Someone once asked mountain climber George Mallory “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” His legendary replay was “Because it is there.” We recognize the authenticity of this quote is under debate. Bona fide quote or not, human beings are wired to search out unknown boundaries. It’s why people run marathons, are fascinated by space, or work to create new technology. It’s the same reason why many of us feel compelled to create new businesses.
Entrepreneurship cannot exist without imagination. You have to dream it before you make it a reality. Imagination is your mind’s ability to create a blueprint by which you achieve great things.
In 2003 I jumped from the seemingly safe, warm waters of a great salary, a matching 401k, and paid vacations, into the cold, deep water of entrepreneurship. Seven days after making the big jump I was playing basketball with some 12-year-old Boy Scouts. As I went for a three-pointer from the corner, I heard a puzzling pop. As I looked down, I saw that my right foot was hanging in an odd position. I had no control over it. I’d snapped my Achilles tendon.
The result of that surprising snap was two painful surgeries, prolonged bed rest, physical therapy, and six months of recuperation. Physically, I was unable to get out and be about the work of starting a business. But I quickly recognized that even though my leg was useless, I still had a sharp mind and boundless imagination. It was my imagination that fought off despair.
Each night as I fell asleep, I forced positive thoughts into my mind. These thoughts centered around one specific goal. Closing my eyes I visualized cruising the deep blue Caribbean with my new business partners. I saw myself standing, filled with the intense emotions of victory, offering a toast to attaining our objective. “We did it! We made it!” This vision was a stabilizing and motivating lifeline.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang van Goethe (attributed in Murray, W. H. The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1951)
My wife and son drilled a hole in the bedroom floor in order to wire up a computer. Over the course of the next six weeks I taught myself how to program in HTML and built a website, 101waystosave.com. It was an ugly website, but it was a website! My partner Dan Handy had shown me a new advertising program from Google, and I was determined to check it out.
After loading a few advertisements onto the site, I drove some traffic to it. The first day the site made one dollar. Putting several more hours of work into the site resulted in a two-day profit of a whopping three dollars. I was on to something! At the end of the month the site was clearing over $100 per day. This little exercise went on to spawn several business ventures which became million dollar businesses at insane profit levels.
Reflecting on the experience I realized my injury forced me to take a break and rely on my imagination. This success had nothing to do with contacts, phone calls, lunch dates, big meetings, or a hundred other activities that make a “full work day.” Too often entrepreneurs get caught up in the day-to-day maintenance of an idea, forgetting that true strength lies in the idea itself!
There are times when intense focus can be destructive. If a climber spends all of his time feverishly focused on the summit, he could miss finding a more exciting or feasible route! Maybe there’s a better way to get to the top, or maybe there are more rewards to be experienced along the way. Whatever the case may be, the only way to find out is to take time to imagine the possibilities. I promise you that there is time enough in the day. The following section provides several ways to ensure you’re tapping into all of your entrepreneurial potential.
Porter’s Points – Imagine That!
· Making time to imagine is not counterproductive—it’s essential.
· Capture your ideas on paper, in a file, or on a whiteboard.
· Not good at “imagineering?” Practice.
Use your imagination to set goals and rewards – but then make sure you follow through! More on that next time….