an idea off the ground. See what happens often is that people will put together a group before they even start working on an idea. This is an easy out. If the group can’t get organized then the idea fails. There are built in excuses for failure. This is also in line with assigning jobs and then complaining when someone fails to pull their weight. This allows for the blame to be laid and also generates the negative feelings needed to prevent the creation for any other ideas.
The reason that really is at fault in why most ideas never happen is that people are not selfless anymore. In today’s culture there is a me first attitude. I have a student who owns a pressure washing company. He also works at Wendy’s. This is a relatively young man who has the drive to be an entrepreneur. We talked during part of today’s class about why his business isn’t really taking off or what he thinks the problem is with his business. Now granted, I am not the most successful business person, but I have been able to accomplish a lot with a little. We came to this conclusion while talking in class:
1. People don’t really have their own ideas.
2. People don’t really want to see you succeed.
3. Because people don’t want to see you succeed, they will try to make you fail.
4. People will not support you because they are jealous of what you are doing.
5. People want to do something themselves, so instead of supporting you they will berate what you are doing.
6. No one really wants to be the worker, they want to be the boss.
7. Most people have a why should I work for you attitude.
8. Most people have an I’m just as smart as you so I might as well start a business too attitude.
9. People don’t want to give their time to your idea, they just want to be there if your idea works. So they won’t work they will just hang around draining your energy.
10. People are not willing to work for nothing for an extended amount of time.
This second list is all based on the fact that people are not selfless. I have studied Nike as a business for a long time and in Nike there is the greatest creation story in all of business. In Apple there is a similar creation story. In Microsoft there is a creation story. In any multi-million/billion dollar company there is a theme of selflessness that runs through the story. To be selfless is to: have no concern for self. What does this mean? My student said today that he bought his power washer and showed his friend the equipment. His goal was to get his friend to offer to help. He explained that he never directly asked his boy to assist him; he just assumed his boy would be excited and offer his help. Instead his boy went to Home Depot and purchased his own equipment. His friend, what else do I call him, decided that if his boy was going to make money then he would make some too. I’m sure everyone who owns a home is bombarded every spring with cards and flyers for lawn services. At any point during the day in the spring, if you stand outside in your yard someone will pull up ask if you need your yard cut. This is what is interesting about this. When I moved to Memphis, to have my lawn cut it cost around 80 bucks. Now I really didn’t need to have anyone cut the yard, but I am all about supporting entrepreneurs. Six years later, I can have my yard cut for 40 dollars.
In an economy where everything is going up in price, lawn services are getting cheaper. Now for the consumer this is a good thing, but in reality the increase in competition diminishes the return on investment. Eventually just as many people that you see starting businesses, you see just as many closing their business. My student stated today, that he doesn’t get as many jobs as he did last year. He also stated that he is considering changing what he does as a business. I explained that he was a victim of friendship that was not selfless. A company that is just starting needs people who are willing to sacrifice for a few years. The problem is today people don’t have the patience or desire to work for free. People have to see results immediately or they give up. If they don’t get a kickback, a hook up, some dough, they will quit or they will think that the person who started the company is making dough and not sharing. Instead of riding out the difficulties in launching a business people will try to launch their own business. When people do this, they are contributing to the saturation of a market, which lowers prices but does not advance business.
I have a friend named Jamien Sills. He is one of the most talented designers in America. He owns http://www.neimaj.com/
. We talk often and discuss different ideas. About three weeks ago, I told him I was considering throwing in the towel and folding ARCH, because I thought it was counterproductive to have two new sneaker companies based in Memphis. I told him I would be willing to bring all of my ideas into Neimaj. I figured that I am a pretty smart and talented guy who can get a lot of things accomplished, but I could possibly contribute a lot to his company. Now Jamien could have seen this as an opportunity to take out a potential, future opponent. Instead Jamien told me this, ” Man I really like what you are doing. I don’t think we are in competition, I think we can grow at our speeds and help each other when needed, but I don’t think you should shut it down.” Jamien is a person who is selfless. I help him with his website, he helps me generate ideas. We are in the same business, we are both new, but we both realize that people who help each other without thinking of themselves are the best type of people to work with. I often give information and advice and I have seen people thrive because of this advice. I’m paid sometimes, sometimes I don’t get anything in return, but it is not my job to hold out information or wish for the failure of another person. I have another friend named Anthony who goes out of his way to give me information and ideas and he never asks for anything in return. That is selflessness.
When Nike started out Phil Knight was clueless. He asked for help and people helped him without asking for compensation or asking if he knew what he was doing. I guess that’s called blind faith. I don’t think Phil Knight could have started Nike in today’s environment, or maybe he could. Maybe there is hope for those great ideas to happen. Maybe just maybe, people will become selfless enough to say, “I’ll do this one for free. I’ll ship that box for you. I’ll help you pass out those flyers. I’m okay with not getting anything for a year or more.” Maybe people are selfless, if I do this and Jamien does this, and Anthony does this, then maybe I’m wrong. Maybe your great idea simply needs the right friends to happen. Although in some instances you will have to do it on your own, but don’t let an idea die because of fear. Find your dream builder, if you don’t have one call me.
More supportive ideas like this blog post can be found in the book
One Hour To Wealth: Your Great Idea is Valuable…Get Up and Write It Down!
*This post was written in 2011. Since then I no longer teach, I’ve had several successful launches of footwear with ARCH, I’ve run a successful Kickstarter, created a very successful online business, made a lot of money and lost a lot of money and I’m slowly recovering from the financial loss by following my own advice from the 1HTW book. I also published the book by Anthony G that you can find here.