Thomas Edison long ago said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration. I believe the same is true about success be it artistic, literary, career or business. Without exception success is a mixture between inspiration and perspiration, creativity and planning, exaltation and hard work.
We all have ideas; if anything we all have too many ideas. It seems to me that the difference between ‘normal’ people and highly successful people, financially and otherwise, is that the former are satisfied simply with having ideas; ‘extraordinary’ people go several steps further to make ideas and success.
Ten steps further, to be precise!
- The idea. This is the initial moment of inspiration. This could be an idea for a new business, new book, new course, new journey, new challenge or a new life direction. Ideas are ‘flashes’ that strike you when least expected. Controlling or predicting ideas – both as timing and content – is next to impossible although there are techniques that enable creativity and ideas generation. Ideas are self contained and fleeting, a bit like photographs.
- The dream. Transforming an idea into a dream is like making the photograph into a movie. This is done by linking the idea to other ideas, situations, feelings, desires, fears etc. By doing this we literally make our ideas come to alive. By enriching our idea to become a dream we also develop a level of awareness and the desire so needed in the pursuit of this dream. Dream your idea and record your dream.
- The plan. This is when the dream you have shaped and recorded ought to become a plan. At this stage the task is to identify the actions necessary to make the dream a reality and the timing – overall and for each action. What do you need to do and by when? In what sequence? What resources do you need? What support do you need?
- The strategy. Often people confuse the plan and the strategy. The way I see it the main difference is that the plan is something you do: you develop it, you implement it and you follow up on it. Strategy is more about what everyone else is doing and how do your plans fit with it. Strategy without a plan is pointless; plan without a strategy is unrealistic.
- The action(s). Nothing much to say here except that once the plan and strategy are in place all that is left is to ‘just do it’. Simple as it sounds, for most people taking action (or doing) is an insurmountable hurdle. In fact, most people fail because they never act.
- The product. Here ‘product’ is used in a very broad sense – this can be an information product, an intellectual and/or artistic achievement, a service or entertainment. This product has to be specified and how it contributes value specified. It is also important to set out a clear idea of the product’s selling points.
- The process. What are the processes through which the product is delivered? Are these optimal? Is there anything that can be done so that the processes become optimal?
- Marketing. It doesn’t matter whether you have a wonderful product if no one learns about it. Who is the product for? How are these people going to hear about it? What will make them desire it? Are you targeting a market or are you creating a market?
- Sell. Selling your product is absolutely critical to success irrespective of the area in which you work. Artists sell their pictures; writers sell their books; academics sell their ideas and manufacturers sell their goods. Selling your product completes the cycle from an idea to its realisation.
- Feedback loops. This is the step where reflexivity kicks in. You will need to make choices at each of the other steps. It is important to ensure that along the way from an idea to its realisation there are inbuilt feedback loops making it possible to separate duds from promise.
These steps are not sequential; in other words you may find that it is necessary to go back to particular step or to account for several of these in parallel.
Lastly, I would like to remind you that statistically eight out of ten ideas are not going to work. The important points are:
1) to try and test many ideas;
2) to be able to distinguish between the ideas that work and the ones that don’t work; and
3) to focus on the ideas that work rather than on the ones that don’t work.
Ideas are precious; success is an unforgettable journey of ten steps.