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Whenever I work with a new inventor, I always make a point to include a reality check in our first conversation. Most inventors naturally have high regard for their creations and have equally high aspirations to go along with it. As such, I find it essential to keep them grounded and aware of the realities they face. In my recent article on preparing yourself for an invention “journey,” I noted that depending on the reporting source, the failure rates for new idea projects range from an optimistic 80% to a hope-crushing 97%. Those are tough odds and can often be just too difficult to overcome. Like all slim chances however, there is a simple and effective way to improve overall outcome. Frequency.
The basic law of odds will tell you that the more attempts you make at something, the more chances you’ll have to succeed. Inventing is no different. Stephen Key, author of the popular book, “One Simple Idea,” and mentor (slash, hero) to many inventors including myself, proves this by example. Stephen has licensed many products of his own and under his guidance has enabled many of his students to do the same. He discovered early on that inventors are much better served thinking about what their next great idea might be, rather than focusing solely on the one in front of them. The result has been a long list of successfully licensed products.
A recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine agrees with that approach noting, “the most successful inventors actually have many ideas.” It makes sense statistically and will make a lot of sense to you as an inventor. The more ideas you have in your arsenal, the more likely you will be to get one that finally “sticks.” It tilts the odds in your favor, creating a situation that at the very least, can feel more achievable. So rather than think, “this is my one and only shot,” you can relax and revel in the realization that you have unlimited chances to make your dream come true. And here’s the best part – you really only need one to “win”.
I recently watched, “The Founder,” a film based on the true story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton. We join Kroc in his mid 50’s, a traveling blender salesman who had spent most of his life pursuing dreams of success through a number of mostly failed ventures and schemes (much to the dismay of his wife). Sound familiar? It could easily be the story of most inventors, forever chasing their new product ideas in search of that elusive brass ring. In his quest to franchise the innovative restaurant concept he discovered, Kroc goes from bank to bank in search of funding. Having known him previously from other failed projects, all reject him and with no options left, he secretly mortgages his home to bankroll his very first location. Now literally “all in,” with nothing left to gamble, we see Kroc standing on the vacant lot of his future restaurant, stoically silent in a moment of quiet reflection and desperation. Dropping to his knees, he grabs a handful of dirt and whispers to himself, “Be right. Just be right one time.”
It was a profound moment that any inventor could identify with. In those seven words, all of the emotions we inventors experience: fear, frustration, disappointment, desperation, etc., were captured. The rest of course, is history. Ray Kroc went on to build a multi-billion dollar empire and at the time of his death at age 81, he had a personal worth of approximately 500 million dollars.
Of course, that’s an extreme example, but powerfully effective in punctuating the point. You never know when lightning may strike for you. Maybe it will be your very first idea, or your second, or even tenth. Success is never guaranteed but it can most certainly be earned. You just need the willingness and commitment to go the distance and proceed in a way that’s smart and economical to ensure a sustainable journey.
So relax, take your time, work smart and dig in. There’s no telling what your magic invention success number will be, but one thing is for certain, you’ll never find it unless you actually take yourself there. To quote one of Ray Kroc’s favorite inspirational phrases, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”
Glen Eckert, Inventor Angels