August 11th, 2021 | By: Wil Schroter
Have you ever noticed how musicians who have a breakout album almost always follow up with a shitty second album?
Founders are the same way. Typically our first startup success, which took our entire lives to evolve, is quickly followed up by a terrible second startup idea. It's not because we're "less of a Founder" than we were the first time, any more than that band knows less about music than they did on our first album. It's because rushing a creative process is the fastest way to ensure the outcome totally sucks.
What we don't realize is that good ideas take time. When we were working on our first idea, we had the benefit of many years of consideration before we shaped that idea. We also had the benefit of trashing lots of potential bad ideas without the overhead of "it has to be bigger and better than the last one!"
Good ideas are organic, they take time to develop, and they don't have artificial constraints placed on them. When we rush to our Second Act, what we lose are all the essential elements that gave our ideas the time to naturally become what they were supposed to become. It's like trying to force a flower to bloom.
What we need then is the time to let the idea germinate. We need some time to get bad ideas out of our system without trying to shoehorn them into an artificial timeline that would have let them die a graceful (and appropriate) death in our First Act. Time is our enemy when developing ideas, and yet we try to think of it as an asset.
We're also not the same Founder we were when we started the first idea, and that's actually a bit of a problem. When we had never had a success, we were willing to accept any level of success as a meaningful step forward. That meant our idea for the First Act could be "small" or "wrong" and that was OK. That's how ideas are supposed to start.
Now we're thinking about it too much. We're making the mistake of thinking that this time around, we can map out every successful outcome from the jump. We assume the natural process of letting the idea come into its own doesn't apply — and it always does.
We also assume that this idea needs to be much bigger, so we rule out so many paths that could potentially lead to a big idea, but not seeing the big idea immediately. Most importantly, we fail to realize that our lens is forever skewed by our past, preventing us from necessarily trying to do things that don't work, but develop the paths to the things that do.
Our assumption of course is that we are the Mt. Vesuvius of good ideas, violently erupting with genius. Where exactly did we confirm that was true? Most Founders have exactly one good idea that defines their entire career. Where did we convince we'd easily have two?
Now, that's not to suggest we shouldn't try! There's absolutely nothing wrong with suiting up again. What we need to be mindful of is simply that one good idea does not guarantee another. Our good ideas are a combination of innovation and timing, the latter of which we simply cannot fabricate, no matter how hard we try.
And that's why we need to take our time. Instead of rushing into our next startup, we need to lean back for a minute and remember the fact that good ideas aren't simply manufactured at will. They take time, patience, and most of all, the willingness to let them bake long enough to know whether they even make sense at all.
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Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.
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