Why good ideas have lonely childhoods

Pain is a feeling triggered in the nervous system. You may feel pain in one area of your body, such as your leg. Or, you may feel pain all over, such as when your whole body aches from say food poisoning. You probably know the symptoms of food poisoning: nausea, abdominal cramping, dizziness, headache, blurred vision, etc. That’s the kind of pain I felt as I was reading a story in Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book titled The Thank You Economy, about an uncomfortable situation in which he found himself back in 1997. Honestly, as I was reading the said story, I felt as if I could feel his pain too. Here’s a little taste:

In 1997, shortly after I launched WineLibrary.com, I was invited to a conference hosted by a local chapter of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce to talk about online selling. It was my first speaking engagement, and I was pumped. I sat in the wings, trying to stay calm as the speaker before me walked out onstage. He wore a tie. He has VP credentials and a fancy PowerPoint presentation. And the theme of his talk was that dotcom retail was a crock. It wasn’t practical, and it would never take off because, as the data on his PowerPoint slides revealed, nobody in Middle America was buying, nor would ever buy, on the Internet.
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Let’s hit the pause button here: Take a break…. Breathe… Okay, here’s Gary again:

My short-term dream at the time was to become the Amazon for wine, and the audience I was about to explain that dream to was staring at this PowerPointing clown’s charts and graphs as if they were carved stone tablets brought down by Moses. As he finished up, he said, “This kid’s now going to tell you how he’s going to sell wine on the Internet. How many of you here would ever buy wine on the Internet?” Only one or two people out of sixty or seventy raised their hands.
_ _ _ (This is of course not the entire story, just a short excerpt—please read Gary’s book.)

I highly recommend Gary’s new book, and I am not saying this just because the concept of word of mouth marketing is one of the stars in it. I am recommending his new book because Gary is truly a master storyteller with a gift for discussing life’s challenges in marvellously authentic & amusing ways.

Now, let me try to answer the dilemma posed in the headline of this post: it’s true, good ideas often have lonely childhoods. But why? One of the most elegant answers to this dilemma, in my opinion, can be found in the book titled ignore everybody, by the cartoonist Hugh MacLeod:

Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That is why good ides are always initially resisted. The good news is, creating an idea or brand that fights the Powers That Be can be a lot of fun, and very rewarding. The bad news is, they’re called the Powers That Be for a reason—they’re the ones calling the shots, they have the power. Which is why the problem of selling a new idea to the general public can be sometimes a piece of cake, compare to selling a new idea internally to your team.

This is to be expected: having your boss or biggest client not like your idea and fire you hits one at a much more immediate and primal level than having some abstract housewife in rural Kansas hypothetically not liking your idea after randomly seeing it advertised somewhere. Which is why most team members in any industry are far more concerned with the power relationships inside their immediate professional circle than with what may actually be interesting and useful for the customer… Good ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. Good ideas exist in a social context. And not everybody has the same agenda as you.
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My 2¢: As REM once said: “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”