What Do You Do With an Idea?

by / ⠀Blog Over 30 Advice / May 26, 2022
what to do with an idea

You have an idea. You think it’s awesome.You get pretty psyched about it.Maybe you mention it to a friend or two. Maybe you even mention it to your mom. It feels like this could be “The One” — even though in the back of your mind, you know the “perfect idea” doesn’t really exist. But, what do you do with an idea?

So you begin the process of “launching” the creating to the world. You immediately start doing all the things you THINK you need to start spreading the word about your awesome new business.

You might…

  • Get a new logo designed (“OMG what should my brand colors be? We have to stay ON BRAND!!)
  • Open up a Twitter account and Facebook fan page (“Got to make sure we are engaging!!”)
  • Set up a business checking account/get business cards….(WTF?)

Then you do some more tweeting, fiddling and stategizing….and wait.

And nothing happens.

Nobody retweets or shares. Nobody hit your site. Nobody donated to your Kickstarter. Nobody is talking about you.

Nobody cares.


This sucks.

Especially when you see other startups/ideas that seemingly come from nowhere and BLOW UP.

What did you do wrong? Is there any way to turn this thing around?

Or is your idea just a dud?

This week, as I was re-reading Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, I was reminded that there are usually 3 reasons why ideas don’t take off — and if you don’t know what they are, there’s a good chance your idea is going to flop, too.

Now, without further ado — 3 Reasons Your Idea Isn’t Taking Off (And What To Do About It)….

Reason #1: “You Can’t Out-Apple Apple”

I’m a little afraid to type this in public, but I’ll just go ahead and say it… Apple no longer makes the best smart phone.

The iPhone doesn’t have the most features. It doesn’t integrate and play nicely with everything. The operating system isn’t the best or the fastest — nor is the camera. The phone isn’t the most durable and it’s way overpriced in comparison to many other phones on the market.

(So glad I got that off my chest…)

The iPhone 6? Well, I got it. And to say the least — it’s underwhelming. But one look at the market and you’d have no idea. The launch of the iPhone 6 broke all previous records and sold BILLIONS of dollars before the phones even hit the stores. If they’re not the best phone anymore, how do they continually CRUSH the competition in sales and brand value?

Simple: Apple’s competitors (I’m looking at you, Samsung and Microsoft!) try to beat Apple by being…more “Apple-y.”

For years, Apple ran successful campaigns by poking fun at the inflexibility of Microsoft computers. Microsoft then started to make parodies of these parodies. Apple released the iPhone. Microsoft, are you there? Apple released the iPad in 2010. The Microsoft Surface took a FULL two years later to come out (and it wasn’t as good.) And of course, Microsoft figured out 10 years late that opening up retail stores was a good idea. So what do they do? Just copied the shit out of Apple.

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It’s like…dude…come on. Is this a joke?

Wherever Apple goes, Microsoft is at LEAST 2 years late to the party — and rather than come up with fresh ideas and genuine reasons for why they’re the best choice…well, they’re simply content to copy what’s already been done, then tell you why you shouldn’t pick Apple.

By trying to prove they are better, they are inadvertently advertising their competition — and trying to “one up” Apple by making slight tweaks to a technology that Apple already developed and saying, “Are you impressed? We made our phone talk too…and it’s pretty damn good!” Samsung does the same thing with the “Next Big Thing” campaign — which LITERALLY implies that they aren’t the big  thing right now. Both of these companies, despite having superior products in some cases, try to out-do Apple by just being more “Apple-y.”

But that’s impossible. Apple’s entire existence is built on witty and cool. Don’t try to be wittier or cooler. Apple’s design focus is clean and modern. Don’t try to be better at their aesthetic than they are. And for God’s sake, don’t let your only differentiating factor be that you have X more speed than Apple, Y more power than Apple or Z more features than Apple.

Are you committing the same mistake with your idea?

Sometimes, it’s cool to differentiate yourself by being a little better in a few categories than your competition. But is that all you have going for you?

So many people want to start the next Facebook.

“I’ll start a new social network — like Facebook, except with a better news feed!”

You’ll never win.

Even if yours actually IS better, Facebook has that covered. They are already known for the news feed. You’re not going to out-Facebook them. So take a hard look at your idea. Is it just a rehashed, barely original version of an idea that someone else already has locked down? If it is, do something else. And tell Microsoft and Samsung while you’re at it. They need help.

Reason #2: You’re scared of being disliked

So there’s this awesome little cafe down the street from my house called The 50’s Cafe.

There’s something interesting going on here…

The food is pretty good — not too much better or worse than IHOP or Denny’s. The location is decent, but not the best. The prices are average. But every weekend, this place is PACKED. I mean SLAMMIN’.

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IHOP is about 1 mile away, with tables to spare…but you can’t even get a seat at The 50’s Cafe. WTF?

Why? I found out one-morning eating breakfast.

The waitress gave us the check, I gave her my debit card, and she looked at me like I was an idiot.

“We only accept cash. Don’t you see the sign?”

Sure enough, there were signs everywhere. To go along with the theme of their restaurant (50’s), they don’t accept credit or debit.

At first, I thought this was a MAJOR pain in the ass. And I thought they were freaking STUPID. Why would a restaurant willingly turn down thousands of dollars in business because they didn’t accept modern payment systems? But sure enough, the place was always packed — and I started to see why.

What was originally a point of contention actually started to make the restaurant special.

Conversations go like this:

Hey, do you want to get breakfast?

Sure. Let’s go to The 50’s Cafe.

Ugh. I don’t have any cash on me.

Isn’t it SO inconvenient that they do that?

Yeah, I wonder why the owner decided to do that. Freaking idiot.

I’ve never heard of a restaurant turning down money. That industry is hard enough.

Whatever, I’m hungry. Is there an ATM around?

And the owner isn’t THAT dumb — because guess what…

He put an ATM right outside the door. LOL.

If he’d been too scared to do this “cash only” policy, what would have happened?

He would have had a regular, completely unremarkable diner.

There would be nothing to differentiate him from any other breakfast joint on the block — and certainly nothing worth talking about.

It’s counterintuitive…but by making things just a little harder for his customers, he now enjoys the buzz that comes with running a business that’s cool and different.

Does his policy piss some people off? Sure. But he wasn’t scared of making a few people mad to stand out.

Are you pissing enough people off?

If not, you should be.

Sound crazy?

Here’s what you have to realize: Playing it safe is literally the riskiest thing you can do. Purposely blending in, not being too “different,” not wanting to “rock the boat” or ruffle some feathers is the quickest road to being forgotten.

Your customers have choices. They have soooooo many choices…and one of the best ways to get their attention is to do something out of the ordinary.

Outside of the lines of what’s traditionally seen as acceptable.

When you do this, some people WILL get pissed off. It’s inevitable. But if you’re just launching an idea, you can’t afford to play it safe. You can’t color inside the lines and get noticed.

Just remember, love and hate usually come in equal quantities. If you have 5 people that hate what you’re doing, there are probably at LEAST 5 who think it’s brilliant — because it speaks directly to them. Focus on those people.

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Ruffle some feathers.

Reason #3: You’re not remarkable

First of all, let’s unpack what “remarkable” actually means. It’s not some weird, esoteric super-quality.

Basically…it just means “worthy of remark.” Is what you’re doing WORTHY of other people taking time out of their day to talk about it? Things that are remarkable don’t require the user be prodded or poked for them to share it like raving lunatics.

Examples of remarkable products/services I can’t help but blab about to other people:

  • 23andMe — An awesome genetic testing service that’s given me insight into my entire family lineage. Never seen this technology before last year. Definitely worthy of remark.
  • Uber — Particularly when it first came out a few years ago. Imagine the ability to call a car on command. Life-changing. Now they are doing HELICOPTER rides in LA to random winners. Again, remarkable.
  • Metroflex Long Beach — Without a doubt, the best gym on the planet, full of the most intense people you’ll ever meet. Home of CT Fletcher. Part colosseum, part Hell. A pit bull named Bently lives there and runs around the gym floor.
  • Foundr Magazine – A top ranked digital magazine that produces EPIC content for aspiring and novice stage entrepreneurs and connects them with founders at the top of their game like Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Tim Ferriss and many more!

These are just a few examples of products/services that have an “x-factor.” That little special something that makes them worth telling about to whoever appears relevant.

I take pride in spreading the word because I want to see businesses like these do well and conquer the world.

Why isn’t your idea remarkable?

My guess is because you tried too hard to copy someone else. (#1)

Or you’re too scared of getting rejected. (#2) Go to the detergent aisle. There’s Tide, Gain and a few other unremarkable brands that I’ve never committed to memory. I have no preference other than I buy what my mom always bought (Tide).

But none of those products stand out. They are commodities and as such, they don’t care about being remarkable. They just want to maintain market share. Your idea is new. It has no market share. People don’t know about it. And they don’t care.

You have to make it so good that people have to choice but to talk. You have to be so good that they can’t ignore you. That’s how you make it remarkable. If it’s not, back to the drawing board.

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