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Being Brave is Tricky


We've talked a lot about being brave, and the idea that if nobody hates your product, it's probably mediocre:


And we've talked about the difference between incremental improvements and revolutionary leaps:


But being brave is tricky.

If your new Big Idea doesn't scare the hell out of you, it's probably not a new Big Idea. If it doesn't scare other people, it might be because you allowed the consensus (or what you imagined as the consensus) to smooth the pointy bits, buffing and polishing the idea into a nice safe state that displeases nobody and delights nobody.

But what if your idea really does suck? We can never know for certain--some of the most important ideas have always defied logic, evidence, testing, focus groups, conventional wisdom, etc. But if you don't try, then where are we? Even if a Big Idea fails, that puts us one attempt closer to something that will work. The Big Ideas that succeed are often the ones that would never have happened if something else hadn't been tried and failed.

I don't have a good answer for this other than one tiny piece of advice--try to determine the source of your fear. If it's over what other people will say--or are saying--then you might want to acknowledge and ultimately ignore it. Any good new idea has critics. Many of those critics are smart, reasonable, sincere, not-afraid-of-change people who simply do not see and feel what you see and feel. Should you listen to them? Of course... with one ear, anyway. They might have truly useful info you didn't have--info that can help alter your course, change your decision, or at the least--prepare you for more criticism to come.

But--if we let the critics (or fear of criticism) talk us out of an idea we still believe in, the world will be more homogeneous. Smoother. Less interesting. Imagine where we'd be if people throughout history had always given in to the critics (or fear of critics). Imagine the ideas that would have been lost if others hadn't been brave enough to stand up against smart people who disagreed. Nature needs change and diversity, but humans tend to favor the status quo.

Think about the times you've said, "What a terrible idea -- that will NEVER work!" about something that later succeeded and proved your perception wrong. If you can view your critics (I'm not talking about the "who moved my cheese" nay sayers who fear anything new) as people who are just as sincere as you are when you are wrong about someone's idea, it might help. They aren't trying to trash your idea -- they're trying to help. They might be saving your butt. But they might be dead wrong.

If your fears are coming from that nagging feeling within--your OWN little voice-in-the-head-or-gut that says, "something's not right here...", pay attention! But if your fear is over what others will say (or are saying), sometimes you just have to say, "screw 'em." ; )

Or as Apple says,
Here's to the crazy ones

"...you can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.
Because they change things..."

Every time I make a post like this, I'm slammed somewhere for "glorifying the troublemakers and encouraging people to push their crazy, bad, stupid, dangerous ideas."

I don't glorify the "crazy ones". I thank God for them.

Yes, they might make mistakes. But is that better than the alternative?

[Disclaimer: I'm obviously not talking about the kinds of ideas where lives are at stake. Different set of rules there...]

Think of new ideas and progress like photography -- you have to take a bunch of photos to get one good one. The more we have a culture that discourages and punishes all failures, the more we're just shooting our future in the foot.

Posted by Kathy on December 5, 2005 | Permalink


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I think you're right Kathy, thinking outside the box can destroy your life, or it can improve it and make you very successful. I think the secret is a positive mental attitude. You can't fail at least you stop trying, and that is why so many people is having afraid to think different.

Thinking outside the box can lead you to a very impressive success or a very impressive failure. But at least, you aren't stuck just yelling other people on what they are doing, you are being part of something, you are out there doing what everyone suppose to be doing: you are changing things (as you said!)

I think the worst thing we can have is afraid to failure. Because it stops us from thinking outside the box = we are death.

Javier Cabrera

Posted by: Javier Cabrera (ClearYourMind) | Dec 5, 2005 12:13:01 PM

Good point Javier. And what's so terrible about failure anyway?

When I started my latest company (which makes people happy a work) it was quite a stretch. I came from IT to a new business area, an untried business model, untested products, etc. In short: A complete experiment.

And I decided from the very beginning that I would rather do this and fail than not do it. Obviously I would prefer to do it and SUCCEED, but everything being new there were no guarantees.

This has been a key decision that has given me great peace of mind and freedom to try out new, untested ways of doing business. And it has worked out great, might I add :o)

Posted by: Alexander Kjerulf | Dec 5, 2005 1:23:16 PM

Great. Thx a lot; this all makes really sense to me. It`s very clever and intelligent, too. So I will simply add my Buddha saying for the month, `cause I feel the additional value and usefulness: Faithful, Loyal and true to my word, I am steadfast in seeing things through. Using this virtue, you can easily help and inspire others in an unbiased and altruistic way. Rock on everybody.

Posted by: Dirk Hagen | Dec 5, 2005 2:45:04 PM

For someone who is reasonably comfortable how they are, the cost of failure to them is usually greater than the benefits that success will bring. If I live in a modest house, and start a business, the cost to me if it fails would be that I live in a cardboard box on the street. If it succeeds, I might live in a slightly larger house.

To make more people brave, we need to reduce the costs of taking risks. If someone carefully considers the risks, and starts a business and it doesn't work, they should be able to get back on their feet again quickly. For this to happen, people need to better understand risk.

Posted by: Richard Jonas | Dec 5, 2005 3:16:57 PM

To quote these quotes from Mahatma Gandhi the great Indian leader which fit with the topic of the post:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes"

"Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy."

"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err."

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds."

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

Posted by: Deepak Surti | Dec 5, 2005 3:46:25 PM

Why the caveat about life-threatening situations? While nobody wants to be the one to make a fatal mistake, it is true that valuable lessons are learned in those situations. That's not well-put, I'm afraid, but what I'm thinking of is the enormous advances in surgery made during war (MASH units in Korea come to mind). While the situation is not something we necessarily one we wish to repeat, surgeons HAVE developed new techniques by trying new things in extreme circumstances.
Now does anybody want ME to try that - probably not, but any situation COULD be amenable to a new approach.

Posted by: Ric | Dec 6, 2005 6:10:56 AM

Here is a nother quote, this one attributed to Lucille Ball:

I'd rather regret the things I have done than the things that I haven't.

Posted by: Derek Andrews | Dec 6, 2005 6:45:32 AM

Hey! urm my problem is something more less then buisness mine is high school My friends are spreading my secrets well i blurted it out thinking they wouldnt do anything then its got a whole lot worse now because they are going to ask the person if its true and im so scared of what they might do or even say for that matter. but after reading all of this i have to ignore them and take the oppertunity to fix it when they say something i can cover it over and hopefully stop them from asking this person thanks for the help but i still dont really feel like facing school!

Posted by: tasha | Jan 4, 2006 11:48:26 AM

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