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Episode 42 – The Real Reasons Why You Are Stuck Choosing Your Business Idea

Everybody goes through a process when they are choosing a business idea. They do research, go over options, narrow the choices down and make a decision.

This is not what I’m talking about, what I’m talking about is if you’ve been stuck on this for a long time unable to make a decision, meaning months if not longer.

If that’s you, you may think the reason you’re in a holding pattern is one thing, when actually it’s something else, maybe not, but let’s be open to exploring this.

Here are the reasons people often think they are stuck because of

If you’re not deciding it can feel like one of these options is holding you back:

  1. Not having any ideas that feel like real options for you
  2. Not being able to decide between two or more ideas
  3. Not knowing if the idea you are interested in could work.

These are completely valid and like I said, it’s normal to go through a process as you do with any decision you make in your life.

The problem comes when you aren’t moving forward.

Here are four reasons that could be the real reason why you are stuck

  1. You think you only have one shot at this so the pressure of that misconception is paralysing you.
  2. You think if you choose one idea you are throwing away all the others and you’ll never get a chance to do them.
  3. The idea of choosing one thing sounds like you might have to turn people away who might need your other skills, which appears to make no sense so you don’t choose anything.
  4. You are afraid other people are already doing your idea and you won’t be better or different enough to get traction.

Let’s go through these, one by one.

You think you only have one shot at this

While of course, we want you to have the best possible chance of success from the get-go the reality is you are unlikely to get it perfect the first time.

It is better to go in expecting this.

The reality is most successful entrepreneurs had multiple things go wrong before they had something go right.

Their mindset of being willing to fail, while of course desperately not wanting to at the same time, allowed them to succeed.

Peter Cook who wrote The New Rules of Management, describes this concept beautifully. He said there are four options of how you can approach any project that matters:

  1. Succeeding half-heartedly. This is where you only put part of you into a project and it works out anyway. This is nice, but not usually the case for big projects, like starting a business.
  2. Succeeding flat-out. This is where you give it everything you’ve got and you win. This is the most satisfying option.
  3. Failing half-heartedly. This is playing it safe, you can fool yourself into believing you didn’t really fail because you didn’t really try. This is dangerous behaviour.
  4. Failing flat-out. Peter says this is the hardest but by far the most important. He says:

‘All successful people and teams have had spectacular failures giving it their all. It’s the most important because without being willing to fail flat out you’ll never succeed flat out.’

I think this is really profound.

As horrifying as it is to go into something knowing you could fail horribly it’s the only way to succeed.

With saying that though there is an upside, while it is reality that you are likely to try multiple things before you find the right one, and I see this all the time with clients who have tried multiple things before they come to me, there are strategies you can use to get it as close to right as possible the first time, which is the approach I like to take.

The main strategy to use here is to test your ideas early before investing much, be willing to fail ideas and iterate fast.

What I mean by this is to do the exact opposite of what we are told to do in school, test your idea out in the least prepared, least fancy, least expensive way possible, as quickly as viable and see what happens.

Then use that information to get it closer to the magic combination of what you want to do and what the market wants.

I have a whole episode on this which is Episode 16 Why What You Need Is Not A Business Plan.

The way to get past this misconception is to know this:

  1. Everybody has to be willing to fail to succeed; this is what all successful people who walked before you have done, which by definition means this isn’t your only shot.
  2. In order to maximize your chances of succeeding with your idea right now test early, without spending a bunch of money on websites, branding, other stuff, to give yourself the data you need early to adjust and get your idea up and running and working with the limited resources you have.

You think if you choose one idea you are throwing away all the others and you’ll never get a chance to do them

Because of all the talk about niching, that is in the Internet marketing world it can seem like you need to choose a very narrow version of your idea.

If you are someone who likes to focus on multiple projects at once (Take the Entrepreneurial Design Profile to see your Focus Type), this could feel like hell to you.

Here’s the truth: You can niche very narrowly, but you can also niche more broadly as long as you can still speak to the group of people you want to help with one message and not be irrelevant to a large proportion of them.

It’s about finding a common thread, or a theme that runs through your work.

While it makes sense to start in one area you absolutely can branch out once you get something working. You can add a new element into your existing business, or if you want to start a completely different business.

People literally do this all the time.

The way to think about this is:

‘I am choosing one idea to work on now. All other ideas remain open to me later on, and more than likely, because they are important to me, I’ll work on them in the future.’

Another episode that I have that talks about this concept is Episode 38 How To Choose Your Business Idea Without Stressing Out

Choosing one thing sounds like turning people away

There is truth in the saying ‘If you help everybody you help nobody’ but, who is to say you have to turn people away?

You don’t have to turn people away.

If your business is designing websites and someone comes to you for illustrations and you want to do them you take the job.

There will likely come a time when you’ll stop doing other things because once you are pricing at a certain level it may not be worth your time, but no one is saying you have to turn people away.

What you do have to do is choose something, so that you can actually start.

Because if you never start you also really are helping no one.

The way to think about this is:

  1. Once I start my business I’ll be helping some people, as well as helping myself.
  2. If anyone else wants different work from me I get to choose whether I want to accept the work or not.

You are afraid other people are already doing your idea and you won’t be better or different enough to get traction

At the beginning of taking on anything new, even if it’s just offering something you’ve done at work before now to clients as a business owner you are going to have a learning curve. This is completely normal and you price accordingly to adjust for it.

No one expects you to be perfect, they expect to be helped with their problems.

It’s completely normal to feel out of your comfort zone when you start. Now I am completely comfortable in all of my client-facing work. In the beginning, I was terrified and that’s normal.

The only way to get better is to do it.

And as mentioned before, you price accordingly and given that you know much more on this subject than the client does, that’s why they are hiring you, the client is helped, everyone is happy.

Here’s how to think about this potential block:

Everybody started somewhere. Need proof? Use the Wayback Machine to see people’s old websites.

Then there is the sneaky fifth reason:

If you were to actually pick something you’d then actually have to actually DO something, meaning take concrete action rather than just think about ideas, which is way more fun.

Fantasizing about being a successful entrepreneur is easier than being one.

It can feel way more exciting to stay in the ideation phase rather than to roll up your sleeves, knuckle down and get into some real work.

If that’s you, think about what you really want for your life.

Do you want to be someone who had great ideas but never did anything with them, or do you want to be someone who turns great ideas into something real that the world can benefit from?

Ultimately all of this comes down to some kind of fear of the unknown

We can do our best work to have the best possible chances of success with our business ventures, this is essentially what I work on with clients every day, but there are no guarantees.

Business takes an element of trial and error and testing things out in order to succeed.

To break free of the norm you have to be willing to do something outside of the norm.

You have to be open to the idea of not getting it right sometimes so that with perseverance you get to where you want to go.

You can’t create something that changes lives by playing it safe.

You get to create something that changes lives by playing full out.

Which means being willing to fail in order to succeed.