Rejecting the 'Idea Myth' May Save Your Startup

  "Is my idea good enough?"
    – First-Time Founder

   "Am I prepared to do what is necessary to bring my idea into existence?"
    – Battle-Tested Entrepreneur

The first-time founder is asking himself the wrong question. The battle-tested entrepreneur is asking the right one.

The Idea Myth states:  Startup success occurs when that 'golden nugget' of an idea is unearthed.

You hear the myth peddled most often from people who don't start things. They say, "Greg really stumbled onto a great idea. If only I could have thought of that."

Success in startups is reduced to a treasure hunt. Thinking up a winning idea is like stumbling upon a new Van Gogh lying around in a dusty attic. "What luck?! We're rich!"

Back to reality...

After a decade of living the life of a serial entrepreneur which includes a couple startup successes, one failure and a good exit, I can tell you that the "idea" has less bearing than you might think.

Sure, good ideas are a great asset. But it's more likely that your idea will determine the amount of success you'll have, not necessarily if you'll have it.

So what then will bring about success in your startup?

What is going to make you or break you? I believe success follows those founders who daily practice what I call the Four E's. Forgive the alliteration, it's more for me than you.

  The Four E's

• Execution


Success follows the man who starts the day with goals and ends it with none.

Like a coin, there are two sides to executing well. One side has to do with learning how to translate your vision into intelligent planning and actionable steps. The other side boils down to daily driving that plan to completion. Learn how to plan well and then work the plan.


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Success follows the man who does ordinary things extraordinarily well.

Excellence is a habit you've either already established or need to begin forging right away. It is one of the competitive advantages available to every entrepreneur coming out of the gate. An obsession over quality, for doing things right always leaves a lasting impression. 


Success follows the man who leaves his comfort zone every day.

Are you making yourself vulnerable? Are you doing the hard things that only you as a founder can do? If not, begin to. 

In the early days of your startup, don't spend your time choosing the easy stuff to do first. Pursue the tasks, partnerships and projects that put knots in your stomach and your company on the map.  


Success follows the man who's wise enough to know he's not that smart.

The bottom-line is no business plan survives contact with the real world. That's why wise entrepreneurs experiment in order to find the best way forward. When you test you spend less. Less time, less money and less energy. You save the bulk of your resources for implementing a strategy that's backed by real life data, not just a gut instinct or a theoretical business plan. 


Ideas abound. Opportunity is everywhere. It's not so much about your idea, it's about you.

I don't know any investors who bet on ideas without a character or competency match. I do, however, know many investors, who regardless of the idea, regularly bet on the man.

If you're sitting around waiting for that good idea to come along - that one that will ensure your success - you're going to be waiting a while. 

Questions to Think On:

"What do I have to do every day in order to execute well on my idea?"

"What habits do I need to form in order to consistently put out excellent work?"

"As an entrepreneur, what distractions do I need to eliminate in my life in order to exert myself more faithfully?"

"Instead of a 'full steam ahead' approach, how can I cheaply experiment with my idea?"