Giving a TEDx talk was a unique challenge and is still an experience I look back on as a watershed for all the projects I have developed since then.
There is tremendous value in determination. Focus is a virtue. As with all things, too much of a good thing can be harmful. If you are intentionally unaware of your surroundings, you can miss out on opportunities to react to the marketplace.
No matter what our best intentions, no matter how well conceived our strategy is, things don't always go the way you hope or intend. That's the way of the marketplace. Do you keep grinding on an initiative that does not add value to your experience or your business? The answer is no. The wisdom that comes with experience lies in knowing when to pull the plug on certain initiatives, and when to stick. This is an art more than a science.
We have all seen endless coverage in the business press of the teenage or twenty-something year old wunderkind who has innovated a new product or service and disrupted an industry. But, is that image really the whole story? Maybe not...
Recently, I had the good fortune to speak to a room full of young, aspiring entrepreneurs about my professional journey. I hoped to draw some parallels for them to follow, to the extent that those parallels could aid them.
The first part of the session was a 60 minute prepared talk about the initial hurdles that young startups face from a legal standpoint. Following the discussion, there was a question and answer segment, and I was asked the following question by the host:
“How long did it take you to achieve your success?”
This very question is asked of businesspeople all the time in interviews. It is a question that you really should answer with another question.
Thus, I responded to my counterpart: “How you define success?”
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
You each have done some pretty great things so far. No matter where you are coming from professionally, you made an important decision to start developing your project. In any potential endeavor, starting is the hardest part. Conceiving of an actionable plan to create a new company, a new film, or a new creative career is one thing. Doing the work to execute that plan is entirely another thing. The first steps are what separates you from many of your peers. Not everybody can transform a plan or an idea into reality. Congratulations on your first steps.
Social innovation and entrepreneurship are hard. Even with the best intentions, building an organization with scarce financial resources is not always feasible, no matter how noble the idea may be. You have to be part politician, part salesperson, part educator and part evangelist.