Coming up with new ideas can be a very frustrating process for someone like me. It’s not because I have difficulty coming up with new ideas, but I often have a hard time growing them into projects and sticking with them when my passion for them is deflated. Have you ever looked at a successful entrepreneur or innovator(whether that be in business or NPO sector) and thought to yourself, I wish I had a great idea like that! Then you realize, I have had great ideas, I just ran out of the passion or energy to see them through.
People have told me in the past that the mark of a great entrepreneur is the ability to come up with great ideas, to leverage a network of contacts effectively, or to be able to recognize when an idea is worth pursuing and when it is not. I think each of those characteristics are important and can help you win a lot of battles that many entrepreneurs face, but I believe that it ultimately boils down to how in love someone is with an idea. If they really love what they are getting themselves into, they will keep investing their time and energy into it. Otherwise, the idea will wither away.
Most people who really know me understand how passionate about skateboarding I am. I have been doing it for over 10 years now, teach lessons, have competed in contests, filmed full length skateboard videos, and have shot photos with professional skateboarders. You could say that I live and breathe skateboarding. When I was a freshman in college, I was inspired to create a non-profit organization called Humanity Rising which was aimed at supplying skateboards to kids interested in skateboarding who couldn’t necessarily afford it and needed a positive outlet. I invested quite a bit of time and money to get it going. When people found out about what I was doing, they fell in love with the idea. I even was interviewed about it in a magazine!
In spite of this, it all fell apart. When I’ve been asked about why I stopped Humanity Rising, I’ve usually given reasons that don’t get to the root cause of its demise. Excuses like “I ran out of money” or “filing a 501/503 form was too overwhelming to me” were common. When push comes to shove, however, I gave up on my idea because I didn’t have the heart to keep it going. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I loved skateboarding so much more than I loved running a skateboarding organization.
As I’ve reflected on that failure, I’ve come to recognize several things that I wish I had known I needed to make entrepreneurship successful. In order to make this post worth your time. I’ve consolidated my reflections into a set of important factors I believe are necessary for success in entrepreneurship.
- Goals and benchmarks – I think it is critical to define where the goal line is so that you can think endgame. Without well defined objectives, you will find yourself throwing things up on a wall hoping that something sticks. Goals help you move logically towards something that will bring you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Take some time to define your goals when you first come up with an idea.
- A network of support – I wish that I had allowed others to step in and help me rather than trying to do and control everything on my own. If an idea is truly great and worth your time and energy, chances are someone else will feel the same way. Identify that person quickly and figure out how they can help you in a way you are comfortable with.
- Track yourself – Make note of how much time and money you have invested into your idea. When you can see what your investment looks like on paper, you become more aware of the progress you’ve made and have more motivation to keep going.
- Limit break time – One of the worst enemies of entrepreneurship is a long break. Short breaks are good for rest, but long breaks can cause passion to slip away and a project to become irrelevant. Keep at it!