Sometimes I can’t believe what I’m doing. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m living in a generation where we have access to technology that was the thing of science fiction (I am a little pissed we don’t have jetpacks and that everything isn’t holograms, but I’ll survive. Growing up, I thought I was going to be a lot of different things. Here’s a SMALL list of the things I thought I was going to be;
- Second baseman for the Boston Red Sox (a la Marty Barrett)
- Board Game Designer
- Film maker
Now, beside number 1 and number 5, I’ve basically lived each of these things. I’ve designed board games (I’m currently building a game based on the show Stranger Things), I’ve recorded a couple of albums, I’ve written a novel and I recorded a silly little short film series called The Invisible Man Show. And I try to live by a pretty simple motto.
“You wanna know why? I wanna know why not?”
This concept is central to almost everything that I do. I believe in serial iteration. I believe that great ideas are one of the most common things on the planet, like finding a three-leaf clover. But people who’ve taken those ideas and run with them and succeeded (or failed) in building those things into tangible products, services or careers are the people that blow me out of the water.
For example. I have an idea for an app. Two actually. I think that both of these ideas are really great. I think that both have the potential to disrupt the industries in which they’re involved. I think I could have lasting impacts on both the fitness industry and the blogging industry. But neither of these ideas is worth even 1% of a flashlight app that’s on the app store. Neither of these ideas is worth even 1% of a piece of poorly written html that someone is using to run a little tiny website somewhere.
Here’s what I mean. I wrote and recorded an album with a few friends one time. I sang and wrote the lyrics, my best friend played rhythm guitar and our other friend (one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet) played lead guitar. We wrote about a dozen songs, recorded them on my laptop using the built-in mic and that was that. I think that about 2 dozen people have ever heard that album, likely all of them friends of ours, the same kind of friends who will say that an ugly baby is actually cute.
But that album is far more valuable than the fitness app idea I have. Even though I’ve produced some low-fidelity versions on paper and some prototyping apps, it’s still an idea, and ideas are worthless.
So what does this have to do with why vs why not? For me, I want to know why not? I want to know why people don’t act on their ideas? I want to know why someone would sit on something they were passionate about. For me, I want to know why someone would delude themselves into thinking they’re gonna get rich…as soon as someone pays them a few million dollars for this idea they have about a photo sharing app. For me, it’s about doing.
I used to focus on thinking about ideas and then coming up with all the reasons that I couldn’t do that thing. I thought mostly about the “why.”
I can’t open a recording studio because I don’t have the startup capital.
I can’t build an app because I don’t have the coding experience.
I can’t run a marathon because I’m pretty fat. (This one is VERY self-directed)
I spent all of my time coming up with hypothetical roadblocks for mythical ideas. The can’t consumed me. And then I started approaching things a little differently. I started to realize that the first step was super important. So I started buying domains for ideas I wanted to flesh out. I started talking to people about the ideas I had. I started pitching concepts and tasks to my network and seeing what came back.
I started doing because each idea was the why not and I didn’t care about the why. The why was “because I want to”. Most pitches go through HUNDREDS of people that say no before someone ever says yes. Don’t know how to code? Learn. It’s free. Don’t have the startup capital for a recording studio? Do something crazy. Get a mic and start recording stuff where you are. Can’t run a marathon because you’re too fat? You sure it’s not because you’re lazy? And you don’t want to?
We live in a CRAZY time where the “cell phone” that you’re using to text your friend Game of Thrones memes is more complex than the computers that they used to navigate astronauts to the moon (if you believe in all of that).
You’re connected to MOST of the planet. They’re a couple of clicks away. Literally. I can get in touch with the best programmers in the world, TODAY. They might not like what I’m selling, but I can reach them. You can send a message to (almost) anyone on the planet and if it’s a good enough message, they might just answer you.
So you keep asking why, and I’ll keep asking why not, and in the words of Coolio, “I’ll see you when you get there…if you ever get there.”