This is the fourth in a series of blog posts which track the building of Escape the City from the original idea through to what we’ve built today.

This instalment covers August 2009 – when we realised that the best way to see if our idea really had legs was to commit to getting it out of our heads and into the real world.

If the beginning of the process of getting excited about our idea had seen us ‘Stop Dreaming’ and ‘Start Planning’… then the summer of 2009 saw us ‘Stop Planning’ and ‘Start Doing’.

We still maintain that the most important thing anyone can do with an idea is to take the scary step of introducing something tangible into the world.

It’s not necessarily about quitting your job and spending lots of money. It’s about committing enough to understand more about the potential of the idea you’re sitting on.

Great idea – who cares?

Without action an idea is worthless.

Derek Sivers says that even the most amazing world-beating idea isn’t worth more than $20.

It’s all in the execution.

We’ve had lots of emails from people from around the world saying ‘I also had an idea for something like Escape the City’.

This is fantastic not only because they usually say ‘well done for starting this’ but also because it shows that there are people out there who have been thinking about solving the same problem that we are working on.

However, the point is… no one can care about your idea until you turn it into a reality.

And in August 2009 no one gave a damn about our idea for a community of corporate professionals who wanted to do something different.

How could they? It didn’t exist. There was nothing more than a logo and a powerpoint presentation.

You can only turn something into a reality when you commit.

A romantic park bench

So Dom and I sat on a bench on Wimbledon Common in south-west London drinking a couple of beers in the setting sun discussing our idea:

  • “So… what are we going to do with this idea?”
  • “How on earth are we going to pull this off?”
  • “Is it a business or just a project?”
  • “How do you even build a website anyway?!”

What we did realise was that we had nothing to lose by getting something off the page and out into the world.

I was already out of my job and Dom was beginning his saving and escape plan. We agreed to commit to at least starting something – even if it was only ever an online project or a community (rather than a business).

Call it a project to start with

I suppose we took the pressure off by religiously following Seth Godin’s Tribes idea to start with.

This meant that Escape the City didn’t have to be a business in order to help people and that’s really what motivated us at the beginning (and still does) – the prospect of helping people to escape corporate jobs that make them miserable.

Obviously it would have to be a business if we were to run it full-time (in order to support us)… but more important than that at this point was to understand more about the potential of the idea itself (rather than the resulting business opportunities).

Looking back on it, we didn’t have a clue what it would take to make the idea a reality and there’s a huge amount to be said for naive optimism.

Don’t over-analyse (but don’t over-commit either) – just take the first few logical steps and see what happens.

Do this from the safety (and tedium?) of your job.

See what happens.

The fantastical world of blogging

A few things we read around this time really helped give us that kick to realise that we could actually get our idea online without spending a bean (or even needing to make one) in order to modestly commit to the idea.

We didn’t need to the bet the farm, we didn’t even need to risk anything more than some of our time (I was going to quit my job anyway)…

To cut a long story short… we committed by starting a free wordpress blog and began writing about the ideas that were the core inspiration behind Escape the City.

A blog is all you need to test your idea. I don’t care whether you want to import Turkish carpets or start an eco-recycling business… put your ideas down in words and see whether they are convincing.

Evolve your idea in public even if it’s scary.

There is no such thing as a finished product – even if you’re building physical stuff – so just commit to a v0.1 and get it out there.

Some information that was really useful for us at this stage:

Idea meets World

Something amazing happens when your idea has its first interactions with the real world.

a) It’s terrifying… because it is a raw idea… not a finished product.

b) The idea changes as soon as people come into contact with it.

c) Positive reactions make you feel like you are being rewarded for taking a brave step.

Little did we know when we wrote our first blog post about escaping the corporate world but we were in fact committing ourselves to a roller-coaster journey that has defined the last 24 months of both of our lives.

The great thing is that it didn’t feel as momentous as that at the time – but in hindsight that’s how it has worked out.

Committing was the only way we were going to find out whether the idea had legs… so commit we did.

Next instalment: “Learning By Doing”

Photo credit: Anything You Want – by Derek Sivers


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