Wannabes get excited by ideas. They think an idea shows IQ.
Ideas are nothing. They’re literally pissing in the wind. For years I worshipped my online business ideas. I had so many of them.
The funniest was a music app similar to Spotify. But instead it was a music app for businesses. It was going to handle all the royalty issues once and for all. The idea never got off the ground.
I had no energy for it. My music days are long gone. And the idea was so similar to Spotify it was criminal.
That’s how most online business ideas sound.
“We’re going to be the Uber of — “
No you’re not. Shut the f*ck up.
The headline of this story comes from Lex Fridman. Like me, he worships execution because that’s when the boy/girl leaves ideas behind and becomes a man/woman.
Here’s what execution looks like and why it’s hard.
Longer hours than your 9-5 job
The first few years of an online business are hard.
You don’t wake up with a great idea, execute, and then suddenly have frappuccino meetings with Zuckerberg about buying you out. It never happens like that.
Business is hard work. You have to work hard at the start because there’s no money coming in to pay others to do the work. It doesn’t mean you embrace hustle culture or sleep on the office floor or burn out.
It just means you won’t be working gentle days sipping ice teas and working a job at LinkedIn that’s really just one big holiday (aka quiet quitting).
Not getting stuck on fantasies
A friend of mine has a 2-week-old food delivery company. He’s already talking about how Softbank is going to buy them.
“How should I pitch them?”
“How much will I get diluted at Series C?”
They haven’t delivered any food yet. Not even one pork roll. It’s an idea that has nothing more than a business bank account and a lousy trademark on some whizz-bang name. I’ve tried to help him as a fellow business owner.
“Stop talking this way. It’s just an idea. Go sell some stuff and quit jerking around Chief.”
When you hate the idea of hard work and do anything in the world to avoid execution, you sit around planning fake conversations with billionaires and talking about fantasy capital raises.
If the business doesn’t solve a real problem, it’ll literally choke to death on day one. Without any sales, it’s impossible to know if an idea is good.
There is Uber Eats after all.
No boring business plans
Business plans are nice.
Banks like them. PowerPoint leaders love them. Consultants get horny over them and go red. But business plans don’t mean anything.
We’ve all got plans — until we get punched in the face (says Mike Tyson).
All the time spent on planning is far better put to use executing. Execution is data. Data can confirm or deny ideas. Data can show consensus. Data can reveal problems worth solving (or lack of). Data tells a story.
Data is sexy.
If you want to know what to do then execute an idea and I guarantee you’ll find out. The moment a slither of demand comes in your direction you’ll know exactly what to do: sell, deliver, repeat, iterate.
Hidden risks (like “extortion people”)
When you have ideas and not execution you’re blind to risk.
But risk is in everything. Just ask an investor who was around back in 2008 or is living through this current recession caused by a bat virus.
I run an online education startup. Recently some half-wit tried to extort money out of me from his sanctioned country.
They got nothing, because, well, my family owns a law firm. So if you send me bullsh*t extortion claims I’m just going to unleash the wolves (lawyers) and get back to work. Silly.
But when I started this business I never knew such crazy people existed. I thought If I ran an honest business (which I do) then crazy people would leave me alone and let me drink my vegan thickshakes. But no.
Execution shows you risks you’ll never be prepared for.
Anyone can dream up perfect scenarios and theoretical markets. Only a simpleton like me can execute and learn along the way.
Not having all the answers is one of the joys of online business.
The rare diamond mindset
“Almost everybody can stay excited for 2 or 3 months. A few people can stay excited for 2 or 3 years. But a winner will stay excited for 30 years or however long it takes to win.” — Art Williams
People with nothing but ideas have short-term timeframes. They wanna get rich quick and head to the Mercedes dealership.
They see the prize before they’ve even begun working for the prize.
The diamond mindset is to get into an online business for minimum 5 years. That way you have enough runway to execute and properly have a crack. Anything less than 5 years is honestly a unicorn fantasy.
It’s hard to have a long-term mindset because the dopamine generation wants unearned dopamine, just like they get on TikTok for free.
The problem you think you’ll have is the wrong one
Assumptions get nuked when you start to execute.
In my business, I thought the most important resource to have was email subscribers. Turns out killer copywriting was the most important problem to solve for. My three previous attempts at this business all failed because I wrote emails to the email list that read like 5th grader pitches for candy to mommy.
I would have laughed at the start if someone said, “copywriting is the most important skill you’ll need to acquire.”
Execution equals discipline + habits
Execution is hard and the only thing that makes it easy is discipline and habits. Until you master these two skills you’ll never execute.
You’ll always rely on motivation, or hiring great people, or lottery startup money from venture capitalists.
I’m not the smartest online business owner, but I established early that if I make my daily business goals a habit, it’s impossible not to get some results. To maintain the discipline I place dog treat rewards at the end of every day so there’s something to look forward to after hard work.
Automate execution with habits.
Scaling equals level of self-awareness
My business partner and I are ridiculously self-aware.
We’ve spent a lot of time analyzing our weaknesses. Until you know what they are it’s hard to hire people to make up for your weaknesses. And if you try to do everything forever you’ll never scale.
Scale fast by getting real with what you suck at.
Not giving a f*ck
Most people who execute on an idea get laughed at.
We’re the dreamers, they say. Well, the real dreamers are the “ideas men” who fondle could-have-been concepts.
To execute and never give up you have to not give a f*ck. I don’t care what people think of what I do. I’m doing the best I can — and it’s working.
If you’re afraid of how you’ll look then execution isn’t for you. It’s best to stay working a job where the selling is done for you instead of doing the selling.
People love to give you unsolicited advice.
“Ohhh you should do it that way.”
We’re all geniuses in our underwear behind a computer when it comes to the discussion of execution on social media. People love to throw daggers at Papa Elon’s heart because he dared launch rockets or build electric cars.
Screw ’em I say. Elon will probably get us to Mars. That’s a big deal.
The carefree attitude is a must if you want to execute and not get weighed down in opinions from people who don’t execute. Just do.
The hardest part about execution 99% of people don’t understand
In case you think I’m smart, I didn’t get this either until recently.
Products and services are dead.
Why? Online business is moving away from products/services and towards communities. People who buy products/services are transactional. They come for the price or for a specific need. Then they love ya and leave ya.
With communities, though, people come for the community and the products/services they buy are an after-thought. Corporations are transactional. Communities are relational.
Transactions are with you for a day. Relationships are with you for life.
99% of people haven’t noticed this shift. It’s what the entire Web3 movement is about and most are hung up on NFT JPGs and pissed that Bitcoin can’t be used to buy a cappuccino. That’s not the point.
Those who execute on the next greatest ideas in history will all build communities first. That’s difficult and it’s why most will stay in idea land.
Execution is hard but it provides all the answers.