Rapidly in Pursuit of Failure

I am a sprinter. 

I live life in short bursts. Two weeks chasing a hobby, or a sparkling new pursuit. Giving myself completely to an idea. Up late, up early, energized and watching my work put on skin. 

It’s terrifically exciting. All that momentum. All the success, real and imagined.

But it’s also terrifying.

These energy bursts, these nuclear shots of productivity usually have an expiration date. I can only sustain this speed for two to four weeks. And then #*@%#! And my crashes are a loud, banging sound, the kind that usually leaves me tired and frustrated, even sick. 

This is no way to live, you’re thinking, but because you’re polite, you aren’t saying it out loud. I agree with you. 

Since we’re talking honestly, you might be wondering if this is mental health issue. Well, I’ve wondered that too. And it would be nice to blame it on a diagnosis. But if I’m honest, I think it’s some kind of a personality trait or talent I just haven’t figure out how to use yet.

Nuclear energy, as we know, is capable of powering entire cities and nations. It’s also capable of destroying them. I feel like this about my own life. I have this personality power that I haven’t figured out how to master yet. Instead of powering my life, it is wrecking it. 

[On left: photo cred: scientificamerican.com/on right: photo cred: renewablepowernews.com]


Today I sat down with myself to figure out why I initially believe all my ideas are created equal, only to find out they are not. And why more often that not, good and bad ideas both seem to end up on God’s doorstep, abandoned. 

So for my learning, and maybe also for yours, here are the paths of my “good” and “bad” ideas. [It’s hard to know what constitutes good or bad, but for this scenario, I’m basing it on the likelihood for each idea to catch on in the real world, or the demand it would have by real people.]

The Good Idea Path:
Step 1: Get a new idea while driving, in the shower or just before falling asleep. 
Step 2: Become overwhelmed with adrenaline surge and begin contacting people who can make the idea come to life.
Step 3: Fantasize that I will become a well-known consultant on this topic and have a terrible time keeping up with demand.
Step 4: Start talking about the idea and how excited I am.
Step 5: Make meaningful connections toward the success of the idea. 
Step 6: Realize that people think my idea is good and there really is a market for it. 
Step 7: Become fearful that this is too good to be true and I have just started talking too soon.
Step 8: Fantasize that after I become famous from my brilliant idea, I will never be able to keep up with the demand. It will spin out of control and I will freak out, and someone will find me weeks later, under my kitchen table in the fetal position. 
Step 9: Abandon or table idea. 


The Bad Idea Path:
Step 1: Get a new idea while driving, in the shower or just before falling asleep. 
Step 2: Become overwhelmed with adrenaline surge and begin contacting people who can make the idea come to life.
Step 3: Fantasize that I will become a well-known consultant on this topic and have a terrible time keeping up with demand.
Step 4: Start talking about the idea and how excited I am.
Step 5: Make meaningful connections toward the success of the idea. 
Step 6: Realize that no one actually thinks this will work.
Step 7: Question my entrepreneurial spirit and wish I had slept on it.
Step 8: Abandon or table idea.

It’s not fair to say that all ideas end up this way, tossed out and left for dead. But it’s enough of a pattern to be addressed. 


One helpful ah-ha emerged from today’s thought-storm: I realized I spend so much initial energy on my ideas because I do not trust myself to stick with them long-term. I imagine that the more I accomplish during the early sprint, the more I will be committed to the idea or the more I will be able to see it play out as failure or success early on.

Giving an idea legs in two weeks rather than two years doesn’t necessarily mean it is more likely to be successful. In fact, taking the time to muse and meditate over something may make it more likely to succeed in the long run, knowing a truly good and worthwhile concept will inevitably require my life’s work, patience and creativity.


The answer to overcoming this pattern is obvious. (I think.) Stop playing the hare and play like the tortoise instead. 

If I respond to a new idea with less speed and more thoughtfulness, I might be able to rule out which ideas are good and which are not. With only one or two paths to pursue, I would put more time and energy into just a few things, develop them, let them succeed or fail, but it would not be for quitting or running out of steam. Moving more slowly would allow me to anticipate demand and make accommodations for success. 

Nevertheless, I have this proclivity for moving fast. Sprinting. I think it’s good, but I still don’t know what to do with it. I needed to modify my approach to new ideas, look at them all with a bit more suspicion as to have more clarity. But I want to make sprinting work for me. That will come next. 

If you have any genius, thoughts or experience you’d like to share in regards to this blindspot of mine, I welcome it. 

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