A number of years ago, I had a friend and business associate tell me she was quitting her job to pursue a career in broadcasting. She was in her late 20s and she had a lot of good things going for her. She was attractive, smart and had a great reputation in the advertising industry, having scored a big win with a major piece of business. That said, she was ready for a change. It was hard not to get caught up in her enthusiasm even though many of us questioned the wisdom of her decision. She resigned without any training. Turns out she didn’t get very far and ended up back in the advertising business.
Even though this was 35 years ago, this incident stayed with me and helped me formulate one of guiding principles – that it’s important to get evidence to support a belief.
It’s been said that thoughts are like clouds, floating in and out of our brains. Experts estimate the average mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day! A thought pops into your head. Maybe it’s a solution to a problem, a new career or the next big idea for your business. It’s up to you to decide what’s relevant or not. How do you determine what’s worth pursuing and what to let go?
Here are four steps that can help you discern the way forward:
1. Sit with the thought. It’s really important to fight the tendency to move to action. Take walks. Meditate. Journal. Give yourself some quality time to consider the pluses and the minuses. Try to tamp down your enthusiasm. If this process of discernment reveals to you that your idea is a viable one and it continues to energize you, there might something for you to pursue.
2. Do your homework. It’s important to do the necessary research so you can make an informed decision. Read. Study other businesses and/or successful people. Talk to experts. You might find this information gathering leads you to a better idea.
3. Share the idea with others. I don’t know how people make decisions in life without a support group. This group is comprised of your “go to” people — people who have your back, whose counsel you treasure, who want what’s best for you. Share your idea with them. Be open to their feedback. Don’t resist their questions.
4. Start small. So much of my thinking in business is framed by my days in advertising. It is a best practice to pilot your idea on a smaller scale before you move to a full-scale implementation or a major career change. If you are an individual, test the waters through volunteering or getting an internship. And if you are an organization, design a study, which enables you to evaluate the feasibility of your idea. Conduct this step with the understanding that nothing is perfect. Perhaps you will learn the idea isn’t feasible. Or, you will learn it’s a good idea that needs further exploration.
There might be those of you reading this blog and think, “At least your friend tried to realize her dream.” And yes. She was courageous. Nevertheless, she could have benefited from a more stringent decision-making process. By leveraging these four steps, you can minimize costly set-backs and position yourself and/or your company for success through the pursuit of your well-seasoned big idea.