Tech Life I know what you're waiting for


Most interesting ideas come to me between 8am and 10am. This is sacred time. The day is young, I am rested, and the coffee is fresh. I spend most of this time in the car driving to work. The music is providing a creative, catalyzing ambiance to structure my thinking. I create two or three start-ups during the average drive to work.

And then I get to work and I google my ideas. “How about a service like Trunk Club for sunglasses?”


“Wait wait wait, what the stressed out humans need are weight blanket. Comforting heavy blankets.”


You’re in a hurry.

Do the math. We are all staring at the same set of data. Yes, there is a lot of data and there is a very low probability that you’re able to surf it all, but here’s the rub: There’s a lot of us. In fact, there’s a shitload of us, and when you combine all of us with the equally huge amount of data, you understand that when I arrive at work and google my great ideas, I’m no longer surprised when my precisely designed drive-to-work business model is already in play.


You’re in a hurry.

The epiphany I want to talk about is this: What are you waiting for? Seriously. I know you’ve got a mortgage and 1.5 kids, but during your sacred time when you discover that bright idea and subsequently discover that no established competitor exists… why aren’t you making the leap?

I know what you’re waiting for.

See, you’ve been doing the same comfortable thing I’ve been doing for twenty years. You’re obeying the structure of the organization where there are charts that describe who owns what and who owns whom. I am intimately familiar with the mindset that reads:

“We will complete our work by following the rules of mediocrity.”

Do just enough. Don’t rock the boat. Make yourself indispensable without being noticeable.

And it works. There is absolutely no way to argue that following the rules doesn’t result in a comfortable life, but…

You’re in a hurry

Maybe you’re waiting for validation. You’re waiting for that someone you respect to say, “Yes, you bright person, you should do that thing.” It was your parents when you were a kid and then it was your first boss, but now it simply needs to be you.

What you need to understand about these people that support you is that they’re not here to slow you down, they’re here to get the hell out of your way so you can be brilliant. You need to discover the moment when you actually know better than everyone around you — when you make the first move without asking permission.

Try it. You don’t need to quit your job and go build the next Twitter. Try it with something small. A thing where you’d normally preflight it with your boss, bounce the idea around the hallway a bit, and then move forward. Skip the preflight. Skip the hallway and move on your idea.

Don’t worry if someone else is already working on your idea. I’m certain they are, but they are decidedly not you and it’s the you that makes your idea unique.

Whether you’re successful or not, it’s a terrific way to get in a lot of trouble. There’s a long list of established rules and regulations that you violate with your creative impertinence, but it feels great, right?

Trusting your gut and charging forward. It can be addictive.

It’s not your only operating procedure. There are teams to communicate with and strategic corporate alignment that needs to be maintained, but then there’s you, on the subway to work, drinking a Starbucks when inspiration strikes, and rather than just soaking in that brief moment of illumination, I want you to do something about it because…

You’re in a hurry.

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22 Responses

  1. It is so easy to get comfortable, to not rock the boat and just keep doing what you are doing.

    I am challenging myself to do more. I have a great idea. I don’t know if anyone else is solving it or has solved it already (I couldn’t find it but I might have missed it). I am leaving a very comfortable job for something else that I hope will be very fun.

    I know I am making the right choices, it is just whether everything will work they way I want it.

  2. You’ve been reading a lot of Merlin Mann lately, haven’t you.

  3. Great post. I really agree with the advice about starting small. All the small changes eventually add up to something big.

    Like Steven Pressfield says – The Muse is hardcore but she has a soft spot…

  4. @JohnB 15 years ago


    This is the reason I keep following you – sometimes (ok, *often*) you strike just the right balance and say it just right.

  5. Thanks for this bit of inspiration. I am in the middle of a great leap and the going has gotten a little tougher, but this reminds me why I’m doing it.

  6. This is so true it’s scary. When I jumped to start my own jig, I heard it all. It will never work. Why take the risk? Well, it turns out that taking the risk was clearly risky but not as risky as staying at the old place.

    Well said

  7. Eloquently put … now if I can just find that one idea that I can really get behind …

  8. Damon Oehlman 15 years ago

    Nice post Rands. I’ve been suffering the same affliction for some time, great ideas and a capacity to deliver, but countered with responsibility of a wife and kids + corporate stability.

    Well, it’s been a long time coming but I’m doing it. Enough of the “gunnas”, my wife and I sat down a little while ago and talked through most of the big picture stuff. From there (after letting all that settle in my own gut) I approached my executive management at work and basically told them:

    “Not now, but sometime between March and August next year I’m going off to do my own thing.”

    Now I’m not sure that every corporate organisation is as understanding and supportive of mine, but basically the response was:

    “Yeah, we knew it was coming. We could only keep you interested for so long.”

    I think it helps that I’ve been flagging for some time that this has been my plan.

    Has it stopped me moving into management positions? No. Why not? Because I’m motivated to learn how to manage people – I plan to start a *successful* business, not one that only needs me to run it.

    Are they looking to kick me out the door as soon as possible now? No. Why not? Because, when I come to work I’m still there for them, even if when I go home I work on stuff that I think is waaay cooler.

    In my opinion the transition is definitely doable, and one that can be done without alienating and putting those more “risk-averse” individuals around you off.

    Really making that decision is fantastic, and things really do fall into place much easier after it.

  9. JohnO 15 years ago

    I try to live by this at work. And it can create some interesting projects. And it gets me in trouble. Sometimes those projects get pulled off into a side room and shot. Other times you actually get backing and they get built. I can say that I am not the most liked guy around the office, disrupting the power distribution like that.

  10. Thank you Rands. Sincerely.

  11. Jen Gordon 15 years ago

    fantastic post. the same thing happens to me every morning in the shower and every night when i’m falling asleep.

    my latest foray into iPhone app design/dev has been a series of jumping off cliffs and… splat.

    now i’m changing my approach a little. on my next app i’m actually asking users what they want! brilliant, eh?

    Here’s an example of a survey I’m doing to find out of people would use an iPhone App Sharing utility I have in mind – making it easy to share apps with friends:

  12. A real service that adds threading to twitter: Tweetree.

  13. Paul Anderson 15 years ago

    I’ve made a lifetime of doing this – you may be surprised at the amount of acrimony it generates. People are envious of good ideas executed. One of the main reasons that “groupthink” thrives is that the mediocre want you to pre-flight your ideas so that others can make inane comments and suggestions, and then claim part of the credit.

    Only, it’s not really about credit as in “gee Fred/Mary/… , you’re great” for me – it’s about seeing something good done well, quickly and having a great positive effect.

    “Just do it” leaves out the mediocre and doesn’t bow down to the nonsense meme that everyone is excellent, and is in reality frowned upon. Though they’re always quick to pounce on the benefits. But come appraisal time … “so and tends to work alone and doesn’t value the input of others”. IOW “turd-picking” – like cherry-picking your work, only the opposite.

  14. A fascinating thing happens when folks begin to meet successful/famous people on a personal level. The intimidation factor is completely destroyed.

    The impression of successful people is that they are different somehow. I will never forget when this image was shattered for me.

    Motivational. thanks.

  15. I really enjoy your writings. As a programmer with management duties I profited greatly. Just one thing – I’m greatly challenged by your 4 letter word language.

  16. Karthick 15 years ago

    Great post, thank you for the inspiration!

  17. Malcolm Gorman 15 years ago

    In a way, it’s more likely that shower time (I

    need a whiteboard in there) or commute time ideas

    will be unique within a single enterprise, and

    meet with less competition. It’s a challenge to

    implement them in a workplace where even the

    smartest guys can be openly envious and

    political. (The smartest girls are invariably


    But while it seems harder to tolerate such

    character flaws as competitive and disruptive

    envy, it’s probably easier to deal with than

    competing with the impersonal entire world.

    And here’s the reverse interpretation: Every

    flicker and flame of technical envy is an

    inadvertently spoken glow of praise! And when

    some of those same people actually use and

    benefit from the innovative software they

    like to critique — and even complain if it’s

    temporarily unavailable — that’s real praise!

  18. It is *so scary* to charge forward without waiting for the boss’s validation first. And yeah, sometimes it ends badly, or the boss slaps you down for taking initiative. But without those experiences, you’ll never learn the judgment that let you calibrate your future actions.

    Thanks, Rands, for the reminder.

  19. Jay Wiegmann 14 years ago

    Fantastic post, though I’m late getting to it.

    Only one thing about it scares me even more than how absolutely on target the description is; the fact that Jimmy Buffett’s “Someday I Will” was selected randomly by my ipod as I was reading it.

  20. I don’t get the fascination with “Twitter”, nor “social networking”. There’s no value added to the user, who gives up his privacy.

    Every start-up success story I’ve heard was based on the founders having a solid but modest pile of liquid cash to tide them over until the first or second release. You can fire off great creative ideas all day every day for years and not get anywhere without the several thousand in cash it costs for patents, let alone product development.

    I’ve seen a few pitches. When I’d get burned out at the office, I’d take the lap-top to the local coffee shop and continue the work there, and there’d be somebody pitching once every 10 days or so. The Gateses would show up on occasion, and I’d nod but was unimpressed as the OP noted; the old mystical magical hippie who, back in his day, used to hang out with Warhol and make movies of Hendrix, but liked the energy of the coffee shop, was more interesting. The son of the owner took over and soon destroyed the environment and the finances.

    My impression of working at a conglomerate was different. Start-ups seem insanely frenetic and unrealistic, and, yes, insanely risky. But a big firm that’s organized as many small, dynamic, creative hot-beds seems the best of all possible worlds.

    As to being deliberate about your career, you touch on the key and then blab about the trivial. I got my first programming job just hanging around talking with other software developers. But after that, having and keeping in touch with a competent head-hunter was golden. Unfortunately, even great head-hunters retire. Collecting attaboys and being a goto guy, and getting promotions and compensation increases don’t always come together. All the deliberation in the world can’t do much to change that, especially when, as today, the STEM job markets have been so dysfunctional and glutted. You can’t just leave a bad situation and have any probability you’ll be able to land one that’s even as good.

  21. vlion 13 years ago

    Channeling Seth Godin, Rands? 🙂

    Don’t know that I’d disagree with you, either.

  22. I’m in the other boat. Tried it, it failed. Tried something else, it didn’t work either. Tried again, and then once more. Different ideas, different plans, same result. I’m running out of enthusiasm 🙂