What to do when your idea's too big

Big IdeaYou've got an idea you want to put into action - an idea for a business, a mission to become famous, or a vision of making a living doing something you love.

But... it's BIG. Too big.

It requires you to quit your job. Or it needs a lot of money. Or a whole team of people. Or premises. Or a huge technical build. Or it simply requires masses of time and energy (which you don't have).

So what do you do?

Has your answer 'til now been to put your idea back in a drawer and get on with your life? Then you have just got to start doing something different. There are far too many people who have good ideas fading away somewhere at the back at their mind (while someone else has the same idea and goes and makes a success of it).

There's nothing wrong with having big ideas - a million dollar business, a best-selling book, a national movement, or simply making a full-time living from something you love. It's a useful skill to be able to take an idea and envision exactly how huge it could become. But... you also need be to able to do the opposite and chunk it down into manageable projects, starting with one you can begin right now.

Sure, you can go 'big bang' on your idea; go hell for leather and enlist all the people you need, write a business plan and go search for funding. Or quit your job and bank everything on your first book being a hit. If that's a style of operating that's worked for you successfully in the past, and you're comfortable with the risk involved, it may be right for you.

For the rest of us, the thought of biting it all off in one chunk is overwhelming. And that's not helpful if it means we end up doing nothing.

Honey, I shrunk my idea

You don't have to give up on your grand vision of a big business, national fame, or the most common desire - finding a way of making a full time income from something you love doing. You can start small, test it out, improve it, then grow it and scale it towards your original vision.

It just requires you to be willing to think like a player, not a worker. It means being willing to play it out one step at a time - even if you don't know exactly where it will take you and you can't yet see how it can make you a full-time income. You'd be surprised how many successful ideas and businesses started out like this! (It's a lot of fun too)

Here's how to do it:

  1. Design a 30 day 'Play Project' that immerses you in making your idea happen (or at least some part of it).
  2. Since you're not trying to create your whole vision yet but just a part of it, choose the project to be centred on the bit that's most exciting to you. If you want to be a public speaker, go speak, don't spend the first 30 days building a website for your future speaking career.
  3. Make sure the project produces something you can share - some tangible result, not just 30 days of sitting and googling!
  4. Set a deadline in 30 days' time to share your result with others - show it to your friends, put it on your blog, tweet or facebook it. Share photos, recordings, videos on youtube. Write about the experience on a blog.
  5. Start doing it - do a little every day if you're fitting it around your current work, don't wait for hours of free time to magically open up in your diary
  6. When you complete it, look at how you could build on it to take it further. If it didn't work out the way you'd hoped, adjust your approach to give you more of the results you want and launch your next Play Project. Each one can build on the results of the last and at the end of every one, you'll have something real to show for it - the kind of stuff that opens doors to even bigger opportunities.

What will you do?

What do you want to do? Here are some example play projects to help make it happen.

  • Want to write a book? Write the outline and one chapter. Or... start writing about your topic on a blog. If you want to be a novelist, you might start with a short story. Send it to some friendly readers.
  • Want to be a public speaker? Go to Toastmasters, learn some of the basics and set a deadline to give your first talk of 5-10 minutes at one of the meetings.
  • Got a business idea? Start blogging about the area or the problem you want to help with. Interview people, experiment with possible solutions. If you're selling your own services, aim to get your first piece of work within 30 days, even if it's at a reduced fee for a friend or colleague.
  • Got a grand website idea? If it's based around content you're creating, create the site first in WordPress. If it's more interactive than that, see if there's a commercial system you can use to test the idea out. (Eg if you want to create your own social network, use NING before you custom build a whole system)
  • Want to be a declutter consultant or a personal stylist or interior designer? Go and volunteer to do it for a friend first - either for free or for a reduced fee.
  • If you want to be a standup comic... don't just go to see standup shows, do a course where you stand up and perform!
  • If you want to launch a national campaign or change the world, create a Facebook group for your cause and then create an event that people can take part in to build a buzz.

Scary stuff huh? Sure it is, so go get some support. Ask some supportive friends to help, or attend events like Scanners Night to meet other people making ideas happen.

What could you do in 30 days to bring your idea to life?

Leave a comment and let us know.

If you can't see how you can scale your big idea down, describe your idea in a comment and I'll see if I can come up with a 30 day project to get you started.

Want our help to make your idea happen? Join us in the 30 Day Challenge starting very soon.

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  • I have a dream... of getting together like minded people in order to restore and rebalance the energies on Ibiza, give back to mother earth after all the hedonistic partying here and raise the awareness of alternaive therapies, healthy eating sound healing and uplifting speakers as a lifestyle choice!

    Quite a feat... or maybe not... this became a reality last year on 10.10.10. It was such an outstanding success that we are repeating it again this year... not once but twice - May 1st and Oct 9th, maybe you would like to join us as a speaker?
    We raised over €5000 for a local charity last year and received almost 1000 visitors.

    All this was possible not just because of a dream but because a team of us joined forces to share the immeasurable task and work in collaboration. That's how we chunked it down and overcame the overwhelming task.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share,
    Love and light,

    Belinda. x

  • p.s the website is http://www.HealingIbiza.com

  • Just wanted to say that you seem to know me so well. In fact, you describe me so accurately in your emails that I'm now starting to acknowledge my negative traits as simply being 'just' negative traits, which can be modified, rather than constantly feeling such a failure about my lack of abilities to move myself to where I need to be - which is 'out there' doing what I do to help others!
    The problem is I don't know how I'm supposed to help, so my mind jumps from one good promotional idea to the next (ideas which are usually credible), but which I fail to follow through because it involves self-promotion, which is my weakest link!! Thus I'm not sure what to do next and end up planning and computing ideas that become redundant, because there's nowhere for them to go!
    Anyway, I'm going to do what you suggest and start using action over thinking mode, and see if that makes a difference. Thanks for your help!

  • Evan

    I dream of becoming a music therapist. I also want to compose music that helps people relax/ concentrate etc.

    I also often daydream about being able to design my own clothes. I don't however, have the expertise/experience of making clothes before. I'm also still trying to find time to enroll in a clothes making lesson as my schedule is pretty packed.

    Furthermore, i'm a Science major student (still studying in junior college ><). I'm not sure whatever I've been studying these years will be relevant/of any use to my abovelisted dreams. I've been advised to take my "fashion-designing" dream as a hobby instead, when i manage to find the time for it.

  • britta

    Hi John,
    never knew you had this blog!
    Great resource!

    Will send my scannerclients over !
    Take care
    Britta

  • Hi John,

    I have wanted to fly planes all my life- I dream about it from a kid and now have the overwhelming desire to make it happen before its too late ( whenever that is- I am 31 :))

    Having been self employed for over 5 years I would like to continue with a flying business that pays the bills for my family but enables me to fly all different types of aircraft all over the world.

    Am doing the studying for the exams and writing a blog about it but need to make an income from it asap and now is a really good time to do it.

  • Dave

    I am actually doing this right now, it really really really works. I didn't think it would but it does, no question and you'd be amazed how fast your idea develops once you start. The best part is because it's play the time you spend goes by in a flash. Then before you know it you have a real tangible thing and all you traded was some hours you would have stared at the TV or sat in the pub.

    It is amazing, do it now !

  • Jay

    My big idea that I am struggling to scale or know where to start is about using adventure sports to save the world.

    More specifically, I'd like to run adventure sports (surfing, snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, you name it...) in amazing places around the world -- with money raised from the activities going directly towards benefitting the communities.

    My problems are that I am terribly unorganised, have no idea about (and little interest in) "running" a business, and I'm not even much good at any adventure sports.

    Any suggestions how to scale my idea down so I can stop dreaming, and start saving the world, one adventure at a time?

  • Berwa Mohamad Kader

    Hi John!
    I hope you are still available on this webpage.

    I want to change the world - create more peace by showing everybody how similar we are as humans even though we have cultural, gender, political etc. differences. I don't feel I need to be famous for that accomplishment because I just want to spread peace and enjoy the result of it - Humans connected and united (specially in todays world where people seem to be more and more divided).

    I have booked a roundtrip of 2 months to create a documentary. It will be about the meetings I have with different people talking about universal topics. I have bought a microphone and on my way finding a good camera (tight budget).

    Do you have tips on making my trip a success and not a setback like all my other ideas? Please enlighten me on how to keep my mind in check and focus on the beginning and not only on the BIG idea and big dreams I have.

  • johnsw

    Good question, Berwa! Remember this is just one project that you will over the next few years. It doesn't have to be the biggest thing.

    The best approach might be to post the interviews as you go on a blog. Then afterwards compile them into a documentary. That way you're building a following as you go and there's no huge task to take on - except the trip itself. But you could start with interviewing one person local to you. Where do you live?