Letting balloons fly away

Up, up and away

I’m inspired to write this by several stories that I’ve heard this week.  Stories about what happens when it all kicks off, and you launch your idea on the world when you weren’t expecting it to.

Picture this. You’ve been nurturing your plan for world domination for a while. Well. Maybe you don’t think of it as world domination. It may be that you have noticed something that could work better and you haven’t found any solutions out there for that particular problem. (We will come back to why this just might be world domination at a later date).

You find plenty of joy and satisfaction in working out how to fix that problem or deliver that plan. The very process is satisfying and challenging.  If you are setting up a business on the back of it, it might be about writing the business plan. You only have to look at the open source and developer communities to see that some people are more than willing to give up their time and energy just for the satisfaction of solving the conundrum or making things work better.

The fact is that, despite all the rhetoric around ‘lean start ups’, agile ways of working and perpetual beta, most of us want to present something to the world that feels at least slightly polished around the edges, and it’s a lot easier to refine and discuss than it is to actually deliver our baby to the world. Because that’s when it ceases to be yours and it becomes the property of others.

This is the psychology of the independent.  This goes to the heart of what we are and how we want the world to see us.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes, what you create gets a whole life of it’s own and takes off, regardless of whether you are ready for it or not, and the decision is – do you take off with it or stay safely where you are?

I’ve experienced this with KindredHQ.  It’s not that I didn’t have a big ambition, it’s just that the dream that we might change the way the world works, putting independent working at the heart of it seemed somehow so big that it became a disembodied, far away thing that I could constantly stretch for, and plan for, but would always be able to stick with what I knew.

Then, one day, things just took off and I suddenly felt the pressure to take decisions and opportunities and publicity and – I didn’t feel ready.  I felt like an amateur. I often describe this feeling as holding onto the rope of a hot air balloon that is taking off without me in the basket.

So what is it that stops us from just going for it and what can we do about it?

If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.  ~Albert Einstein

1. It’s not cooked enough..

To be honest, every time I stop to analyse what’s happening I stop creating. Our best ideas often come from the stream of consciousness and the free flow of ideas. Plenty of time for improvement later on. Your ideas might not be right, but they will have the raw beauty of authenticity about them before you start trying to shape them to fit a hole that you think people will accept.

2. Someone else has done it

Just as you are getting excited about your idea, your research throws up something that looks remarkably similar. It can take the wind out of your sails.  But don’t be put off your stride.  Even if something similar is launched, it won’t be ‘your’ idea, done your way. And as Seth Godin has put it, it’s a validation that it’s a good idea!

Don’t try and model your ideas to a predefined shape. There is plenty of advice out there about how to make your ideas happen. All that’s really happening is that they are making more money and you are still ruminating about how to launch yours.

Some of the most successful people in the world did what others told them would never work. Hang on it there and only trust your instincts.

That doesn’t mean don’t take advice, but don’t be slavish about it.

3. Fear of success 

Do not underestimate the power of the voice inside you to tell you that you are not going to make it. In fact, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of your idea, you will find reasons to sabotage it.  It’s so much easier to just be unremarkable.  I get that.

All I would say is that you should stick a toe in the water and feel how lovely and refreshing it is. It’s addictive and you’ll put the whole leg in and then all of a sudden, you are there.

4. Losing controloops

If things take off, you will almost certainly feel out of control at some point.  It’s important to allow this to happen, indeed it’s healthy. 

The key is to understand that you will make mistakes as you experiment and get better at your ‘thing’, and that very few of us produce flawless products without having refined them by finding out the parts that didn’t work beforehand.

Think about it like this. If there was one, easy way to be successful that meant just sticking to the model and never getting shaken up, a lot more of us would be multi millionaires.

5. Vested interests

For everyone who encourages you, there will be plenty who will think it’s their job to remind you why you will fail.

I don’t understand why people do this, but they do. The pressure on you to conform to the norm, not to rock the boat will be immense.

All I can say is that these people often spur me on to achieve in spite of them. So ignore them and if nothing else, carry on regardless.

6. The bills need paying

We are often conditioned to think of success in terms of our material possessions and even if you aren’t, you may have ‘responsibilities’.  Having money and stability is very often prioritised over the pursuit of happiness.  This is at the very heart of the reason that some of us choose to go for independent careers once we have a safety net of savings or something to fall back on.

I don’t suggest for one moment that you shouldn’t pay your bills, just that, where we have choices to make, we should give more weight to pursuing those big ideas and making them happen.

OK. So what’s stopping you?  Tell us what you think in the comments box below.

Inspired by Monica, Sarah, Miriam, Colin and so many more Kindred Spirits. Thank you.









Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.

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