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It seems that everyone has a million-dollar idea these days.

You have an amazing concept for the next big company, product, or startup, and so you scribble your thoughts out excitedly on a piece of paper. Over the next few months you write up a business plan, get other people excited about your idea, and you can’t wait to make it happen.

Then something happens.

The planning stage never seems to end. A few months go by but you’re not quite ready to get into production because you want it to be absolutely perfect. You want the best end result possible, and so everything has to be just perfect. Except now it’s been three years and you still haven’t done anything about that idea, and five other companies have risen up in your place, leaving your million-dollar idea obsolete.

Planning only works if we act upon the plans and actually do something about it. The greatest inventions of all time weren’t birthed out of someone just looking at the blueprints: the inventor actually had to move forward and create it.

In this episode we dissect some of the common reasons for the paralysis that keeps us in planning mode and how to finally move forward and achieve our goals.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Planning is a part of execution, but it’s only the first stage.
  • There’s a difference between the point where you’re proud of something and when it’s perfect.
  • You move into execution when you break up your goals into manageable chunks.
  • Establish something to finish within the year, within the month, within the week, and within the day.
  • Set your big goal and then work backwards to accomplish it.
  • Write down things you’ve accomplished and celebrate them.
  • Plan, then realize you’re going to have to take a risk at some point.
Show Notes
  • 03:04 Cory: I think a lot of people get stuck. They have an idea in the very beginning where they go, “I know what I want to do! I have this idea. I want to make this product. I want to write a book. I want to create a video. I want to film a movie. I want to travel.” We get so excited in this first stage and we begin to plan, flesh it out, and get to the point of actually doing it, but we never actually leave the point of planning. Or when we do, it’s so far down the line we can’t remember why we got started in the first place. Kyle, why do you think people get stuck in the planning stage? Why is there this point before actually getting to the execution where people look at their brand or idea and they get wrapped up in this initial stage?

Planning Is Easy, Execution Is Hard

  • 04:19 Kyle: The most simplistic answer is perfectionism. I think when something is your idea, it’s almost like your baby. It’s the thing you want to take care of and make sure the world receives it in the best way possible. It’s interesting how real life goes against that a little bit. Cory, you’re a father and about to have another child, but you can’t stop the child from coming. At some point, the child will be born and you’ll have a second child. There’s so much planning you can do, but at some point that has to be executed. There’s no way for you to keep saying, “Don’t have the baby yet, we still need to plan for this, this, and this.”It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen, but our ideas don’t happen that way. Our ideas are born in our mind. We have an idea and the execution and delivery parts are up to us, and because of that, we just want to plan and plan and plan, because we assume that once we release whatever that idea is, it will at that point be perfect.
  • 05:50 Cory: You have this vision of what you want it to be and let’s say you have limited resources to make that happen, but when you get to the point of wanting to make it happen, you think, “If I just hold off for a little bit longer, I can get to the place where it was in my head. I can have the audience or the following I want—the people who are actually going to buy my thing and check out my brand.” The truth is planning is easy. I know people are thinking, “Planning is not easy,” and we’ll be talking about that in the next episode. Planning is risk-free. You’re not going to lose anything from sitting in front of your desk and writing out a plan.
  • 06:46 That has some power, but there’s no obligations in planning. There’s nothing uncomfortable. There’s nothing to lose. It’s all still in the works and it can be changed or adjusted, but everything you’re planning is all future-based, there’s nothing in the now. I know a lot of people might be thinking that planning is execution—it’s actually doing something—and I agree. There is a level where you have to do something to start planning. You have to open up your text document, grab your piece of paper to start writing it out, and start scheduling things.

Planning is a part of execution, but it’s only the first stage.

  • 07:45 Kyle: There’s planning as in you’re thinking about it in your mind and you’re going over it again and again. That’s still planning, not just the idea. You have the spark of an idea and then once you start thinking about possibly sharing that with anyone else, it’s at that point in the planning phase. It may not be a formal process of sitting down and writing it out in an hour. The planning that takes too long is a constant thinking about this thing or you shelve it and come back to it constantly. Planning intentionally is hard. It’s not as easy as planning in your mind and hoping that eventually it will happen. I think people get confused sometimes. Planning doesn’t mean just sitting down to write it out, it means any time after you’ve had the idea until it actually gets into someone’s hands is the time of planning before execution.
  • 09:02 Cory: Do you think there’s a good ratio of planning to execution in the way we’re talking about it?
  • 09:11 Kyle: People overthink the planning phase. They’re looking toward that execution, but it’s “someday” or suddenly there’s a roadblock like you don’t have the resources you need to do it. Instead of thinking of, “How can I do this without the resources I think I need?” it’s, “It has to have these resources, otherwise it won’t be as good as it seems in my mind.” Everything you plan may not be as good as it sounds in your mind, but what comes out of going through the execution process is that you then have something to work on and you can make your idea better..
  • 09:57 We’ve talked about the visual side of branding and coming up with brand identity, and that’s a great example (Related: e007 Communicating Clearly Through Visual Identity). At some point you just have to get your brand identity out there even if it doesn’t look perfect or it’s not all put together. You have to get it out there and learn from your audience—the people that are experiencing it—and as you learn from them, there may be things you tweak as you go. That’s actually going to make it better. Planning your company and then suddenly releasing it will have some shock to it. Your brand may not be what you want it to be at first. You may have to shape and mold that.
  • 10:43 Cory: It’s an iterative process. So many people, myself included, have this idea that it’s not going to work until I can get it in the exact way I want it to be—“I can’t get it to where I want it to be until I get it to where I want it to be.” The steps between level one, which is where the planning is, and level 10, which is the idea I have in my mind and what I want it to be, are all iterative processes. I can release on level three knowing that I’ll eventually get to level 10. This isn’t to say you have to release a supbar version of what you’re trying to do.
  • 11:32 I think of the example of designing blue prints for a house. Growing up, my dad was a general contractor. He built houses and did remodels, and I would go on his job sites from an early age. When you’re building a house, you have to have blue prints first. You can’t just throw together some logs and sticks. You have to get a blue print together so you know where all the parts are going to go However, if all you’re doing is mapping out the blue prints, then you’ll never have a completed home to live in. You actually have to break ground where you’re going to build the house and then actually build the house.
  • 12:31 Back in 1999 we built our house and the basement area of it was incomplete when we moved in. We decided to move in and iterate as we go. We can put up walls and insulation in the basement as we go. We were able to move in to the house with the basement not yet complete and then over the next few years, when we could afford it, we would put up walls and build new rooms. If we only waited until all that was done, we wouldn’t have been able to move in for 4 to 6 more years. I want to emphasize the fact that your idea is good and the planning process is important, but you have to get things done so that you can get to the end result. That’s an iterative process.
  • 13:46 Kyle: I used to work in software and there’s a reason any kind of software has versions. It might take a year to come out with a piece of software, but it still isn’t done. We got it to the point where we were proud of it, even if it didn’t have all the features we wanted it to yet. We were proud and happy that people were going to have a good experience with it, and over time, you keep iterating on top of that. That’s the reason software has versions, books have editions, and the reason anything ever changes: nothing is ever perfect. Get it to the point where you’re proud of it.

There’s a difference between the point where you’re proud of something and when it’s perfect.

  • 14:48 If you have the mentality of perfectionism, that means you care about what you’re doing and the experience people have with your brand, and that’s a great thing. The problem is what you consider the perfect experience is miles above what someone is expecting from you and you need to just get something out there.

How to Get Unstuck From the Planning Phase

  • 15:29 Cory: I want to talk about some practical things to do to move you from only planning to actually getting some things done.

You move into execution when you break up your goals into manageable chunks.

  • 15:58 Too many people just look at the big, ultimate goal and there’s not enough manageable chunks to actually move forward. When I was thinking about this episode, I was thinking about some of the things I want to do that I’ve been putting off. First off, you set your big goal and then work backwards to accomplish that goal. If our goal was to create a Invisible Details App, the next step is to break that goal down into manageable chunks. We would need to find a developer and talk through the process of what we want it to be, etc.
  • 17:19 I’ve found it’s best to establish something to finish within the year, within the month, within the week, and within the day. Working with that, we would say, “This year I want to make an app.” My goal for January would be to find a developer. For the first week, I’ll do research and today, I’m going to look at one developer’s case studies. Instead of the terrifying idea of having to find a developer, today we just need to do some research and look up just one person and tomorrow look up another. For this week, I’m going to find seven developers that I can contact, which makes it so much more manageable.
  • 18:30 Kyle: That backwards building thing is something I had to think through as well. There’s so many projects you want to just dive into and have them done, but when it’s broken down in chunks, there’s another really important thing that happens. You have these milestones for your project and the best thing you can possibly do is say, “When this milestone has passed, this is done.” Make them actual check list items. Once we find a developer, it’s checked off the list. Once we plan the name of the app, we check it off the list since it’s done. You don’t go back and touch that again. That’s the biggest thing about putting things into chunks for me: I can’t go back with my perfectionist mind to rework those things. You’re now in a position where some things are concrete and you have to keep pushing forward.

Celebrate Accomplishments

  • 19:52 Cory: As you’re moving forward, it’s helpful to look back and see what you’ve been able to accomplish. When I was starting an apparel line back in 2014, it was really easy to feel overwhelmed by the things I still had to do, but it was helpful to think, “What have I done already?” I’ve already named my brand, I’ve gotten the name taken care of at the Chamber of Commerce, I’ve already designed a logo, and created brand identity. As I moved forward, it was really easy to feel overwhelmed, until I looked back and saw all the things I had already done. I thought those were big too, but because I made them manageable chunks, I was able to execute on them in a way that was easier than doing everything all at once.
  • 20:51 Kyle: Celebrating each of those chunks is great too. In your example, maybe your website isn’t ready for eCommerce yet or you don’t know what you’re pricing them at yet, but once you have products in hand and you take photos of them, there’s a new feeling of it being much more real. That’s an important thing to learn through these steps: each step you take, no matter how many there are, your project becomes more real as you go.
  • 21:42 Cory: It’s really helpful to do that and document the process. I would encourage people to have a journal on their computer, phone, or a physical journal. Actually write down things you accomplished so that you can go back and see what’s been completed overall. It’s not to go back and make sure you complete things. It’s going to help give you a better mindset as you move forward.

How Do I Avoid Acting Without Planning?

  • 22:22 Robert asked, “How do you avoid the opposite pitfall of acting without adequate planning and missing something key that could prove a fatal flaw?” First, we’ll be talking a little bit more about good planning in the next episode, Approaching the New Year With Intentionality, so check that out, but there’s also, there’s always going to be a risk. Executing always has risk, but when you’re planning, don’t do it alone. Have someone with you, not necessarily as a partner, but as an accountability partner or as part of something like the seanwes Community that Kyle and I are a part of.
  • 23:22 We can go into the chat room and talk with people through the process of what we’re doing. It’s very helpful to have someone with an outside perspective looking in on what you’re doing. Ultimately, taking that leap is a risk. There might be a fatal flaw and you might have missed something, but use that as a way to improve what you do next time. Use is as a lesson that you can learn on the next project or release. You’ve got to take the risk at some point. Have someone from the outside look in, or have someone on the inside who has a different perspective.

Plan, then realize you’re going to have to take a risk at some point.

  • 24:22 Kyle: Also, keep in mind that no brand launches as a huge brand. The brands you might be looking up to that seem really awesome are brands that have worked for years to get there. Apple started in a garage. McDonalds started with one restaurant. No matter where these brands are at today, they all started small. They all started with executing on what they really believed in and then working from there. I think that’s where perfectionist mindset kills us when it comes to branding because it kills the feeling of getting something out there. We feel like we have to match these other brands and honestly, you can’t.
  • 25:25 You don’t have the research, the experiences they’ve gone through, or the failures they’ve faced because you haven’t put anything out there yet, or you haven’t switched to your new way of doing things. If you’re a brand that’s already in existence you might be saying, “I already have a brand out there and it’s still tough for me to execute on these things,” and I think it is for the reasons we’ve talked about, but I’m talking about someone in the planning phase or if you’re reworking your brand. Maybe it’s not working for you and you’re reworking it, well you’re not going to get it perfect the second time either.
  • 26:04 Cory: Always be iterating and that’s ok. I give you permission to iterate.