One of the chief competitive advantages of small creative businesses is that we can quickly create new business opportunities and innovations. We can turn on a dime and accelerate to 60 in seconds, as opposed to much larger business that get stuck in managerial bloat, review processes, and shareholder concerns. Small businesses that aren’t leveraging these abilities are inevitably underperforming and thus under-earning.
This agility leads to a lot of failure by way of missed opportunities and lost momentum, though. Our key virtues often do become the vices by which fall.
It’s pretty common for creative entrepreneurs to create a solid solution, opportunity, or market and not harness the opportunities because they’re too quick at moving on to the next thing. They’re so tuned to creating new opportunities, products, or shiny new baubles that they leave the seeds they just planted on the ground.
You don’t have to be a gardener to know that you usually can’t just throw seeds on the ground and hope the plants develop. You have to place the seeds in the soil, make sure the soil has nutrients and water, and perhaps do a little weeding. Only the most hardy plants will survive without care in their earliest stages.
Generating a new solution or opportunity is reaching into that bag of creativity you have and pulling out a seed. It’s a cool party trick, but it won’t pay your bills.
What will pay the bills is taking that seed and doing something with it. You develop it into a product, service, or event. You place it in the environment of the people it’s meant to help so that it can be nourished. You redesign it and rework it so that you prune away all the “really cool” features that don’t benefit anyone.
And then you care and feed it after it’s started to grow. You promote it, talk about it, continue to submit for feedback and get testimonials, and rework your marketing to show that the seed you planted in the past has grown into something beautiful.
The difference between creative professionals and creative flakes is not that one has better ideas or opportunities – it’s that the creative professional understands that 80% of the ideas she comes up with aren’t worth her time to develop and instead focuses on developing the remaining 20%. That’s hard for us to come to grips with because we often live for the creative chase. We love getting that Eureka moment in the creative process, but most of us abhor the implementation component. The creatives that actually put food on the table know that the Eureka! is fun, but the implementation is where careers and lives are made.
More importantly, the implementation is where the real change in the world happens. Imagine if Shakespeare’s great plays were lost to the bar or bath … or if Newton scribbled down the observation of the apple and forgot about it … or if Jobs and Wozniak threw their idea in a drawer and moved on to not-finish the next thing … or Martin Luther King, Jr. just thought about the ideas from “A Letter from Birmingham Jail?” Within each of us is a seed that can become a forest of change.
You have some seeds that you’re neglecting. Just for today, I’d like you to rummage through them to see which ones are worth keeping and which ones you need to leave in your idea garden. Those seeds might be in:
- A popular or well-received post or article you wrote
- A comment or question from a post or article you wrote
- That bit of material that didn’t make it in your last product, workshop, or call
- The common framework or mindset-shift that you inevitably end up sharing with people
- That question that people ask you all the time
- Feedback from your last offer
- The top ten most commonly used search phrases for your website
- That truth that no one is talking about but everyone is feeling
You’ve done the fun and easy part. Will you slow down and do the part that matters?