Summary: One of the pitfalls a guy who lives inside his head so much can encounter is not knowing when to leave.
I’m an idea guy. I love ideas. That’s why I love books; they’re full of ideas. I read a lot. I think about things; turning them over in my head like a bread-maker kneads dough. A lot of my life has been spent inside my own head.
We live out in the country and we’re real do-it-yourselfers. We build our own barns, put up our own fences, build our own decks, and make most of the repairs around the house. We’re pretty independent in that respect.
Before I do anything on the property, though, I need to do it in my head. I need to do it over and over again in my head. I don’t mean plan out the job, I mean do the job; nail up the lumber, run the wiring, dig the trenches, everything. I build the entire project in my head several times before I pick up a hammer or a wrench.
Mentally rehearsing the job over and over kind of takes the place of drawing up blueprints and creating materials lists. It’s probably not a good substitute – I forget things – but it’s what I do. I’m wired that way.
One of the pitfalls a guy who lives inside his head so much can encounter is not knowing when to leave. Some folks may consider it admirable that I think so much and read so much and turn ideas over in my head like a bread-maker. Thanks, I appreciate your high regard. The problem though, is that I get so comfortable inside my own cranium that I tend to stay there instead of going outside when there’s real work to be done.
My wife is pretty patient. I announce that we’re going to build a fence around the lower pasture. She’s tickled. She’s wanted a fence around the lower pasture for years. Three months later there’s still no fence around the lower pasture and she’s beginning to wonder if I really meant to build a fence or if I was just talking.
What she doesn’t realize is that I’ve already built the fence, start to finish, every board, every post, every nail, about twelve times … in my head. What I don’t realize is that the fence in my head, no matter how well built, doesn’t really serve a practical purpose.
The fence in my mind is beautiful and well constructed. As far as I’m concerned, ninety percent of the work is already done. All that remains is to actually buy the boards, dig the post holes and grab a hammer. It’s a pleasant place to be. Most of my work is accomplished without the necessity of any actual labor. That’s why the queue of “ninety percent finished” jobs in my head is so long and the list of one-hundred percent finished jobs in reality is so short. It’s just easier in here.
Before starting True Potential Publishing we had a packaging business. Back when I was employed by other companies, I established a reputation as a fast learner and a generally “smart guy.” I used that reputation and my ability to think through problems and express the solutions with semi-eloquence to start and build our own business.
Around the same time we started our packaging business, two salesmen from another company started their packaging business. I knew these guys from our previous employments. I admired them as go-getter salesmen and they thought of me as a kind of guru in our little industry. They used me and our company for technical jobs and brought me to their customers when they needed an outside “expert.” All in all, they thought I was very smart.
And I was. Our products were specialized; more engineered and complex. I could think big thoughts, see the big picture and persuasively express ideas for improving our industry. I was really good in a meeting.
My two friends admired what I did, but it wasn’t their bag. They liked the less technical products, the commodities - tape, bubble wrap, foam peanuts; the stuff everybody on the block was selling, but the stuff virtually every company used. They knew how to sell and that’s what they did. Every morning they’d get up and go to existing customers, meet new customers and cold call anybody they hadn’t met yet. Every day, every week, every month, all year.
Five years after we began our respective companies I went to visit my two friends at their facility. It was huge! They were five times our size and from the looks of it five times more successful. I was the smart one. I had the really special, really technical products. How could these two guys who sold bubble wrap and tape outgrow us so easily?
The answer was simple. They didn’t spend as much time building their company in their heads. They just skipped that part and went ahead building it in reality. There may have been some things they hadn’t thought through as well as I did. Their products certainly weren’t as technical or as designed as ours were. But they were a lot more successful.