A neurotic is a man who builds a castle in the air. A psychotic is the man who lives in it. A psychiatrist is the man who collects the rent. – Lord Robert Webb-Johnstone
I’ve had some interesting conversations recently and one of them reminded me about how to walk away – when do you know you have to do it?
You will come across a great many opportunities in life – which often come along with a friendly face trying to get you to buy into them.
Sometimes that face belongs to you.
It’s not always clear what you should do – will you miss the opportunity of a lifetime or will you breathe a sigh of relief that you dodged that bullet?
Cliches exist in this space because they’re true.
I spend a lot of time listening to people and I’ve started to realise one thing.
If you listen for long enough and ask enough questions you’ll start to get a feel for the kind of foundations an idea is built on.
Some ideas have no foundation, they are right down there at ground level already.
These are ideas with little ambition, few prospects.
I think we all start with these kinds of ideas when we first come up with them – it’s the equivalent of a child’s lemonade stand.
Isn’t that sweet, we think, and hand over some money for a drink.
Although I have to say, I’ve never actually done that – in this modern age the kids seem to reach straight into my wallet for some kind of sponsored activity or the other.
But, most business ideas you come up with that have to do with you personally spending time on they are, by definition, hard to scale – because there’s only one of you.
If you create crafts or art or do photography, there is a limit to what you can do yourself – unless you change your model.
For example, you can create a franchise, do online training or focus on design and outsource production and delivery.
At the other and are ideas that are rather on the fantastical end.
This is where someone comes up to you with a plan to create the next YouTube or the next Apple or the next something that already exists.
These are what you should recognise as castles in the air.
There is a recognisable shape to the idea, something plausible and similar has been done before.
But, does this person you’re talking to have the ability, experience and finances to make it happen?
How sound are his or her foundations?
You see, we shouldn’t really be swayed by the statistics that say things like 95% of all startups fail.
What we should do is look at the characteristics you need to succeed at anything at all in the first place.
And, if you want to succeed, it helps if you know what you’re doing.
It helps if you have a background in the subject, some knowledge, some ability to deliver, a track record of some kind.
Every once in a while you will find someone that enters a field that is completely different to theirs and disrupts it – creating a whole new industry and category of products and services.
But even those people will have a history – one that is built through testing and learning and failing and succeeding.
They will have foundations.
And foundations matter – because that’s what you build on.
Without them, you have nothing.
People will tell you that foundations don’t matter – what you need is belief.
And sometimes belief can keep a castle up there – you only have to look at what happened before the dot com boom and the housing boom and the tulip boom to know that belief is a very powerful thing.
Belief can support a castle in the air while gravity is busy doing its own thing watching over apples.
That doesn’t make it a sensible long-term strategy, however.
All it takes is for gravity to notice that there’s some funny business going on and you will find that the ground starts coming at you rather quickly and in an inconveniently unstoppable way.
That’s usually the bust part of the journey.
But these ideas are really tempting – be honest, how many of you stayed away from crypto during the hysteria in 2018?
Here’s the thing.
It’s sometimes very hard to tell whether something is solid or not.
All you can do is think for yourself – don’t believe everything you’re told.
Pointy ones – ones that try to figure out what’s really going on.
Because you’re trying to see if there is some substance to the story, if it’s built on solid foundations.
And if it’s not?