I have ideas coming out of my ears.
They arise in meetings and casual conversations. They crawl around in my head when I am on the verge of sleep, when I am actually asleep, when I am emerging from sleep. They whisper to me, they call to me, they shout at me.
Some of these ideas are awesome. Some are OK. Most are shit. But it doesn’t matter; they are all welcome. I invite them to play with each other. I set up dates with other idea mothers and encourage them to mate.
Still, like tadpoles (Fun Fact! Did you know 99.97% of toads die as spawn or tadpoles?), most of these ideas will never make it to maturity. And there has to be some process, some Theory of Entrepreneurial Evolution, by which the good ideas progress and the bad ones are put to a merciful early death.
In recent years, the tech world has embraced the idea of Lean Startup, putting the Minimum Viable Product (which is generally way more minimum than you can imagine) into the hands of customers as quickly as possible, getting real-world feedback to inform an iterative development process.
But before that. Before the Minimum Viable Product. Before the paper prototype or the draft logo design. How do you know which ones to invest your time in? How do you know which ones, of the millions of possibilities, to nurture?
My philosophy is to help ideas that help themselves. Some ideas come into this world carrying more energy with them than others, or responding to an existing energy. People resonate with them. They draw support from everyone who comes in contact with them. You get replies to your emails and phone calls. They feel easier to progress
Pursuing ideas that feel easy isn’t cheating. The hard truth is that no idea is easy. To turn a thought into something real, you have to enter into a long-term relationship, and like any long-term relationship, it takes effort, persistence, follow-through, and hard work. An idea that feels easy will be hard. An idea that feels hard will be nearly impossible.
And now you’re thinking of all those people who pursued the impossible, of Thomas Edison and Wilbur Wilberforce and Nelson Mandela, of people who failed and got rejected over and over, of visionaries who fought the tide and played the long game to make the world a better place. And if this is your calling, it may not feel easy. But you will feel incapable of doing anything else.
So many Web companies are trying so hard to convince us. But the most successful ones responded to an existing energy we already had. Google delivered something we wanted. Facebook scratched a voyeuristic itch. Pinterest spoke to our deepest aesthetic sensibilities.
Next time you have an idea, ask yourself if you feel so excited about it that you will find it easy to work on. Ask yourself if people find it compelling enough to contribute to moving it forward. Ask yourself if you are responding to an existing dynamic or trying to swim against the tide. And recognize that the best way to change the world is to leverage its own energy.