“Ideas have a short shelf life; act on them before the expiration date.” ~John C. Maxwell, Leadership Guru
Consider this: If Steve Jobs hadn’t moved on his idea to develop the Mac computer, Apple would’ve remained a dream, or would it? If Oprah had wallowed herself in self-pity when doors were closing in her face, would she have enjoyed the success she has?
What do you do with your ideas when they pop into your head? Do you just keep them there, or do you write them down then act?
I used to be an ‘idea in my head’ person. I would get loads of ideas, but I would leave them floating in my head for ‘someday’. Many times that ‘someday’ never came. The idea to write my first book No Canadian Experience, Eh? A career success guide for new immigrants, lingered in my head for years (ten years to be precise). I did not put pen to paper until the panic monster struck. I was speaking with a librarian at a networking event when she told me she thought she saw a book in the library with a similar name. When I later checked, it was not the case, but it forced me to spring into action.
I also started reading Henriette Anne Klauser’s book Write It Down, Make It Happen, which was among my unread collection at the time. I gave the project undivided attention especially during the last six months of working on it, and the first edition was published in 2007. Thanks to several colleagues, a second edition was published in 2014.
What I learned from this was to keep a pen and notebook handy on my night table, not only to jot ideas down when they come in the middle of the night, but to take action.
This brief story of inaction is even a bigger one than mine. Two years ago I was coaching a young lady who lives in Florida. She was “tired of working for people” — her exact words, and wanted help in exploring possibilities, including venturing into entrepreneurship. One of the ideas she came up with was to invent a shoe with convertible heels. When she mentioned it, I thought it was a brilliant idea!
We discussed it a number of times: could she patent her idea before anyone else took it; who would she get to make a prototype, could she write down the idea, date-stamp an envelope and mail it to herself, etc. At the time we weren’t sure if an idea could be patented or if the ‘poor man copyright’ still worked. We agreed her next step was to conduct research on patents.
Fast forward to last week when I came across this Mashable article in my Twitter Feed. I sent the link to the young lady, as well as a link to Mime et Moi, the website of the company making the shoes. She responded, “OMG! They stole my idea. I really need to be more of a go-getter and stop sitting on my ideas.”
So far, I haven’t seen anything on the company’s website to suggest they were making convertible heels up to two or three years ago. But, the young lady in question didn’t act on her brilliant idea, and now someone else has brought her idea to life. These shoes are being sold on the company’s website for an average of 190 Euro per pair (US$220 or CDN $278).
One never knows if, and how her idea would’ve turned out for her, but I would label it a ‘missed opportunity’ from the perspective that she did not take any further action on it. She has since transitioned to a new position with a different company; is enjoying the role, but still has plans to pursue entrepreneurship. (I have her permission to share her story without mentioning her name) because she wants others to know about her “missed opportunity and what can happen when one has ideas, but fail to act,” she said.)
No Entrepreneurial Aspirations? What if…?
So what if you do not have any entrepreneurial aspirations or no desire to invent anything? What if we bring this same analogy to your career transition or job search? Have you been toying with the idea of hiring a career coach to help you get unstuck, or thinking of getting your resume prepared, but something is preventing you from taking action. Have you considered what it is costing you when you don’t act? There is an opportunity cost to inaction. Assuming the young lady above had followed through with her idea, just think of how many pairs of shoes she could’ve been selling at US$220 per pair? (I am sure someone is thinking that if it were meant to be…).
What if you are unemployed and your goal is to find a job with a salary of say, $70,000 per year? Do you know that every week that you are unemployed is costing you about $1,346, or $269 per day for a 5-day work week. This is based on the assumption that the length of an average job search is 40 weeks. Are you getting ideas that you should change your search strategy and reach out to people inside and outside your network, but you keep putting it off for someday? That’s inaction, and there is a cost associated with it.
What if you are employed, but a promotion is on your goal list, or you would like to apply for a job outside of the company? What are you doing about it? Your indecision could be costing you. To calculate how much your inaction (or indecision) would cost you per week or per day, deduct your current salary from the one you would want in your new role. Is the amount of dollars enough to drive you to action?
Many of us miss out on opportunities because we have ideas, but fail to act. Or, we engage in low priority activities that give the appearance we are doing something, but we are just spinning our wheels. If you ever have an idea, big or small, act on it. If you are thinking of a career transition, or need to brush up on your interview skills or revamp your resume to meet the September hiring rush, don’t wait until September. By then the panic monster will start nipping at your heels.
Ideas do have a short shelf-life. Don’t procrastinate. Act on your ideas before they expire.
Are you full of ideas, but failing to act? Think of the opportunity cost of not doing anything.
Originally published at www.daisywright.com
on July 25, 2017.