Imagine this scenario.
Six months ago, you had an idea. It was a brilliant idea. While out walking your dog, doing the housework or enjoying a shower, you had a moment of inspiration.
In this moment, you came up with the title and concept for a new book, or an online course, or an invention with the potential to make you a fortune, or a new crypto currency that would empower some of the poorest people in the world who don’t have access to bank accounts.
Whatever your idea was, it was good. It was going to breakthrough and establish you as an authority in your industry.
So, you set to work on this product and, much to your surprise and pleasure, everything flowed. There were no snags and you were on track to meet your launch deadline.
Then, something happened. You had a passing conversation with a friend, mentor or investor and, just as you were about to leave and go back to work, they mentioned something about your product you’d never considered before.
They weren’t meaning to be critical or knock you. Instead, with their big picture view, they referenced something that you, in your inspired state of myopia, had completely overlooked.
Oh shit, you thought.
What if they’re right? What if X (the point they made about your product) completely undermines the validity of my creation?
These questions set off a train of negative thoughts and doubts that dominated your mind for the following days and weeks. The resulting mental anguish robbed you of all motivation to work. What was the point? If your friend’s, mentor’s or investor’s observation was correct, and you continued, then you’d be digging yourself an even deeper hole.
Has this experience ever happened to you?
If so, it probably left you frustrated, dejected and in a state of inertia.
If not, perhaps it’s right around the corner and the product you’re currently working on, that’s going so well, could be derailed by something you overlooked.
Either way, you’ll be keen to know what you can do.
I began working on my 4th book in January of this year. I was super excited for what, I believed, would be my breakout work.
Having worked in the self-help industry for close to a decade, I was aware that books with ‘Rules’ or ‘Laws’ in the title, combined with a number, tended to do very well (48 Laws of Power, 12 Rules for Life etc). With this in mind, I came up with the title 99 Rules for Living.
Feeling good about the idea, I put pen to paper. Little did I know, by October of the same year, my book title would have changed 5 times.
First, 99 Rules for Living became 25 Rules to Live By. This happened after a call with my writing mentor. He pointed out that, with nothing more than one rule per page, there was little room for anything of substance. Furthermore, with 99 rules to cover, there was a chance some of them would be weak, generic and unnecessary.
Second, after 8 months and 50,000 words of writing, I had a new idea for the book while on vacation. What if I was to change 25 Rules to Live By into a men’s book called 12 Rules for Sigma Males? I could trim the 25 rules down to 12. Furthermore, I could make ‘men who wanted to succeed in a world where they didn’t fit in’ the focus of the book.
Although excited by this idea, my inspiration was laced with frustration.
Having already written 50,000 words, I was in no mood to start again. However, in the back of my mind, I knew there was something intriguing about the concept and that it might be popular with a niche audience.
Third, it turned out 12 Rules for Sigma Males wasn’t going to work. The idea was strong but, after greater research, I decided the concept of a ‘sigma male’ was too limiting to write about (and based on nothing more than a handful of YouTubers opinions on what constitutes this third male archetype).
This left me in a quandary, though, as when I asked some author friends, and created a poll on Facebook, the overwhelming response was that 12 Rules for Sigma Males carried greater appeal than 25 Rules to Live By.
Such a response made it difficult for me to return to writing the aforementioned book. Furthermore, it seemed the concept of creating rules for men (or people) who found it difficult to ‘fit in’, yet wanted to succeed in their own way, was popular. Was I onto something?
Fourth, 12 Rules for Sigma Males changed into 13 Rules for Rebels. Deciding that writing for this niche audience was the way forwards, I changed the focus of the book from sigma males to rebels (doing so allowed me greater freedom in my writing and also meant I could appeal to women).
In my excitement, I mentioned the new title to one of my readers and received this frustrating yet, in hindsight, obvious response,
“But Joe, isn’t ‘Rules for Rebels’ an oxymoron? Rebels don’t follow the rules.”
I felt like such a dummy. Of course, he was right and I was going to have to rethink the title once more.
Finally, 13 Rules for Rebels became The Rebel Code: 13 steps to help you succeed in a world where you don’t fit in.
After many days of agonising over what I was going to do, and rueing the thought of 8 months of wasted work, I achieved clarity.
The above story documents an inspiring yet painful journey. Although I now feel my 4th book is greatly improved, the process was difficult and required some mental gymnastics to avoid the dejection that the thought of starting over again can bring.
Having been through this experience, I now want to share the keys to taking, what can appear to be, negative feedback and using it to your advantage.
Of course, you may decide the feedback is without merit. You would be within your rights to do so. Furthermore, as the creator of your product, you must show leadership and not allow yourself to be swayed by everyone with a differing opinion. However, at least be willing for your ideas to be tested.
Putting them through the rigours of being pulled apart, and inspected from all angles, can lead to some great innovations.
Boeing began developing its iconic 747 planes in 1966. They’d received a massive $525 million contract from Pan Am who expected the delivery of these new, much larger capacity planes within a matter of years. CEO of Pan Am, Juan Tripp, also expected this new model to have a double decker fuselage.
Boeing also believed in this design and began creating their new planes with this in mind. However, despite investing heavily, they subsequently discovered problems with this approach.
First, it failed safety tests as passengers couldn’t evacuate the plane within the requisite 90 seconds. Second, it was much harder to load freight onto the planes given the relative confined space two decks created.
Despite the losses that starting over would incur, their design team began considering the possibility of a single, much wider fuselage. This innovation created a more spacious cabin for passengers to enjoy and, combined with the characteristic bulge at the tip of the plane (above the cockpit), gave the 747’s an iconic look that helped them dominant air travel for 50 years. *
Furthermore, understand that negative feedback about one part of your product doesn’t equate to a rejection of it all (so don’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater). You may have a brilliant idea that just needs tweaking. Therefore, starting over on one aspect of your work could be the thing that turns a good product into a great one.
The worst thing you can do when faced with the prospect of starting over again is to think the universe is against you and that you’ll never succeed.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, perhaps the universe wants you to succeed and these seemingly dream killing moments are synchronicity which, if listen to and understood, will guide you to create a genuinely ground-breaking product.
If you want to discover a passion you can make a living from and overcome the fears that are holding you back, check out my free course 30 Days to Escape The System. Click here to get the course right now! (You will find the unconventional approach to developing belief and self-confidence fascinating!)
(image taken from Matt Grommes flickr page)
* The Unexpected Success of the Boeing 747, Ed Van Hinte, worksthatwork.com