“Don’t Fall in Love with an Idea”

by | Jan 12, 2022 | Entrepreneurship

We’ve been trying to do the same things with greater intensity and rigidity this past year, and it’s still not working. It’s exactly what’s been happening politically. This year let’s follow a different path. Let’s do new things in a new way.

My friend echoed and cemented the thoughts that had already been swirling around in my mind.

One of the things I’ve been starting to see in my yearlong leadership program is to not get your identity wrapped up in your work.

Experts often say, “don’t fall in love with an idea.” But this is what they really mean:

When your identity is tied into your projects or ventures, you have a tougher time giving it up when it’s not working. Loss aversion sets in, and you start to believe that you have more to lose giving something up than you can possibly gain from it.

That’s a dangerous way of thinking. Because deadweight is deadweight, and like a boat anchor, it can only weigh you down. Letting go of troublesome clients, purging business units that are only taking up time, and giving up “means to an end” projects is word to the wise. What you free up in terms of mental and emotional space alone makes the temporary loss of revenue far less of a concern.

When is the right time to move onto the next thing? Not even author Seth Godin can say, though he addresses the issue from multiple angles in The Dip.

But some part of you already knows. It gnaws at you and keeps gnawing at you. It’s almost as if the universe is granting you an opening to say, “here’s your opportunity to get out – take it.”

If you get your identity wrapped up in your work, you’ll find yourself in love with an idea who doesn’t love you back.

If you get your identity wrapped up in your work, you’ll find yourself in love with an idea who doesn’t love you back. Share on X

The idea you had is somewhere back there, in the past. Meanwhile, you’re right here, in the present. In a difference space and time than when and where the idea was originally created. You were a different person then. And that gap can be too huge to overcome. Repairing a foundation is difficult and expensive. It’s always best to build on a solid foundation, even if it takes longer.

We need to be able to give something up when it’s not working.

“Ready, fire, aim” might seem like wisdom for the ages in a fast-moving world. There’s something to be said for first mover’s advantage, but is there any long-term benefit to it? Only if others don’t come along and do what we’re doing better than we can. And that always happens in hot markets.

Move with speed when you know what you’re doing. Move slowly when there are too many unknowns left unaddressed. And accept that there will always be blind spots, no matter how well you cover for them. We can’t know everything. But we can start with a foundation that facilitates success.