The Fastest Way to Ruin Your Next Big, Brilliant Idea

Love is a glorious thing. It’s also a huge potential problem, especially when it comes to your ideas. But before I get to why love can kill your ideas, let’s start with love itself.

To be newly smitten is a grand thing–at  least that’s the view from the “inside.” See if this sounds familiar: You know you’ve got something really special, so special in fact that you feel certain it’s unlike what anyone else has ever had. It isn’t just that what you’ve discovered is special now, it’s the inevitability of the promise it holds to reshape the future. Permanently, and incontestably for the better. Yet there’s a dark side to your feelings and perceptions too. Anyone who raises question as to the veracity of your unique circumstances–the euphoria, the prospects, the promised positive impact, and especially the permanence, quickly finds himself or herself in your enemy camp.

No offense to those newly in love, but from a seat somewhere outside the torrid romance, embracing infatuation can be a bit like handling mercury. From a safe distance you can appreciate mercury–at least in concept and more importantly, in context. In select cases that shiny elusive stuff has been observed, tested, and inevitably contained enough to be a key element in useful scientific equipment, like thermometers, barometers, and meteorological devices. In measured doses, its vapor is used to light streetlights, fluorescent lamps, and signs. But uncontained, its value can turn quickly toxic, especially to those who handle it directly and without any caution. The thing is, when you’re madly in love, be it with a person or an idea, none of this rings true to you. It’s only later that you see the imperfections, the warning signs, or even the opportunities that exist once you fall a bit out of love.

A Greater Love: Impact, And How to Have It

For nearly three decades I’ve worked closely with entrepreneurs, those storied fonts of brilliantly creative ideas. Across hundreds of entrepreneurs, I’ve never met a single one who wasn’t at one time or another in love with their unique concept. But as an advisor, investor, and especially as the entrepreneur, what’s more desirable than love is impact. Looking back across a veritable ocean of creators and their concepts, the key factors that continue to distinguish those whose ideas progressed from those whose ideas did not include these things:

  • They listen not just to but also for what others didn’t or couldn’t see. One of the greatest clues to both the flaws and the opportunities in your concept comes by consciously exploring what others don’t get about it and why.
  • Rather than ignore the shortcomings, they put them on the table. There’s nothing worse than an entrepreneur who believes his or her idea is perfect. Sharing the imperfections is both a sign that you see them and an invitation to others to help you solve them or even use them to your advantage.
  • They ask questions. Really it was far more than that–they took the mindset of inquiry that led to their big idea in the first place and kept it actively in play, not only for themselves, but with an open invitation to others to engage in a similar search for possibilities.

Why Your Odds of Success Go Up When You Fall Out Of Love

But the number one factor that separates the successes from the forgotten–both entrepreneur and idea–is a willingness to fall out of love with an idea. When you allow yourself to move through the euphoria stage, several things critical to raising the odds of success occur:

  • You open up to the other ideas you need to make your idea work. Every big idea we see at the end of the creative cycle is in fact an accumulation and amalgamation of countless other ideas that shape, augment, and even replace the early perfect one.
  • You share the love with others. What makes love for anyone or anything so special is sharing it. Sharing is far different from reporting or displaying. The best entrepreneurs know that the passion they have for creating is the most valuable thing they can share by inviting others to take part. It’s far more valuable than the idea or its outputs and raises the odds that those ideas and outputs become real.
  • You develop a habit of adaptability. Openness doesn’t mean never imposing any order or mining any value. But if openness is habitually part of how you operate, then you enable yourself to adapt to opportunities or threats as a matter of course, not in a panic. If there ever were a recipe for failure it would be trying to adapt or create in an emergency.

If you take away just one lesson, make it the mercury lesson: Just like mercury, a good idea can be a powerful component in a larger innovation, plan, or formula for success. But exposure in high levels can make you less able to think and learn.

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