THE HARD IS WHAT MAKES IT GREAT...
One of my favorite quotes (besides "There's no crying in baseball!") is from the 1992 film, A League of Their Own, directed by Penny Marshall, with an all-star cast featuring Tom Hanks as the recovering alcoholic manager and Gena Davis as the team's catcher. It's about a women's professional baseball team that's actually based on the All-American Girls' Professional Baseball League created in 1943 when most of the men of baseball-playing age were away fighting the war.
There's a point in the film when Gena Davis walks up to Tom Hanks and announces that she's quitting the team. "Why would you quit?!!" Hanks shouts. "It just got too hard," Davis says. Then Hanks says with great intensity, "Hard? It's supposed to be hard...if it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."
Okay, it's hard. It's hard to be the first one to try something - anything - new, anything different. It's hard to come up with a new idea, a new business, a new product, a new color, or word, or style or sound - or just a new way of looking at the world. Being second is a lot easier. Then you can refine and improve somebody else's idea. And maybe even get the credit for making it work. And there's nothing wrong with that. But being the first one out there, or rather hanging out there, with the "new thing" - whatever it is - is in a class (or a league) of its own... and carries a kick all its own. It's the flyers we take that thrill us. But not everyone would agree...
"What's wrong with the way we already do it?" one hears over and over. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." (Boy, I hate that saying..) or "Why do you always have to rock the boat?" Or, "Okay, fine. We'll do a focus group on it, but I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you.!" It takes a certain kind of gutsyness to hang out there with nothing but the love of your idea to keep you warm, to believe that the "kick of the risk" will be its own reward...even if the idea doesn't fly. And speaking of flying, just think of Wilbur and Orville. People laughed their heads off at the idea of somebody - other than birds - actually flying. Can you imagine if the Wright boys had put their "flying machine" through a focus group?
As Steve Jobs famously asserted, true innovation comes from identifying an unmet need and designing a creative way to fill it. But focus groups can't identify those needs because most of us don't know what we're missing until we experience it. I still remember my mom saying, " But why in the world would anyone want a phone in their car?!"
But hanging out there - or hanging in there - is hard. It comes with the (new) territory. Every time I drive along the Hudson River I think about good ol' Henry braving his way, not knowing what, if anything, he'd find but sailing on... It must have been hard. If it weren't somebody would already have sailed that river...somebody would already have created that "flying machine," or...invented the thing you might be thinking of right now.
So be brave. Be willing to stand alone. Cry if you have to, but remember where the kick and the thrill are. And wrap your arms around the "hard"...because that'swhat makes it great.
Oh, and stay away from focus groups - at least at the beginning.. Remember what my mom said...
Here's the clip from the film... http://youtu.be/BNeWa8zH3_8
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