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The 10 steps between a vague idea and definite success

Thomas Edison long ago said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration. I believe the same is true about success be it artistic, literary, career or business. Without exception success is a mixture between inspiration and perspiration, creativity and planning, exaltation and hard work.

We all have ideas; if anything we all have too many ideas. It seems to me that the difference between ‘normal’ people and highly successful people, financially and otherwise, is that the former are satisfied simply with having ideas; ‘extraordinary’ people go several steps further to make ideas and success.

Ten steps further, to be precise!

These are:

  1. The idea. This is the initial moment of inspiration. This could be an idea for a new business, new book, new course, new journey, new challenge or a new life direction. Ideas are ‘flashes’ that strike you when least expected. Controlling or predicting ideas – both as timing and content – is next to impossible although there are techniques that enable creativity and ideas generation. Ideas are self contained and fleeting, a bit like photographs.
  2. The dream. Transforming an idea into a dream is like making the photograph into a movie. This is done by linking the idea to other ideas, situations, feelings, desires, fears etc. By doing this we literally make our ideas come to alive. By enriching our idea to become a dream we also develop a level of awareness and the desire so needed in the pursuit of this dream. Dream your idea and record your dream.
  3. The plan. This is when the dream you have shaped and recorded ought to become a plan. At this stage the task is to identify the actions necessary to make the dream a reality and the timing – overall and for each action. What do you need to do and by when? In what sequence? What resources do you need? What support do you need?
  4. The strategy. Often people confuse the plan and the strategy. The way I see it the main difference is that the plan is something you do: you develop it, you implement it and you follow up on it. Strategy is more about what everyone else is doing and how do your plans fit with it. Strategy without a plan is pointless; plan without a strategy is unrealistic.
  5. The action(s). Nothing much to say here except that once the plan and strategy are in place all that is left is to ‘just do it’. Simple as it sounds, for most people taking action (or doing) is an insurmountable hurdle. In fact, most people fail because they never act.
  6. The product.  Here ‘product’ is used in a very broad sense – this can be an information product, an intellectual and/or artistic achievement, a service or entertainment. This product has to be specified and how it contributes value specified. It is also important to set out a clear idea of the product’s selling points.
  7. The process. What are the processes through which the product is delivered? Are these optimal? Is there anything that can be done so that the processes become optimal?
  8. Marketing. It doesn’t matter whether you have a wonderful product if no one learns about it. Who is the product for? How are these people going to hear about it? What will make them desire it? Are you targeting a market or are you creating a market?
  9. Sell. Selling your product is absolutely critical to success irrespective of the area in which you work. Artists sell their pictures; writers sell their books; academics sell their ideas and manufacturers sell their goods. Selling your product completes the cycle from an idea to its realisation.
  10. Feedback loops.  This is the step where reflexivity kicks in. You will need to make choices at each of the other steps. It is important to ensure that along the way from an idea to its realisation there are inbuilt feedback loops making it possible to separate duds from promise.

These steps are not sequential; in other words you may find that it is necessary to go back to particular step or to account for several of these in parallel.

Lastly, I would like to remind you that statistically eight out of ten ideas are not going to work. The important points are:

1)      to try and test many ideas;

2)      to be able to distinguish between the ideas that work and the ones that don’t work; and

3)      to focus on the ideas that work rather than on the ones that don’t work.

Ideas are precious; success is an unforgettable journey of ten steps.

23 thoughts on “The 10 steps between a vague idea and definite success”

  1. Whenever I create a goal, my next step is a plan. Whether itis a long term goal (more than one year) or a short term goal (less than a year), you must have a plan. The ingredient that I like to use is monitor your progress and adjust your effort. That small ingredient helps me achieve my goals more than any other.

    • @KrantCents: Feedback loops and checks of progress are essential. These steps work with different kinds of projects, not only goals. What really gets me is the strategy: first few see clearly the difference between a plan and a strategy; and second most think that strategy is what they want to do when in fact it is as much about what everyone else is doing.

  2. I have ideas and do a lot of dreaming, but tend to get stuck somewhere along the way during the action. At some point I just talk myself out of it… I’m aiming to follow through on a few ideas in 2012, I’m hoping I do a better job this time around!

  3. There was a guy in a magazine I just read that came to similar conclusions as you. His theory was (and he was a successful entrepreneur) that even if you tried to create or innovate something and failed, it was as if you had worked out that creative muscle in your head. Just by attempting, you would get better at creating. Interesting concept.

    • @MUM: Creative fitness! There is something here, I think. Apart from working the ‘creative muscle’ I think following these steps helps us get our creations ‘out’ and ‘out there’. Did I mention that I have written about two thirds of a book on fitness? It is not out yet and I am not certain whether it will get ‘out there’.

  4. I definitely can appreciate where you are going. Some people stop at goal-setting, not realizing that goal-setting is just the beginning. It’s good to be inspired, but next comes the action. By strategically approaching your goals, dreams, and passions in the way you mapped out, you will build your creative muscle and achieve much more success.

  5. Great list of steps to get your ideas done! I struggle with the strategy and the action because I’m always to busy chasing the next shiny object thinking it will work better than what I’m currently doing. My goal this year is to become more focused so I don’t waste time, money and energy on something I never finish.

  6. @The Jenny Pincher: Chasing the next thing was the story of my life. What I ended up with was large volumes of ‘selected intentions’. Now I am learning how to see things to completion and fruition. BTW, I have ‘insight’ type creativity which makes finishing things really hard. You may be similar! In my academic work I found a way around it by attracting ‘completer-finishers’ around me and working with them.

  7. Maria, this is great advice. I know that many times I get caught up in the details, but the fact of the matter is that focused-efforts win the day. When I am motivated and focused I always find success and my failures on the way do not seem like failures at all but rather like fun learning experiences (most of the time). But when I am aimless and exerting effort, I can become irrational and each little set back is a mountain. So, turn your mountains into molehills and love what you do and you will find success. Great post.

  8. Ideas are fabulous things but if you aren’t willing to put the work into them, they never stand a chance of being successful. You have done a great job of explaining the specific steps that are involved. I have found that re-evaluating is also an important step. Plans and strategies are crucial as long as you are consistently headed in the right direction. It can be easy to get off track if you don’t evaluate your progress in relation to the market and audience and then adjust accordingly.

    • @Pam: I always work hard on things; if anything I do overwork them (if there can be such thing). Working out the 10 steps helps me to work smarter rather than harder. Also, there is a difference between putting more and more thinking (including planning and strategising) and not ACTING. Feedback, having a tribe and overcoming fear of failure and ridicule are essential.

  9. This is a really succinct and helpful article. Could be packaged into a small helpful book. I notice most people get stuck or ‘grandiose’ at the idea stage- myself some times. Having implemented a couple of new ideas myself anyway, i must say your advice is thoroughly simple and helpful. Keep up the good work!

    • @Demi: Thank you so much for this. It was great fun to work out these steps and naturally it is very satisfying to hear that you find them ‘simple and helpful’. And I’ll think about the book – now this will be real fun to do because these steps are deceptively simple. When one goes into how to do it the fun begins.

  10. I have a bad habit of getting stuck on step 3. I feel like I need a step 2.5 or something to get there. Although I suppose mostly the problem is when I start planning, I find that everything I need to do is barricaded off, usually by monetary barriers. It’s quite frustrating, I must say.


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