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Your Best Idea Might Be The One People Laugh At

“The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is but that you can see the world as it isn’t.” Kathryn Schultz

You can probably picture the scene. Over a quiet dinner and a few drinks early in 1984 Richard Branson announces his plans to a few close friends. He explains that he is going to cream some of the profits from his successful Virgin Records business and use it to lease a second hand Boeing 747. His intention is to start a commercial airline and take on mighty British Airways in the process.

Some would have thought it was a joke and actually laughed aloud. Others, their forks suspended in mid air, might have looked him dead in the eye to work out if he really was joking, or if he had finally gone mad.

How many times in his business career do you think that Richard Branson was laughed at? From being the dyslexic teen editor of a magazine to his vision of galactic missions and changing the face of every industry from money to health care; I’m guessing quite a few.

People will probably laugh at you too.

They will laugh at your ideas both big and small. Those devil’s advocates will challenge your vision of the world as it could be. They will tell you it can’t be done. Just like they told Muhammad Yunus that the poor wouldn’t pay back their micro loans. They will urge you to be careful.

People will call on you to realistic and sensible. Just like them. They will urge you to wait for the ‘right time’. And maybe you will.

You might wait to work on the idea that simply can’t fail. Why? Because you don’t want to feel like you are six years old again. Because you can’t bear the thought of putting something imperfect out into the world. Something that might fail.

That would-be failure you’re working on, like Virgin Airlines, will never become something that has a chance to succeed unless you get over the fear of having ideas that people will laugh. And begin having enough faith in them (and you) to put them to work.

Image by David Vo.

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What Is An Idea Worth?

“A single idea, the sudden flash of a thought, may be worth a million dollars.” Robert Collier

If you’re here and reading this article you probably make your living, (or want to) by selling your art. You market your creative genius and your ideas. So what do you think one of your ideas is worth?

How much value do you think you add to the client who has spent $30,000 remodelling her kitchen but has no clue what colour to paint the walls? What should be the price tag for your coaching service that finally gets a client unstuck and gives him the clarity he needs to move forward. Do you know the true worth of a website design that draws her visitors in and makes them click?

Your clients are not paying for a sixty minute interaction with you or for a chunk of your day.
They are paying for two things:

1. The accrued value of your knowledge, experience and creative genius built over a lifetime.
2. The recurring benefit that even a single idea could make to their business, home, life or future.

Working with you and experiencing your genius means entertaining in the perfect room or having the momentum to move forward. It means being one step further to building the perfect business or getting clear on what’s really important. And a thousand other things that matter more than you realise.

So never underestimate what your one idea might be worth.

Image By Xurxo Martinez.b

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The Strawberry Chocolate Box

It’s not how good they say you are, it’s how good you believe yourself to be.

The community fair was in full swing. Proud gardeners and pushy mothers turned up in equal measure at every event. I had my eye on a prize. Having learned to bake at my mothers hip by the age of twelve there wasn’t much I couldn’t tackle. This year I was going for it in the junior baking competition. I wanted to attempt The Strawberry Chocolate Box. That exotic creation I’d seen on the front cover of Woman’s Weekly magazine.

I’m sure my mother spent a quarter of the usual weekly shopping bill buying the ingredients for that cake. For a start strawberries were a luxury in our suburban Dublin home. We usually ate three kinds of fruit apples, oranges and bananas. And there seemed to be an awful lot of expensive dark chocolate and cream required too. I locked myself away for two whole days working on that cake. I picked perfect rose leaves from the garden and painstakingly painted the backs of them with chocolate, peeling them once they’d set to reveal perfect edible leaves. The fatless sponge rose like a dream and each ripe strawberry was drizzled with even more chocolate. The whole thing was a masterpiece. It looked just like the magazine cover almost too good to eat. And too good to have been made by a twelve year old.

We lined up at the battered blue door of the community hall to hand in our entries. Mum in the apple tart section, me in the open children’s category. The Strawberry Chocolate Box stood proudly alongside the rice crispy cakes and fairy buns with their wobbly icing.

There was a lot of oohing and aahing over The Strawberry Chocolate Box and more than a couple of questions about how much help my mother had given me with it. There was no contest. When the big moment arrived the judges came forth and commended people announcing results in reverse order. Patience; followed by devastation. The Strawberry Chocolate Box and I didn’t get a look in. Plainly the judges didn’t believe that a twelve year old was capable of producing something that good (it tasted better than it looked too).

It was a hard lesson to learn. When you’re twelve you believe that if you really are the best then you win. What I learned that day is sometimes I would be limited by the small dreams that others had for me. I learned that in the future I could choose to allow myself to be limited by their worldview or that I could just be audacious.

Don’t be limited by the small dreams others have for you. Be as good as you know you are. Go, be audacious.

If you enjoyed this post you might like Paul Arden’s book.

Image by Melly Kay.

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Ruby Slippers

Every single idea becomes what you can communicate.

Dorothy’s ruby slippers were magical. They sparkled, they shone and everyone including the wicked witches with all her power coveted them without knowing exactly how they worked and why.

Naturally you want to explain to everyone how to tap their heels together three times. But maybe all the world wants for now is your ruby slippers.

You set out to give people proof about the features and benefits of a great product or service when you want them to understand why they ‘need’ your particular something. And yes, results matter. In the end even the ruby slippers would have been worthless if they hadn’t been able to get Dorothy back to Kansas.

Sometimes though it’s okay to sell the sparkle first and the heel tapping later.

Ideas don’t necessarily fail because they are bad but they often succeed when you work out how to put the magic back into them.

Which businesses are doing this best right now? How could you put the magic back into your business story?

Image by Dennis Sylvester Hurd.

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The Goodbye Window

“Sure we need thrills, spills and big gestures, but we also need closeness, trust and intimacy.” Kevin Roberts. Lovemarks

It might sound like a bit of a cliche but the small things really do matter, in business as well as in life. Children teach us that every day. We might think that they care about grand gestures, like holidays to Disney World and an Xbox on Christmas day. And yes, while these things might seem fabulous in the moment the stuff that really impacts on kids happens out of the corner of your eye. Tiny little things that seem insignificant which are the real highlights of their everyday.

Nigel Marsh tells a story about the day he took off work to drop his son Harry to kindy for the first time. Job done Nigel headed to the local cafe. After his first coffee he met a neighbour who remarked how cute it was that Harry always waited for his mum at the ‘goodbye window’ to wave and blow kisses. In a panic Nigel dashed back to school to find Harry, perched on top of his bag, tears streaming down his face still waiting at the ‘goodbye window’.

Your customers care about the little things too. Things that they sometimes can’t even articulate. They care that you notice, that you understand them, that they matter.

They want to be reminded that they are the reason you exist.

Making people fall in love with your products and services is about paying attention to the little things. The things that other businesses forget. The tiny things that matter most. Like ‘goodbye windows’.

Image by Maskingtaped.

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The Idea Validation Roller Coaster

“There’s a difference between achieving your goals and realising your work matters.” Seth Godin

Yesterday was a good day! You logged on first thing and found you’d sold a dozen eBooks overnight. You had five email queries about your latest online program and ten enrollments…..not bad. Your blog post got eighty retweets and your designer came back with some great concepts for your new logo.

Today though didn’t start out too well. That email from X Corp before breakfast cancelling your talk didn’t help.

Every single one of us is in love with our own idea. Yes solo entrepreneur, creative genius, blogging king, Mr Startup CEO, lifecoach, guru, Etsy queen, empire builder, rock star designer and social changer, I’m talking about you too.

What you do is important and it does matter. You just don’t need to get on ‘the idea validation roller coaster’ to prove it.

Of course you need to get feedback about what’s working and what’s not and make sales to pay the rent but you don’t have to give away control to the external locus that is your inbox.

Anything worth doing will mimic a roller coaster at times with it’s hills and dips, highs and lows. Those highs and lows though relate to the ‘what’ and not to the ‘why’ of your idea. The ‘why’ is what keeps your grounded and sane.

I read an article by Noah Kagan founder of App Sumo today. In it Noah talked about micro burnout that feeling of deflation and demotivation that starts when your inbox doesn’t send you the right signals.

Yes it’s fantastic when things fall into place. When your income goes up by 20% on last month, when your non-profit gets that additional funding and you’re invited to do a high profile guest post.

But on the days when it’s not going so well remember that you don’t need the permission of anyone to be awesome.

Image by Raphael Goetter.

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Your Mission Statement …


Your mission statement…
… is true.
… tells people what you do.
… is personal and relevant.
… talks about what happens today.
… looks at what change is achieved because you exist.
… stems from real values and reflects what you stand for.
… is easily understood by everyone who works for you.
… is known, cherished and practised by every single employee.
… gives you and your staff a sense of purpose and pride in what you do.
… inspires others.
… is unique to you and your company and wouldn’t make sense on a competitor’s website.
… hasn’t been grabbed from a corporate mission statement generator.
… doesn’t just live in a dusty manual or look good in a frame.
… is the foundation for the vision upon which your business or organisation is built.
… is not full of jargon.
… makes you stand out.
… gives people a sense of what it’s like to work with you.
… impacts on customers and clients.
… means something to the people who work in your organisation.

What else?

Image by Steven Rhodes

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How Does Your Business Sound?

“To handle a language skillfully is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.” Charles Baudelaire

Have you ever thought about what makes a good brand name? Is your business name evocative or interesting, fun or maybe just a bit boring?

Some of the best brand names evoke emotions and memories, eliciting feelings within us. The interesting ones make us curious. Fun, irreverent names make us smile, drawing us closer and even boring brand names have their place as long as they align with the brand story.

So what does evocative, interesting, fun and boring sound like?

Any of the product names from 37 signals. Campfire, Basecamp and Backpack.
Believe in, design and Branding agency. Innocent, juices. Upon A Fold, all things origami.
Some of my creations Tomorrow is, lifestyle design. Haven Lane, interior design for aged care.

Orange Boot Bakery. Mashable. Flickr. Twitter. Google.

Virgin. Tik Tok. Nudie. Art Does Good. Really Savvy, responsible tourism consultancy.

Toy World. Don’s Art Supplies. Jim’s Mowing. British Medical Journal.

What does your brand name sound like?
How does your business name make people feel?
Does your idea sound boring?
Will that product name make people stop and take notice?
Is the name aligned with your vision and values?
Is it the best it could be?
Could you make it better?

How does your business sound?

Image by Suzan Almond

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Your Customer Is The Hero

“Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.” John Barth

I know your products are beautiful. I also read on the packaging that your juice is packed full of vitamins. And anyone with an eye can see that your designs are amazing.

Knowing all of the facts about how great you are and how well made your stuff is will never be what makes your customer reach for their wallet.

“The challenge you face is that people don’t care about you. They care about themselves, which is pretty natural.” Seth Godin

The only way to persuade people to care about you is to show that you care about them first. Make them the hero of your story. This doesn’t mean starting again from scratch or making up a pile of stuff about your brand or business. You’ve already got the product, the great cause, the proof and the results. Now all you need to do is tell the story from a different angle. Their angle.

Succeed by showing people how to dream bigger and live better. Help them to care more, enable them to do great things and inspire them to be the hero of their story.

Image by Ashley Rose.

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Take Your Time

The best business stories, the really good ones develop over time.

They’re the stories that the media probably doesn’t notice. The ones that happen drip by drip, created by people who continue to show up and tell a great story with more passion every day.

The best stories are told by people who care enough about what they do not to be distracted by the quick fixes, flashy launches or the sexy overnight success stories. They embody a mission and vision for the brand, embrace a unique set of values and connect to an audience who is ready to listen. A good business story doesn’t often net $8.5 billion in the first year or the year after that either.

If you want to stand the test of time you need to take your time. Focus on what you know you do well, not what every other new kid on the block brand, hot shot coach, designer or non-profit is doing. Then take time to build on that.

Stop being so hard on yourself. Stop looking over your shoulder. Stop trying to be something that they are and something you are not.

You have time to persuade people all the way later.

Image by Damian Tunnicliff.

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