Starting anything is hard.
It spends your time, your energy, your money, and your relationships. It will be stressful and difficult and you’ll want to quit repeatedly. And yet you’ll do it anyway.
Why? Because you want to make the world a better place. You want to make an impact. You want to make your mark. You want to create the things that you envision in your mind. You can’t help yourself.
There are many ways to go about the process of starting something new, but I believe there are two simple steps that will keep you on the right track: thinking big and starting small.
You can spend your time on millions of things, so finding the right thing becomes the challenge. You can use questions or methods to come up with what you do, but they should all have one thing in common: they should be big ideas. Here’s why.
1. Push the Envelope
This is the premise argued by Peter Thiel in his must-read book Zero to One. In the book, Thiel explains how many startups today are aiming too low, only striving for incremental growth. They are trying to improve on one, on what is already there.
Instead, the big ideas, the ones that change the world, are trying to go from zero to one, to go from nothing to something.
We asked for flying cars, we got 140 characters.
This isn’t a slight against Twitter, but rather making a point. We don’t need another social network or another app. What we need are big ideas that disrupt industries, change behaviors, and create new possibilities.
We need to push the envelope.
2. Reach Your Potential
Not only do we need to push the world forward, but also ourselves. We often sell ourselves short on what we can accomplish.
When you dare to dream big, you’re putting yourself in a position to aspire to your best self. You’re allowing yourself to achieve the things you never thought possible, to realize your full potential.
If you don’t strive for big ideas, you won’t have an opportunity to reach them.
3. Failure is still Success
When we strive for big ideas, the likely outcome is still probably failure, but that’s OK.
First, if it’s important enough, trying becomes a necessity. You can’t not try to achieve the idea you’ve envisioned.
Second, failure only turns into knowledge. We learn from our mistakes, our failures, and what we learn from this, we can use for the next round.
Third, even if you do fail, what you accomplish will still be valuable. Achieving 90% of a big idea is still a success.
Don’t be deterred by the fear of big thinking.
While coming up with big ideas is important, executing on them is another matter entirely. What we need to realize is that we don’t need to reach our vision over night.
We’re not expected to have a fully mature operation in weeks. It takes time and rather than chasing your big idea right away, we should start small. Here’s why.
1. Know Where to Start
When we have a big idea, it can be overwhelming. How do you even start? When Elon Musk started SpaceX he didn’t try to go straight to Mars.
First he perfected taking a rocket to orbit. Then he worked on getting a rocket to remain intact and land after take-off. Then he worked on a drone rocket. He’s taking steps towards his bigger goals of space exploration, but he’s doing so in a methodical manner.
Breakdown your big idea and find ways to start smaller. This makes things more manageable and builds confidence towards the bigger picture.
2. Move Fast, Break Things
Another major benefit of starting small is that you can start today. When you have a smaller starting point, speed and progress are your friends.
You can build prototypes, test, learn, and create much quicker. This gives you a shorter feedback loop, better understanding of what’s possible, and more guidance on where to go next.
This thought process very much follows the Lean Startup methodology, where you can start fast and refine faster.
3. Master Your Work
If you can’t make a handful of people happy with what you do, how do you expect to satisfy thousands or millions or billions of others?
Realize that if you can build your product and successfully meet the expectations of a smaller market, you have a much higher likelihood of success and ability to scale up.
With a smaller sample you can master your product or service or idea, without wasting excessive time, money, and resources.
Furthermore, things only get harder as you grow. Starting smaller allows you to build a solid foundation from which to scale from.
Without the little ideas, there are no big ideas.
The main point is that there is a balance to strike between thinking big and starting small. Big ideas will drive you forward, but small ones will help you achieve them.
When you’re starting something new, remember these two steps to get you on the right path.