A pretty solid portion of my day is spent trying to survive the constant mental and emotional attacks of my two children, aged 3 years and 6 months respectively. The rest of my day is split between running my two existing entrepreneurial endeavors and sleeping. I read a lot of articles about productivity, about startups and about business. I try to educate myself the best I can through what one would define as “legitimate means” however I’ve found over time that quite possibly the best teacher I’ve met in my 35+ years on this earth is my 3 year old son.
Now, we don’t have lessons. He doesn’t seem to be particularly brighter than most other kids, but that’s sort of the point. Children are honest and have perfect tunnel vision, honed into whatever it is they want. And on most days, that single thing that my son wants is to make towers with me. That’s it. He just wants to build towers out of blocks. Over time he has mastered structure building in its most rudimentary forms and has begun to create very unique structures that seem to test the laws of physics.

Recently when he was building a tower on top of a triangle, which is, without some pretty amazing balancing, almost impossible, I asked him what he was building and his answer, in the cutest of three year old voices, changed my perspective on a lot of things, suddenly. His response? “I don’t know, Daddy.” He didn’t know what he was building. But he didn’t need to. He let creativity taken over. He knew that he was making a tower. And he didn’t feel like he needed to focus, right now, on the details.

It’s an interesting take on startups. When you are in the initial stages of development, how carefully must you pay attention to your destination? Of course there comes a time when you need to figure out exactly what you’re making. But in the beginning, isn’t it enough to just be building? Jack knows that eventually he’s going to have to figure out if he’s going up or out, left or right, but he also has a natural understanding that this will come. And so should you.

Your initial plan should start with your comfort level. It should be about doing what comes naturally to you. Maybe you’re starting a blog. Don’t focus on the exact destination per se. Start writing and the rest will come. Maybe you’re opening up a store. You’re not going to know which of your products is going to really sell right away. It takes some experimentation.

Did you ever watch The Karate Kid? Not the Jackie Chan version. The original, terrible, awesome Pat Morita one. If you haven’t, stop now. Go watch it. Come back.

Ok. Great. So let’s talk bonsai. Bonsai is the traditional art of shrubbery. It’s an art form that is about cutting back the unnecessary pieces of a tree and helping to guide the tree to growing the way you want it to. Bonsai rarely starts with you knowing EXACTLY what you want it to look like. You probably have a pretty good idea, and a true bonsai master can insinuate their will onto the plant. But when it comes down to it, you’re LETTING a tree grow and THEN doing something extraordinary with it.

So, in the beginning, if someone asks what you’re building? Feel free to say I don’t know…yet.