I remember watching my first Steve Jobs biopic. In my junior year of high school, I was an incredibly conscientious teenager, checking off all of the boxes I was told to. Great grades? Got them. Solid SAT scores? Easy enough (i.e., several weeks of studying with 4 hours for practice tests each weekend). Extracurriculars? Started planning that since 9th grade.
It was time to loosen up
Yet, while watching Jobs take what Wozniak built and turn it into the largest company on the earth, I realized that conscientiousness is never enough. Yeah, maybe it gets you a reliable, stable job — you’re a reliable, stable person after all. But to make explosive growth, you need to be explosive. You need an insight.
I dove into a creative lifestyle. I stayed up later, took more risks, and lived more. It was good for me. I needed to relax. I needed to accept that I can’t plan everything. Creativity unfolded to me. I had so many thoughts to write down. I sang more. I thought more. I was more. In Jobs-ian fashion, it started to come naturally to me. Ideas flowed.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” — Steve Jobs
As ideas piled up in my “idea capture” though, I realized that creativity doesn’t mean much without discipline. The exact principle I had forsaken in my effort to be more explosive left me with a lot of sparks but no gunpowder. I needed discipline.
Ideas are Cheap
Amazing ideas aren’t so hard to come by. Take a shower and you’ll find that many great ideas come to mind only to slip away by the time you grab your towel.
So many people would claim that they had the idea for Amazon, Netflix, or another big company, but very few of them executed on that. Sure, maybe they didn’t have the right capital or know the right people, but they had the idea and never tried to build it.
Execution is Hard
At the crux of why ideas are cheap is the problem of execution. Many will reach a conclusion but few will put it into practice. I’m not here to call those who don’t execute lazy. They probably aren’t. We’re busy people, and it’s hard to find time to act on the ideas we reach, but we need to stop holding ourselves back.
“I don’t have time” may be true, but we should understand what this sentence really means. At it’s core, it means I value the things I do in my life more than the opportunity that was just presented. It doesn’t mean that you have no time. What you do have is a lot of options, and you’re doing your best to pick among them.
You can always make time. Execution is both hard and time-consuming, but do you really want to lie on your deathbed wondering what would have happened if you gave your dreams a go?
Iteration Creates Value
Once you begin to execute and placing your ideas into the hands of others, you are entering into a space that so few people enter. It’s the world of knowledge.
Here’s what I mean: so many people believe that we need things and that they have a solution. These solutions are hypotheses. Often, they’re never built. Ideas are not knowledge — they’re inklings to where knowledge may be.
When you set out to create a solution and start giving it to people, you begin to understand what people actually need, discarding your notion of what should be for what is. You gain knowledge. You learn. You understand that people want something different than what you originally thought.
So, what you do? You build something new. You build something that people want. You help them.
This isn’t about building a startup or making money (it can be made to be so if you want it to be). This is about anything. Testing your assumptions for how the world works leads to wisdom that most people will never access. It feels far safer to sit back and believe you’re right. At its core, though, this is the biggest risk you could possibly take.