By JEFF HADEN
You have an idea. It’s new. It’s different. You’re psyched.
So naturally you start to share your idea with other people. . .and suddenly everyone’s a critic. Your friends hate the idea. Your family hates the idea. (Theoretically) knowledgeable and experienced people hate the idea.
And, understandably, you let their opinions stop you from pursuing your dream.
That’s not too bad—that’s incredibly bad.
Granted it’s natural to look for input when we need to make decisions—and even if asking for advice doesn’t come naturally, the business world trains us to actively solicit opinions, bounce ideas off other people, and run our ideas up proverbial flagpoles in order to harness the amazing brain power of the crowd and make awesomely incredible decisions. (Or something like that.)
But if your idea is genuinely new, other people—all of whom instantly become critics—at best won’t like it and at worst will devil’s advocate it to death.
(Keep in mind, I’m not saying I haven’t done the same.
Imagine if years ago you said, “Hey, I’m thinking of putting water in plastic bottles and selling it. What do you think?” I would have looked pointedly at the faucet, looked at you, looked back at the faucet. . .and then probably gone full McEnroe on you. Who in the heck would ever pay money for water in a bottle?
Turns out, hundreds of millions of people are happy to. So yeah, all too often I turn “critic.”)
The USA welcomes the Beatles
The same thing happened with The Beatles. Looking back, they seemed destined for success, but hindsight is always 20/20.
Here’s just a sampling of what some of the leading critics had to say when The Beatles first came to the United States in 1964:
“The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are godawful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as ‘anti-popes.'” —The Boston Globe
“The big question in the music business at the moment is, will the Beatles last? The odds are that, in the words of another era, they’re too hot not to cool down, and a cooled-down Beatle is hard to picture. It is also hard to imagine any other field in which they could apply their talents, and so the odds are that they will fade away, as most adults confidently predict.” —Newsweek
“The Beatles’ vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts.” —The New York Times
“Don’t let the Beatles bother you. If you don’t think about them, they will go away, and in a few more years they will probably be bald. . .and teenagers, go ahead and enjoy your Beatlemania. It won’t be fatal and will give you a lot of laughs a few years hence when you find one of their old records or come across a picture of Ringo in a crew cut.” —The Boston Globe
How to truly be unique
If you want to be different—if you want to achieve differently than other people—the only opinion that truly matters is yours.
When you make the decision, everything rests on you: Your vision, your passion, your motivation, and your level of commitment.
#1 When you ask for feedback, ask for data, not opinions.
Input from other people is useful, but only if you see their input as data points and not opinions.
Ignore everything that isn’t data—warnings, cautionary tales, and well-intentioned but poorly founded advice—since you already know all those things anyway.
#2 Then evaluate the data.
Data analysis is easy when opinions are stripped away. Make a pros and cons list. Apply sensitivities. Above all, be objective.
#3 Then decide how strongly you still believe in your idea.
Analysis will only take you so far, especially since critical thinking tends to steer decisions towards conventional wisdom.
Food for thought
Remember, an innovative product only looks like a sure thing in hindsight. Twitter only makes sense in hindsight. Spanx only make sense in hindsight. Bottled water only makes sense in hindsight.
Every ground-breaking idea or product only makes sense in hindsight; that’s why they’re ground-breaking. The emergence of any new industry only seems inevitable after it has emerged.
And that means someone believed when everyone else did not.
If you believe when others don’t—and if at least some of your belief is based on objective analysis and not just instinct—then go for it. Start a business. Enter a new market. Take a chance on a new product. Go for it.
No matter what other people say. No matter what the “smart” people say.
Granted, you may not turn out to be The Beatles. . .but you will never achieve any of your dreams if you don’t at least try.
Jeff Haden is an author of more than 50 non-fiction books and is a ghost-writer for innovators and business leaders. To engage with him, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Thought of the Week articles, click here.
June 25th is the Global Beatles Day and it celebrates the influence they have brought into this world, not just with their musical sounds but through their promotion of peace and love, of truth and youth, and of the expansion of human consciousness.
At Leaderonomics, one of the values that we strongly advocate is Empowerment. Just like the Beatles, we want to empower people so that they have a voice and access to a platform to make a difference.