When I was younger, my drive to take an exciting idea and try to bring it to life was seemingly boundless. As I grew a little older, and experienced a lot of disappointments, I became more conservative with how I spent my time, energy, and money.
But I couldn’t stay that way for long. I am still ambitious, and I still have ideas that I want to see happen. So, to balance these two drives, whenever I have an exciting idea that I want to bring to life, I have a simple rule I follow:
Little control, little investment.
Meaning: if my chances of executing an idea successfully are low (little control), then my investment of time, effort, money, and/or attention in trying to execute it should also be low (little investment).
Investing only little where I have little control, I dramatically reduce the cost of failure and, subsequently, disappointment.
For example, you want to create a blog – one that has a big online readership – but you have never created a blog before. Your control then is small – you’re not sure if you’ll be able to get the results (huge readership) that you want. What should you do?
According to the rule above, don’t invest a lot of time or money trying to attract visitors. Instead, create a free blog and write up some blog posts regularly on topics you think other people might be interested in. Experiment with different ways to get people reading and commenting, but don’t treat the blogging too seriously. And don’t think you have to be consistent, that you can’t switch things up. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because in your mind, people probably won’t come to your site anyways.
This way you won’t be disappointed if people don’t show up to your blog, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised if they do. Even more, it gets you out of the mindset that you “need” to succeed. Instead, you can just experiment and have fun with it.
There’s a corollary to the rule above. I call it “big control, big investment.” What this means is that the more control you have over the successful execution of an idea, the more you should invest in making it happen. In doing this, you strengthen where you are strong, building your success up.
For example, let’s say you have built a small, but somewhat dedicated following online. Instead of trying to get more and more people to follow you (little control), consider investing more time and energy in strengthening your connection with this small following (big control). This strengthens your influence over them, getting them to spread the word, thereby making it easier to recruit new followers.
Strengthening what you have control over, you’re essentially laying and cementing bricks. This way when a random storm or hurricane comes, your house will stay up.
What about you? Is there any way you can apply this rule (“little control, little investment; big control, big investment”) in your own life?