Ideas are Worthless

When someone asks me to comment on an idea, I *used* to usually tell them that it sucks.  I now realize it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else thinks about the idea. Nor does it matter if it turns out that the idea isn’t as original as one thinks (if you’ve thought of it, good chance many others have thought of it before you), and that every execution of that idea has resulted in failure. Ideas are worthless. It’s the force of character behind an idea that matters. An idea’s value isn’t dependent on market demand, it’s dependent on one’s ability to create and control demand.

Most people think that successful businesses are made because they were built on great ideas.  Wrong, it’s the other way around.  The most successful businesses are made because someone *made* an idea great.  Consider Starbucks.  Most analysts thought Howard Schultz idea of elevating average American taste in coffee and having them pay five bucks for it every day was a terrible idea, a yuppie fad that wouldn’t last, a habit that would never be picked up by the masses.  They were wrong because they didn’t understand that the idea is irrelevant, that trends and consumer habits are mostly controlled by a select few who have the force of character to do so.  It’s stupid to invest in something just because you like the idea — I’ve done that before and it rarely turns out well. Invest in character, not in ideas. Invest in YOUR character, not in get-rich-quick schemes.

When you tell someone their idea sucks, do you mean to say that you don’t think enough people will like whatever it is that person wants to sell to them?  Or are you saying that this person doesn’t have what it takes to execute the idea? If it’s the former, then you’re limiting yourself, you don’t live in a world of endless possibilities, you don’t understand yourself or other people, you probably waste a lot of time brainstorming with people as clueless as you, you’re a slave to other people. If it’s the latter, then you either understand that ideas are worthless and it’s the character behind them that matters or you’re projecting your shortcomings. If you think most ideas are great (esp. from those you like), then you’re fucking wasted, you’re too nice and have nothing to contribute.  Go back to bed.

Bottled fart, ram penis hotdogs, midget porn, fresh raw juice at people’s doorsteps every morning, let’s keep it all in play.  Anything is possible, there are no bad ideas, stop worrying about market demand. The moment you become obsessed with market demand is when you become a slave to other people.  Better to recognize that we’re all deeply flawed characters. Instead of asking people if you have a good idea or not, ask *the right people* if you have the character to execute the idea.  Ask yourself if you have what it takes — habits, mindset, attitude — to get the job done. Figure out what it takes to get the job done. No, not the technical expertise, I’m talking about the force of character who can manage the unexpected and execute an idea.

Someone recently asked me about a business idea — providing customers with fresh juice at their doorsteps every morning.  I resisted the urge to tell her that it’s a bad idea.  (It *feels* like a bad idea to me only because I don’t think I have the force of character to make such a business successful, but this isn’t about me, it’s about her).  I instead tried to get to know her, her work habits, where she’s from, what she’s experienced.  She, on the other hand, wanted me to share my technical expertise and didn’t understand why I asked so many questions about her character.  It didn’t take long to figure out that she doesn’t have the force of character to execute the idea. She really believed she could run this business, teach yoga, and attend grad school at the same time.  She’s had a history of being a dilettante. She seemed incredulous that it would require 100 hours a week of her time, that she’s getting herself into some serious shit the moment she signs a lease and has overhead bills to pay.

I bet her friends have told her that she has a great idea, that they’d love to have fresh juice delivered to their doorsteps every morning.  I’m confident that none of them asked her about her character.  The lack of introspection is why it was so easy for her to become passionate about the result — fresh juice to everyone — but not the process — the force of character — it takes to achieve result.  That’s why I prayed to God that evening to have mercy on her, to give her clarity of thought when it’s time to sign the lease.

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