Thoughts on: ideas turning out to be wrong / being wrong

I've found that one of the best ways to be less wrong overtime is to do an analysis of why an idea wasn't successful. It can be overwhelming to try to dig into analysis, but I've found that being wrong usually came from a few different reasons. These five reasons usually relate to business/marketing but can be applied to other ideas you develop or want to execute.

First I'll state the five reasons, then I'll explain a little more my thoughts on how they apply to the real world.

1. There were false assumptions made

2. The idea was a bad fit for you

3. You didn’t understand the psychology of the applied tactic / technique, and thus there was an error made in application

4. The timing of the market was off.

5. The timing of your development stage was off.

1. There were false assumptions made

This is relatively obvious so I'm not going to go in depth explaining this, most decisions are made with incomplete information (because if we had complete information decision making would be easy) and assumptions must be made. We can later identify where we made assumptions and which of those are inaccurate.

2. The idea was a bad fit for you (doesn’t make sense for your personality type / strengths / organizational culture)

Sometimes, there was nothing explicitly bad about the idea but it just didn't mesh well with you. For example, you might have an idea to join a particular field or career and you realize you don't like it, even though you could see how many other people could find it interesting or fulfilling.

To give an example related to marketing, you might have a great idea to start a Youtube channel as content marketing, but realize that being in front of a camera isn't something you feel comfortable with, and you'd do much better writing blog posts.

Lastly, to give a sports related to sports, let's say you're building your basketball skills and you're training your ability to drive into the paint and finish on contact. That could be a great idea to build your skillset into but later you realize your body type is actually much more suited to being a post-up player.

3. You didn’t understand the psychology of the applied tactic / technique, and thus there was an error made in application

It's really easy to blunder tactically because of the abundance of tips and tricks the internet provides. Many times we hear "try this.." and we follow it -- be it email marketing or a new workout routine.

In digital marketing, we see a lot of "Free reports" and "$7.99 Ebooks". But just because those tactics are popular doesn't mean they'll work well. The point of offering those two items to your prospect is because you want to offer things your audience can easily say yes to based on the level of trust you've built with them. Then, as you warm them up and gain more of their trust you offer more expensive items to build their customer lifetime value.

4. The timing of the market was off

Two years back was probably the best time to start an Amazon business (this is just my opinion based on conversation I've had with friends who own Amazon businesses). Selling products on Amazon two years ago as a money making strategy is essentially what ranking-websites-on-Google was in 2006. If you timed it well and just happened to get into physical products or manufacturing two years ago the opportunity would have been lucrative. I hear its still lucrative today, but because other people can do Amazon market research and build product really fast, its less lucrative. If you wanted to start a tech startup, 2012 would have been the best year to do so...mid 2016 would have been a bad time as many investors pulled funding. All this is to say that the idea might have been a good idea, but the timing of when to execute that idea could have been off.

5. The timing of your development stage was off.

Ramit Sethi has this saying that I love: "don't try to be 40 when you're not 30". He uses that to joke about his friends trying to show that they have exquisite tastes of similar to older more accomplished people even though they're not at that life stage. I think the same with business development. How I relate to this personally is in my approach to client selection. During the early months of building our video agency, we wanted to work with big ad agencies, so I sent them emails and tried to connect with them. But it makes more sense to go slow, build a nice portfolio and have practice working with smaller marketing agencies first. Once you work on bigger video projects, smaller mom-and-pop shops won't hire you because they can't identify with your portfolio, or worse, they hire you and expect the same amount of quality but only have a fraction of the budget.

Just to note: the examples I gave in explaining the five reasons above are not to say that those were wrong things to do flat out, they simply were wrong after analysis of why the idea I tried didn't work. It gives me a lesson I can apply to my decision making going forward.

Now, originally this post was going to just be about the relative ease and the importance of doing analysis, but it got me thinking more into the meta of "being wrong".

For a long time being right or wrong about my ideas was somewhat an emotional thing for me (I think it is for all people, since being wrong sucks... it feels bad because we all want to be right and think that we're often right). A few years back I wrote a blog post about proving your friends wrong, and the fact that I even wrote this blog post goes to show that it's significant as a subject matter to me. I've come to realize as I grow less immature that I don't need to emotionally make a big deal out of being wrong.

As I listen to talks given by experienced marketers, I see that they never get hung up on their idea. Their approach is "test it, see what happens". Especially those in direct marketing, every new marketing campaign is tested against a control. If they have a brilliant idea for a sales letter, they write it out, send out a batch and see if their brilliant idea beats the sales letter that's already working best -- if it does, that becomes the new control. The line of thinking is that an idea is just an idea, you try it out, you test it and see if it works. If it works you move more in that direction and if it doesn't, you scrap it and move on. I'm not taking an entirely objective stance on my ideas, I still feel delight when my ideas were right and I still feel frustration when they're wrong, but overall I feel more flexibility with my ideas, I feel that I can implement quicker.

What I wrote in the first part of the post still applies though, analysis and reasoning are still very important to my decision making, and I still have the attitude to avoid being wrong, but the significance lies in the importance of analysis rather than feeling bad emotionally about being wrong.