‘Just Do It’ is Bullshit Advice

4 tips to make sure you don't waste your time on bad ideas

Sean Bennett
Apr 7 · 6 min read
Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

The last business idea you had was probably not a good one. I know mine wasn’t. In fact, it was so terrible that I can’t even remember what it was.

Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, spend an awful lot of time thinking up new ideas, always in the hope that the next one will be the one to make them rich. The fact is, however, that 99% of those ideas just aren't great. Sometimes, the hole in the market is there because society doesn't need it to be filled.

And yet, as the professional world moves more and more online, the tools of business have become more and more accessible to everyone. Where once any idea was forced to mature over time simply because of how long it took to set up a business, these days you can have a website, an online shop front, and a decent toolkit of analytical software ready to go in about 2 hours flat.

This has led to a ‘just do it’ attitude to business that actually does a lot more harm than good. People are making the most of how easy it can be to get started and are wasting their time and money on ideas that just don't have any mileage in them.

I want to avoid doing that, and I bet you do too.

1. Give it time

Yes, this is super obvious, but apparently it needs mentioning.

For the love of god, don't just jump in as soon as an idea strikes you in the shower. It's way too easy to get swept up in excitement before you've had a chance to figure out what the reality of your bright idea might actually look like.

Personally, I try to give ideas at least a month or two before I even consider putting any real work or money into them. That doesn't mean you can’t check if domain names are available or give some passing thought to a logo, but I would hold off on spending any serious money or time.

If an idea keeps coming back over a longer period of time, and no massive holes in your plan to present themselves, only then is it worth getting down to business.

I speak from experience on this one. A while back, in the dead of night, I came up with an idea for a blog that I thought would really resonate with people. Even better, I came up with a name. Within 12 hours I had bought the domains I needed, paid for website hosting, and begun designing the site. About a day later I wrote my first article for it and began populating the site before launch.

Then…

That’s it. That's the end of the story. The site never even went public.

Why?

Because I realised that the niche was already full, that I didn't have time to commit to the idea, and that the work-reward ratio was likely to be absolutely pitiful. In short, 24 hours after I had the original idea, reality kicked in the door and made me see sense.

Sure, I didn’t lose much money or time, but what little I did invest could have been saved if I have just waited.

2. If it doesn’t excite you, don't do it

No matter how good a business idea is, having the wrong people try to execute it will always end badly.

Tomorrow, I might come up with an objectively great idea for a business in motorsport. It won't be fully formed but it might have the makings of something great.

Sounds like a dream right?

The thing is, I don't care about motorsport. At all. Which means it would be an act of pure insanity for me to go into that industry.

Investing or having distant relationships in industries you don't really care about is fine, but when it comes to starting from scratch, no matter how good your idea is on paper, if you don't care about what you are doing, you will fail.

Building a business and a brand is a labour of love. The end goal might be money and success, but that usually isn't enough to motivate people through the fiery hellscape that is owning a startup. You have to be invested in what you do, not just financially, but emotionally.

If the only thing that excites you about an idea is how much money it will make you, and the actual industry itself bores you to death, my advice is to just leave it be. Excitement and passion are what get people through the first years of owning a new company. Without those ingredients, I really don't see it working.

3. People who hate your idea matter more than people who love it

When we have good ideas, it's only natural that we want to share them with other people and see how they react. It's like humans have an in-built desire to do market research.

This is a great way to figure out how valuable a concept actually is in comparison to how much value we have prescribed it in our own minds. After all, there’s no point going ahead with a business idea if all of your potential customers think you're insane.

Here's the things though — negative reactions are worth way more than positive ones.

When you first run an idea past people, it will probably be people you know. They might already be biased towards you and will therefore be more likely to lie in order to protect your feelings. Even members of the public are more likely to be positive out of sheer politeness.

Basically, you can’t trust positive responses.

You can trust negative ones, though.

It takes emotional effort for someone to give you a negative review of your idea. It takes even more effort on their part to tell you exactly what they think is wrong with it. Where a positive response might just be ‘yes, I like this’, a negative response is more likely to be ‘I don't like this because…’.

Responses like that are absolute gold. Seek them out, take them on board, and act on them.

When balancing up good vs bad responses, bear in mind peoples’ bias towards apathy or positivity. For an idea to be worth going ahead with, your positive responses need to significantly outnumber your negative ones.

4. Proportional time investment

Even after you've decided to go ahead with an idea, there’s still a long way to go before it can be considered ‘established’ and safe. Building a business takes time and there are a lot of ways in which even the best ideas can go horribly wrong in the early days.

The amount of time you spend on any given project should be roughly proportional to how old the project is and how much of a return you’re getting from it. New ideas should not be taking up 90% of your time when you don't even know if they're going to see out the year. Instead, try to slowly ramp up your investment into a project as it begins to form and mature.

Spend time on established, tried and tested things and then increase your devotion to new projects as they begin to grow and the risk of their collapse lessens.

In short — Don't quit the day job until you can actually afford to.

Again, I know this seems obvious, but people often have great faith and passion for their ideas. While that's great for them and is definitely positive for their project, it doesn't guarantee success. Going all-in on something based on hope rather than estabished proof of concept is a massive risk, and not one I would be willing to take.

When it comes to starting up in business, slow and steady wins the race more often than you might think. Take the time to do things right, and your project and personal life will be all the more stable because of it.

In summary

There you have it!

  1. Give it time.
  2. If it doesn't excite you, don't do it.
  3. People who hate your idea matter more than people who love it.
  4. Proportional time investment.

New ideas are intoxicating. They capture our imaginations with pictures of what the glistening future might hold. But the world of business isn’t a diamond mine just waiting for you to stumble across the right mining tools, it’s a battleground where the best strategists win in the end.

Starting a business, especially an online one, might be easier than it has ever been before, but easy doesn't always mean better. The best ideas are the ones that stick around, that excite us, that people like, and that are executed methodically and sensibly.

Internet shopfronts that take 2 hours to build might seem attractive, but they generally die out as quickly as they came into being. Their lifespan reflects the effort that went into them.

In the end, ‘Just do it’ is not a motto for success in business.

‘Do it well’ is how ideas grow into goliaths.

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Sean Bennett

Written by

(He/Him) Writer, editor and all-round curious so and so. Writing about politics, being queer, and lots besides! Get in touch at sean.writing27@gmail.com

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +725K followers.

Sean Bennett

Written by

(He/Him) Writer, editor and all-round curious so and so. Writing about politics, being queer, and lots besides! Get in touch at sean.writing27@gmail.com

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +725K followers.

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