One thing I’m never short on is good ideas for new businesses, products, services or features I can add to existing businesses. I have a notebook dedicated to it in Evernote with probably 20 different notes and each of those having whole ideas mapped out. When I get a new idea I whip open Evernote and get it down.
Sometimes the ideas are so good that I want to drop everything and start in on it right away while the idea is fresh. I can visualise the website I’d build, the various payment models I could use and how I’ll market the idea to my audience.
It’s all very exciting.
And it is ridiculously distracting.
I will openly admit that nothing in my own entrepreneurial journey has held me back more than becoming distracted by my next great idea. I would conservatively estimate that this shortcoming has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue over the past decade.
There were a number of silly ventures: building websites for people, doing backend technology integration, setting up funnels and membership systems and working on info products that never ended up being released for a variety of reasons. These things all distracted me away from what I was doing – the opportunity cost was significant and tangible.
Some people might look at that and say, “Well, you were taking a risk and seeing what would work.” I look at it and see myself scratching an itch to do something new and interesting because I was maybe a bit bored.
Many people proudly trumpet themselves as having some kind of “entrepreneurial ADHD” – I think that’s being overly generous with yourself. This is a significant weakness which if you suffer from it, you should do your level best to fix.
I’m going to share with you a great secret.
The number one reason that people fail in building a business online has nothing to do with talent or good ideas. The reason that most people fail is that they quit too soon. They don’t give themselves enough of an opportunity to become good at whatever it is they are doing or get their business bedded in correctly.
The whole “fail fast” thing has perpetuated this problem. If something isn’t working right away and you have a new idea, the idiot brigade of wantrepreneurs or as I like to call them, “failure experts”, will tell you to “pivot” and think of your failure as a learning experience. This is such a load of nonsense, ignore those clowns.
This all relates back perfectly to “scratching an itch”. These “failure experts” get itchy when they don’t get the immediate satisfaction of success and they get that burning sensation to start something new. It’s exciting and fun, so they stop doing whatever they are doing and start something new – they scratch the itch.
The new thing seems all great and shiny, it will be WAAAAY better than the other things you’re working on… Then after a month or two, the shine wears off and the requirement for hard work kicks in. The time required to be successful is a price you’re not willing to pay, so the itch comes back.
On and on it goes. A dirty vicious cycle of self-sabotage.
I remember being a small boy, mosquitos seemed to love me – my Mom said it was because I was so sweet and I’m sure she was right. The other thing my mother said was, “don’t scratch, it will only make things worse.”
She was also right about that too.
I realised this about nine months ago back in September 2015 when I almost launched Casual Marketer the first time around. As I’ve said previously, I’d been thinking about the idea for a few months by that point and I was eager to get started. The problem was that I had a bunch of messy things left unfinished and I’d not properly researched the entire idea.
The easiest thing in the world for me would have been to toss up a website and put an offer out to my list back then. Without a doubt, it would have sold some subscriptions, but I know it would have been a colossal failure in the end. I would have had no idea how to print, fulfil or deliver the newsletters and my overall content game would not have been well fleshed out.
I would have also been distracted by client work and projects that were not closed off properly. When I decided to wait until 2016 to launch Casual Marketer, I took the time over the last quarter of 2015 to close off some things, shed some clients that were high maintenance and get better control of the time I spend doing things.
I avoided the urge to scratch the itch and the results are much better. I have clarity of thought and I committed myself to just doing this project and not taking anything else on.
It’s not been easy. There have been a number of instances where I seriously thought about doing something new and exciting, but I’ve been able to stop, collect my thoughts and refocus. Even within Casual Marketer itself, there have been things I’ve wanted to work on and deliver, but have put them aside so that I can simply zone in on just doing the things that I do now properly.
This is something that I promise you will help you build a better business if you learn how to do it. You need to become self-aware of the signals and signs that maybe you’re getting a bit bored. When you notice it, you need to step back, take a deep breath and stop yourself. It’s imperative that you give yourself every opportunity to succeed with what you’re currently doing before you take on new things.
Being disciplined is hard advice to take. It’s not fun and for creative, entrepreneurial types it’s just not what you want to be doing. The thing is, by having this discipline, you give yourself more time to think about the ideas, flesh them out and see how they feel over a bit more time. Try and close the loop on some of the outstanding things you’re currently working on to give yourself the time to do the idea justice and when you’re ready, if you’re still passionate about the idea, then maybe it’s worth pursuing.
But like my Mom said, if you scratch the itch whenever you feel it, you’ll just make things worse.