Guest Post: What to do when your idea’s too big

You’ve got an idea you want to put into action – an idea for a business, a mission to change the world, or a vision of making a living doing something you love.

But… it’s BIG. Too big.

It requires you to quit your job. Or it needs a lot of money. Or a whole team of people. Or premises. Or a huge technical build. Or it simply requires masses of time and energy (which you don’t have).

So what do you do?

Has your answer ’til now been to put your idea back in a drawer for another week (or month)? Then you have just got to start doing something different. There are far too many people who have good ideas fading away somewhere at the back at their mind (while someone else has the same idea and goes and makes a success of it).

There’s nothing wrong with having big ideas – a million dollar business, a best-selling book, a national movement, or simply making a full-time living from something you love. It’s a useful skill to be able to take an idea and envision exactly how huge it could become. But… you also need be to able to do the opposite and chunk it down into manageable projects, starting with one you can begin right now.

Sure, you can go ‘big bang’ on your idea; go hell for leather and enlist all the people you need, write a business plan and go search for funding. Or quit your job and bank everything on your first book being a hit. If that’s a style of operating that’s worked for you successfully in the past, and you’re comfortable with the risk involved, it may be right for you.

For the rest of us, the thought of biting it all off in one chunk is overwhelming. And that’s not helpful if it means we end up doing nothing.

Honey, I shrunk my idea

You don’t have to give up on your grand vision of a big business, national fame, or the most common desire – finding a way of making a full time income from something you love doing. You can start small, test it out, improve it, then grow it and scale it towards your original vision.

It just requires you to be willing to think like a player, not a worker. It means being willing to play it out one step at a time – even if you don’t know exactly where it will take you and you can’t yet see how it can make you a full-time income. You’d be surprised how many successful ideas and businesses started out like this! (It’s a lot of fun too)

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Design a 30 day ‘Play Project’ that immerses you in making your idea happen (or at least some part of it).
  2. Since you’re not trying to create your whole vision yet but just a part of it, choose the project to be centred on the bit that’s most exciting to you. If you want to be a public speaker, go speak, don’t spend the first 30 days building a website for your future speaking career.
  3. Make sure the project produces something you can share – some tangible result, not just 30 days of sitting and googling!
  4. Set a deadline in 30 days’ time to share your result with others – show it to your friends, put it on your blog, tweet or facebook it. Share photos, recordings, videos on youtube. Write about the experience on a blog.
  5. Start doing it – do a little every day if you’re fitting it around your current work, don’t wait for hours of free time to magically open up in your diary
  6. When you complete it, look at how you could build on it to take it further. If it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, adjust your approach to give you more of the results you want and launch your next Play Project. Each one can build on the results of the last and at the end of every one, you’ll have something real to show for it – the kind of stuff that opens doors to even bigger opportunities.

What will you do?

What do you want to do? Here are some example play projects to help make it happen.

  • Want to write a book? Write the outline and one chapter. Or… start writing about your topic on a blog. If you want to be a novelist, you might start with a short story. Send it to some friendly readers.
  • Want to be a public speaker? Go to Toastmasters, learn some of the basics and set a deadline to give your first talk of 5-10 minutes at one of the meetings.
  • Got a business idea? Start blogging about the area or the problem you want to help with. Interview people, experiment with possible solutions. If you’re selling your own services, aim to get your first piece of work within 30 days, even if it’s at a reduced fee for a friend or colleague.
  • Got a grand website idea? If it’s based around content you’re creating, create the site first in WordPress. If it’s more interactive than that, see if there’s a commercial system you can use to test the idea out. (Eg if you want to create your own social network, use NING before you custom build a whole system)
  • Want to be a declutter consultant or a personal stylist or interior designer? Go and volunteer to do it for a friend first – either for free or for a reduced fee.
  • If you want to be a standup comic… don’t just go to see standup shows, do a course where you stand up and perform!
  • If you want to launch a national campaign or change the world, create a Facebook group for your cause and then create an event that people can take part in to build a buzz.

Scary stuff huh? Sure it is, so go get some support. Ask some supportive friends to help, or join up with others making ideas happen – like the 200 people in our 30 Day Challenge kicking off very soon.

From idea to reality in 30 days

Stop waiting: make your idea happen for real.

John Williams is author of best-selling book “Screw Work, Let’s Play (How to do what you love & get paid for it)”, described by The Sunday Times as “A compelling 10-step escape from corporate life that could spell a rash of resignation letters”. 

  • Elisabeth F
    • Rob – Escape the City

      Thanks Elisabeth. Am a big fan of James Altucher’s posts. Lots of useful stuff in there. Specially the (really hard) advice about the daily practice.

  • http://www.mycurls.co.uk Victoria

    I love the tip on doing a little bit everyday. That’s the exact tip I’ve given to friends, family (and myself) when it comes to starting a business or an alternative career path. Take one step a day and it’ll add up. After all, success doesn’t come over night, it comes in moments.

    Great blog post!

    • Rob – Escape the City

      Thanks Victoria. I think I originally heard that from Chris Guillebeau at the Art of Non-Conformity. Achieving anything worth achieving requires consistent, determined, often unrealistic, sustained effort.

      It is worth taking a yearly (or even six-monthly) snap-shot though… because every day you’re moving the needle forwards a little bit and it all adds up.

      Also reminds me of what Jim Collins said about the Flywheel:

      “Now picture a huge, heavy flywheel. It’s a massive, metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle. It’s about 100 feet in diameter, 10 feet thick, and it weighs about 25 tons. That flywheel is your company. Your job is to get that flywheel to move as fast as possible, because momentum—mass times velocity—is what will generate superior economic results over time.

      Right now, the flywheel is at a standstill. To get it moving, you make a tremendous effort. You push with all your might, and finally you get the flywheel to inch forward. After two or three days of sustained effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster. It takes a lot of work, but at last the flywheel makes a second rotation. You keep pushing steadily. It makes three turns, four turns, five, six. With each turn, it moves faster, and then—at some point, you can’’t say exactly when—you break through. The momentum of the heavy wheel kicks in your favor. It spins faster and faster, with its own weight propelling it. You aren’t pushing any harder, but the flywheel is accelerating, its momentum building, its speed increasing.

      This is the Flywheel Effect. It’s what it feels like when you’re inside a company that makes the transition from good to great. Take Kroger, for example. How do you get a company with more than 50,000 people to embrace a new strategy that will eventually change every aspect of every grocery store? You don’t. At least not with one big change program.”