Then consider Vinod Khosla.
Khosla made his mark as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Since then he has built a career on daring venture capital investments in clean energy technology. One of his big ideas was to convert wood chips into crude oil. Unfortunately, that company was not financially viable. It closed
Yet Khosla persists, investing in dozens of different approaches to clean energy. Earlier this year, 60 Minutes featured Khosla prominently in a story on the crash of the clean technology market. When the reporter suggested that people saw him as a starry-eyed dreamer, Khosla replied:
“In fact you need dreamers to stretch. I probably have failed more times in my life than almost anybody I know. But that’s because I’ve tried more things. And I’m not afraid to fail because the consequences of avoiding failure are doing nothing.”
That inspires me.
And it reminds me that when pursuing your big dream, doing something, even a little something, is better than being stalled. Just take a simple action. Any small action that moves you toward clarity is beneficial.
When I started work on my novel, Prophet of the Sun, I didn’t expect to explore self publishing.
I simply had an idea for a story that I wanted to publish. The problem was, I felt afraid of the whole process of writing, revising, querying agents, and seeking a publisher.
Counter-intuitively, I didn’t fixate the big goal. Instead, I just asked myself “What is the next logical step forward?” I wrote a sample chapter.
There, I had accomplished something.
I became curious about the characters. So I wrote another sample chapter. And another.
One small action gave birth to the next, and the project took on momentum.
I hopscotched around in the plot, writing only the scenes that really interested me, going back later to stitch them together with some kind of transition. It was messy and chaotic – not the best way to write a novel. But I was taking one action at a time. And, as Vinod Khosla suggested, it is better to try something than to do nothing.
Pretty soon, after lots of revision and cleanup, I had a manuscript that I felt good about.
And that’s where I stalled.
The next step: start querying agents. And that next step intimidated me. I lost all momentum. I set the manuscript aside.
Let’s pause for an important point. My Big Idea had not been fully achieved, but I had accomplished more by trying than I ever would have by not taking any action.
I had a 56,000 word manuscript.
I had a manuscript, but no real energy to undertake the next big step of shopping the book to the publishing industry.
But I had proven that I could write a book.
So naturally, I started work on the next book.
I was excited about my new project. My wife, not so much. One day, while I was bragging about this next book, my wife said, “It’s really hard for me to get excited about this next book until you do something with the first.”
God gifted me with a spouse who knows how to motivate.
I was still intimidated by the prospect of dozens of rejection letters, though. So I explored other opportunities. And came across self-publishing.
This was a path that I could take and see a reasonable end in sight to my project. I could again take small little actions, each step moving me closer toward seeing my work in print.
And now it’s out there (go take a look for yourself – get a copy – tell me what you think) – it’s been reviewed by 19 readers. I’ve held 2 book signings. And I still get feedback from readers who are picking up the book for the first time.
None of that would have happened if I kept swinging for the fences hoping for a publishing contract. I’d still be piddling with an outline.
The key point is that I learned Vinood Khosla’s lesson: When in pursuit of a big dream, trying something, doing something, taking action, even if you fail, is better than doing nothing.
So, what about you? What is your big idea?
What is the next small step you can take?
Who do you need to talk to for more information?
What brainstorming do you need to do?
What prototype do you need to make?
The secret is in taking the next small step. So what are you going to do?
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