I’d like to tell you something we all already know, but it bears repeating: no matter what you’re working on or engaged in, you’re never going to have a bigger fan, a bigger supporter, a bigger believer or a bigger investor than yourself. Especially, if you are doing something new. It doesn’t matter how bright your idea, how solid your business plan, how creative your talent, or how deep your commitment, no one else is going to go harder for you than you will go for yourself.
The reasons are many. If you are doing something new, it’s likely that it is not something you are currently known for. You may not be the best at it even. It may not be your sure thing. So naturally, even your best believers will be skeptical. They’ll bet, but carefully.
The second is that new ideas are often hazy. Even when their big picture versions are clear, in their details, they’re not easy to understand. There’s a whole network of ways of doing things, synapses, processes and all that have to latch on as you go before the idea starts to take a defined shape. When it’s in your head, it’s a mirage. Now you see it, and now you don’t. And that is, if it’s your idea. Now, imagine trying to explain it to someone else in a way THEY will understand.
The third is just the risk involved. Every new thing is a risk. There’s one chance it will work, and a thousand chances it wouldn’t. And the only thing that gets you through those odds are often unmeasurable: your passion, your skill, your ability, your gut feeling, your tenacity. These things don’t show up on a business plan. It’s not easy to see the writer most likely to hit the NYT Best seller list ten years from now. Too many variables are involved. And human beings, all of us, like to bet on a sure thing. So you end up being the surest investor in your own big deal. Everyone else, gives you their in-case money (or time, or support).
Now for the illustration.
1. Kanye was a dope producer. Rocafella took a bet on him and he turned out to be one of the hottest beatmakers on the block. He became the sure thing. And then he got the bright idea (which he always had) that he could make #1 rap albums as the rapper, not the producer. Everyone scoffed. He begged for a chance to make a record, and no one agreed. It took the risk that their best producer was about to leave the label for Rocafella to hand him an in-case contract. He came out with The College Dropout, and the rest, as they say, is history.
2. George Lucas was a new, talented film maker. He had some success in small indie films and one major picture. Then he got the bright idea to make an epic scifi film. Sci fi wasn’t hot at the time. No one thought the film would make any significant money. So he told the studio to lower his upfront fee as a director in exchange for the rights to the film, post theater release publishing rights and merchandising. The studio saw it as a way to save money on the expense of a new film. Lucas saw it as the chance of a lifetime. He made Starwars, and the rest again…
3. A less known story is the recent sale of AOL to Verizon, which is splashing the news right now. The CEO, Tim Armstrong, left his job running Google’s America operations to join a has-been dialup company. He aggressively branched out the company’s direction, and the stock tanked. He invested some of his own money in the company, and kept working. He bought Huffington Post and a number of other media companies with lots of name and not a lot of money. Stock dived again, even worse. He bought more stock. He developed an ad technology and double down on monetizing over the top videos, which everyone thought was a bad idea. Stock dipped, and he invested more. Over five years, he invested up to $20million of his own money into the company, betting that he knew what he was doing. Combined with the stock grants as CEO, his rewards for performance and more, he effectively became the largest individual shareholder in the company.Verizon just bought the company for $4.4 billion, netting Tim almost $200m as his share of the sale. Not many people could have seen that happening, when he took the job years ago.
Enough of the stories. The truth is, most ideas are hard. Most rewarding things are hard. And of course, not all success comes in the form of money or a big name. You may have an idea that will save thousands, or hundreds, or even tens of lives. You may be working on a manuscript that may touch millions, or just put the pep in one person’s step. You may be channeling your energy into a new way of doing things.
Understand that no one, not one person is going to get it the way you do, and risk it all to see it happen. It’s not that they don’t want you to succeed, they just don’t know enough to know that you will. It’s not that it’s a bad idea, it’s just that you’re the only one who fully gets it for now. And so, when it comes down to it, understand what you want to do, and have that belief in yourself that you can do it. That’s all that matters for now. Bet on yourself and get to work.
Later on, the world will understand.