I have a lot of ideas, and that is an understatement. One of my more recent ideas was good enough that I decided to start sharing it with a few friends. Most of them got excited, and thought what I was talking about was great. While this was certainly a boost to my ego, I didn’t really take it as a sign that my idea was really any good or not, since after all these were my friends, and of course they are going to like my ideas!
I started to expand the people I talked to, and ended up talking with some people I had never met before. A few of these people were highly skeptical, and started listing all the reasons why this new idea of mine wouldn’t work. They said that I was trying to enter a very crowded market, that I didn’t have a serious plan for how to monetize the product, that I didn’t have an exit strategy in mind, that I was confused about which business model I was pursuing, and the list goes on.
I’m pretty sure they came away from our conversation thinking that I was quite foolish actually. It’s ironic, since these people naysaying my idea happened to work at Google, a company that back in the mid 90’s they could have leveled the exact same criticisms at. While I’m under no impression I’m onto the next Google, had Larry and Sergey become too bummed out after conversations like the one I just had with some of their now-underlings, there would be no Google today.
When I see a problem, I immediately think of potential out-of-the-box solutions, and imagine and game out what the world would look like if I tried to change it. All I see are infinite possibilities, and am generally excited and optimistic about the ability for problems to be solved - not just by me, but by people collectively.
I literally just thought up this particular idea a week ago, did some investigating, a little bit of coding, and back-of-the-envelope calculations. I have nothing invested, nothing to prove - just a problem that is unambiguously out there, and a few hunches of how it could be fixed. Having ideas is fun, talking about them is fun, building them out is fun, and for every one idea that doesn’t work out I have a ton more waiting to be tried. What I was doing in having these conversations was forcing myself to get as much feedback as possible as early as possible so that I could quickly weed out bad ideas and move on to good ones.
Their feedback, though negative, actually confirmed all of the questions and hesitations I had already had about the potential business and market. What I think they failed to realize was that I wasn’t asserting that I had some magical answer, and that I knew how to ‘win’. What I had done was identify a problem, and come up with a series of hypotheses that needed to be proven out. Their negative feedback wasn’t really about me, since I wasn’t really presenting anything to them. Their negative feedback was more about them, and a reflection of how they approach the world with more of a fixed mindset - only looking for the bad and expressing skepticism, instead of looking for the possible and being willing to explore the improbable.
When I was a first time entrepreneur 5 years ago, each one of these conversations that veered negatively would tie me up in knots and leave me emotionally devastated. But now, these kinds of criticisms don’t faze me at all. To me this is all just a giant learning opportunity with zero downsides. Just making a signup form and seeing if this idea gains any traction would be fun to code, and I could start learning about the market. Maybe no one signs up and it fails. Maybe people sign up and it fails later. Maybe it succeeds exactly like I have envisioned. Maybe it turns into something different that I would have never discovered had I not tried and failed the first way.
And that is exactly why I don’t let negative feedback get me down anymore. No one knows what the future holds, no matter how smart or experienced they are. The only way to actually change the world is to go out there and try. Who knows what I’ll discover, but no matter what I’ll have a good time along the way.
Afterall, to quote Apple's "Think Different" advertising campaign, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”