Great Ideas vs Great Execution

IdeasIf you’re reading this, I know that your head is full of great ideas. After all, you’re creative, or you feel like you used to be creative, or you’re yearning to tap into your creativity for the first time in as long as you can remember. People with that sort of desire tend to have a propensity for great ideas. It’s a given.

Now, you might not feel like you can fully access your great ideas at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they’re not in there. Of course they are. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t feel the insatiable tug to tease them out of hiding and into being.

We don’t try to find things unless we believe they exist.

Before you can create, you must have the idea that you are capable of creating. After you have the idea, you have to allow yourself to believe it. After you believe it, you must summon up the courage to begin. After you summon up the courage to begin, you have to keep going. You have to see your idea through to fruition in order to have created something.

Being creative begins with having great ideas, but being creative is not the same as creating.

Creating is 10% great ideas and 90% execution.

In other words, if you want to make things happen, you’re going to have to work for them. Some of that work will feel like play. You’ll find your flow, and the hours will pass by in a blink. Those are the parts that feed your soul and create ecstatic feelings of living the dream. You might even tap into that creative sweet spot that feels akin to having a transcendental experience.

This creator’s high is very real. And it is very worthwhile. It’s a gift.

But then, there are the other parts. Seeing a project through, all the way from the first eureka! moment that causes you to jump out of the shower covered in a film of body wash in order to write it down, to the moment of completion, is rarely (okay, maybe never) just the transcendental state of flow.

There are other components to execution. Components that are less than thrilling to contemplate. Components to which many creative people are averse.

Oh. Those.

No one wants to talk about those! We’d all rather stick to talking about our great ideas and the super-happy-fun-times.

No one wants to hear that in order to be a successful artist or creative entrepreneur, sometimes you’ll have to spend hours on a task so boring and tedious, you might refer (only in that moment, you’re not insane) to your past life as a data analyst as exhilarating.

No one wants to hear that you might have to give up, or greatly cut down on, things like your favorite TV shows, other hobbies, long naps, social gatherings, and sleeping in on weekends. Maybe for a long time. Or that you might sometimes find yourself in the position of having to work such long hours to hit a deadline that you convince yourself that life has no meaning other than sleep. Sleep is the meaning of life.

With the exception of some of the extroverts of our ilk, very few creative people are excited to hear that it isn’t enough to be good at what you do. You’re also going to have to get good at telling people what you do. Yes, that means networking and marketing. To a lot of people, networking and marketing are terrifying concepts. To others, they’re dirty words.

That doesn’t sound like fun. That sounds like a whole lot of hard work. It doesn’t sound like creating. It sounds like business with a capital B. For boring.

Executing a Great Idea is Hard Work.

Which is why so many great ideas never get beyond the idea phase. And if simply having the great ideas is enough to sustain and fulfill you, you’ll receive zero judgment from me. Hell, I’ve had no fewer than 157,836 great ideas in my lifetime that I never pursued. They simply weren’t important enough to me to invest what it would have taken to get them off the ground. Plus, no one is capable of executing that many great ideas. There aren’t enough hours in a lifetime.

If your ideas don’t matter enough to you to see them through, there is nothing wrong with that. Not one thing. You know why? Well, first of all, because this is your life, and no one has to live it but you. That alone is enough. But there’s something else. Something even more important than that.

When it is the right idea, you will move heaven and earth to see it to fruition. When your idea is based on something that you believe in so fully, or brings you so much joy and fulfillment, that you know that you’ll have deathbed regrets if you don’t at least try, you’re going to give it all you’ve got.

You might not ever find yourself giddy over fixing broken code on your website or learning about the pros and cons of short copy versus long copy on a sales page, but you’ll do it.

You might not ever feel a rush of euphoria while learning about putting together a newsletter or attending a networking event.

You know when you will feel it? When all of those puzzle pieces, all of those multifaceted chunks of hard work, the ones comprised of moving past fear and inertia, start twisting and turning, and clicking into place. They form a big picture that looks one hell of a lot like a completed project, or maybe even a business.

You will feel the high when you realize that this time, maybe for the first time ever, you invested yourself fully in what matters to you. You did the work. You didn’t just think about it, you did it.

You’ll feel it as the realization hits you full force. You’re not just creative. You’re a creator.

Reminder: If you’re ready to start executing your ideas, or if you want help coming up with the ideas to execute, Creativity Consultations are Pay What You Can until the end of April. It’s my way of offering up thanks for getting to do what I love for a living, including the tedious and scary parts. Click here to enter your own price and then send me a note at to set up your consultation time.


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