What is the difference between an attitude and a behavior?
Over many years, I have observed that successful inventors exude different behaviors from wannabe inventors. Successful inventors:
- Embrace risk in a healthy, balanced way
- Accept criticism with an open mind
- Turn setbacks into stepping stones
- Are willing to compromise to achieve success
- Are mission driven
Risk is a key component of entrepreneurship in general and of inventing in particular. Approaching risk in a healthy, balanced way is crucial to success.
Avoid the two risk extremes: being so risk averse you never ‘take a chance’ on anything or throwing all cares to the winds and risking everything in pursuit of a noble goal. The former choice may cause many regrets over what might have been; the latter over what shouldn’t have been.
Seek the middle. Weigh risk against the other priorities of your life.
I have always viewed invention risk capital as ‘goodbye’ money. If I never see the money again, I’ll be okay; so there is a limit to how much capital I will risk. I highly recommend incremental risk. I initially risked $3,000 to do a small test run of my thin wallets, which was successful. I built on that success and later risked $25,000 to take my product to QVC.
Accept Criticism with an Open Mind
In a recent episode of Billion Dollar Buyer, an entrepreneur received the criticism that his salsa seemed too ‘vinegary’. His combative response was, “no, it’s not” even after three chefs expressed the same concern. He almost lost the deal but finally relented, made some small changes to the vinegar content, resulting in a tastier product and an entree into every Bubba Gump restaurant in the US, growing his annual sales by over 50%.
Every criticism should be evaluated and considered. Some will prove to be without merit, others may require you to change direction. Every time I was forced to change direction, it took my business to a better, more prosperous place.
Turn Setbacks into Stepping Stones
I know it is cliche, but you really must learn to not only accept setbacks, but to turn them into stepping stones for future success.
How do you do that? You ask yourself a lot of questions as to why the setback occurred, what it means for your business and what steps should you take going forward. In the above example, the salsa executive was so proud of his product, he had no desire to change the formulation that had seemed to work for him. But by finally choosing to implement a small change (and significant cost) he not only won a deal worth millions in sales, but also improved his product for all existing and future customers.
Are Willing to Compromise to Achieve Success
Every inventor adopts an almost parental relationship with his or her invention: defending it against all attackers. We rightfully are proud to have created a new, innovative product that has unique and valuable features. But no inventor ever succeeds alone, it is a team effort.
Others will have a different vision for your product than you do. That is guaranteed.
To commercialize my thin wallets, I had to give up on a key feature that I, and many of my customers, loved. The licensee did not see the same cost to benefits of the feature as I did. So, I compromised and today over 1 million Wonder Wallets have sold in the marketplace.
You will never have to compromise on everything but will virtually always have to compromise on something to achieve success.
Are Mission Driven
The wannabe inventor hopes for a ‘quick hit’ wherein with minimal effort he or she creates an invention that sells millions in the marketplace. That has never and will never happen, there is no get rich quickly in inventing. The business is a rollercoaster that alternates between the highs of excitement and fun and the lows of frustration and disappointment. It is both rewarding and extremely frustrating with the latter occurring the majority of the time.
To succeed as an inventor requires more than just a hope or dream of success, you must feel truly mission-driven. Your invention is going to solve a real problem that millions suffer with and it genuinely matters to you, even if you never make a cent of profit. You will ask yourself frequently: “why am I doing this?” If your primary answer is “to make a lot of money,” you will soon give up. But, if you are mission-driven, your answer is more likely to be “because it matters and solves an important problem” and that will sustain you through the next frustration.