Your big idea is worthless.

If you don’t take little steps to make it happen.

Take it from someone who knows. From someone who has so many big, incredible ideas so often his closest friends and family members regularly tell him they don’t even want to hear about them anymore unless there’s some action and results behind them.

True story.

I am cursed with the gift of pattern recognition. It’s like I just sort of stare through the world in front of me and see how things best fit together. I mean, I am really—really—good at loading the dishwasher and yet—I hate puzzles.

Which probably explains why so many of my big ideas have proven worthless over the last decade.

Give me $1,000,000 and we’ll make $10,000,000—because we’ll build something that actually puts customers first and makes such a legitimate, lasting difference in their lives they can’t help but be lifelong brand advocates. I’m talking minimum 10:1 LTV:CAC. (Just google it.)

Thing is, you have to prove your idea works before anyone will even think of giving you a dime, let alone a million bucks. More to the point, you have to prove YOU work.

My problem is I see the world in terms of how things could or should be—but seem to wear blinders that keep me from using my pattern recognition powers on my own weaknesses. How can I be so good at figuring things out—and yet so bad at getting my own shit together?

Seriously. I hate puzzles.

Sticking with the dishwasher puzzles, I think there’s two reasons.

First, I already know what the finished puzzle looks like. There’s only one possible outcome. I already know what it looks like. And while the dishwasher might get loaded the same way every time—plates and pans on the bottom rack, glasses and bowls on the top—the final result is always unique.

Second, since I already know what the finished puzzle looks like, the only surprise is how much time I wasted putting it together. Puzzles are designed to kill time. Lots of time. The dishwasher, on the other hand, is designed to save time.

Maybe there’s a third reason, too. I love brainstorming. I love imagining possibility and all the different ways we could make everything better. I do not love tedious, repetitive tasks that don’t move the needle overnight.

It’s like weight loss and debt. You want to lose weight? It’s easy. Get off your lazy ass and burn more calories than you consume. Maybe stop eating literal shit while you’re at it. Want to get out debt? Stop buying shit you don’t need (like literal shit food). Spend less than you make.

It’s literally that easy. And yet, many of us struggle.

I could point a finger at 50 years of corporate marketing telling us how we’re all special snowflakes who deserve the best of everything immediately with zero effort on our part, but I won’t. I might be the authoritative liberal the fear-mongering pundits warned you about, but I’m also big on personal responsibility, too. And besides, I don’t want to shit all over the New American Dream. /s

Damnit.

I sat down to re-write a five page article on the importance of starting small from scratch because it was a long-winded, rambling mess and I didn’t like where it went. I digress.

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.

Take that big idea that keeps popping into your head—and funking DO something about it.

ANYTHING.

Google it. Draw it. Ask a friend what he thinks. Just DO something about it.

Yes. You have a hundred other things hanging over your head, urgently demanding your attention. And I’m sure they’re all very important. Because I have a hundred other things hanging over my head too.

I need to get Fezzik fixed so I can get the insurance money for the accident last summer. I need to take the guy who hit me earlier this month to small claims court. I need to replace my dead and leaking profusely power steering pump. And I’m pretty sure I’m overdue for an oil change.

My sprinkler system’s been dug up going on a year. The patio remodel is pushing two. The house needs a coat of paint. I think the 30-year old tree in my front yard is dying. (The one in the back yard died last year.) And my garage is full of everything but cars.

All of these things have to get done. But while they’re all projects I need to cross off my to-do list, none of them are things I can just knock out in a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon.

So I haven’t.

Which makes it feel like I don’t have time to work on my big dream.

You know what I mean? Does this make sense?

The question is, am I looking at my life like a puzzle—or like loading the dishwasher?

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4 Comments

  1. John Rimmer

    A good friend of mine recently introduced me to the kanban board. I’m sure you already know about it, you guru you, but it’s helped me get some of my mental dirty dishes sorted and scheduled for cleaning. Hard to work when the room looks like somebody dumped puzzle pieces everywhere, especially if those pieces are stacks of dirty dishes cluttering up every inch of counter space in the kitchen. Reading this article I thought to myself, “My kanban board is like a mental dishwasher!” Good tools, whether in the garage or the office, make the gearhead life so much better.

    • John Rimmer

      Oh, and of course it would take gearheads to come up with such a tool for organizing all of life’s projects. I was sold when he told me that the kanban idea was created by Toyota.

  2. Brian

    Oh man. I am all about the kanban.

    I actually picked it up back in my electro-mechanical assembly days. When we were building PWBs (printed wiring boards, aka: circuit boards), we’d kit the jobs out into physical kanbans.

    Say somebody was developing a new control panel for a small airplane and needed five of a specific version of a board. We’d get a tidy little kanban tote with five boards, 5X all the pieces that went on it, and a large printout showing what went where. You’d lay out all the pieces on your bench, then go through and solder them up.

    I loved that job.

    As for being a project management tool, I love that as well. I still tend to think of kanban as being more about kitting up work in small bites, and often lean on it heavily when I’m thinking agile/scrum.

    Let me know if you want to see how deep this rabbit hole goes. 😉

    • John Rimmer

      Haha…I had a strong inclination that you might have a black belt in this, hiding under your Hawaiian shirt. I stumbled onto the app Trello (digital kanbans) when reading about how a guy uses it for his writing discipline as a sort of editorial board. I figure I’ll give it a go there as well, and if it works well for me I’ll move it over into a few of the other “project areas” of my discombobulated reality…aka, busy dad life. Trying to up my app game this year to reclaim a few half hours out of the wasted time zone to invest in the happy land!


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