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Today, while I was writing a blog post for my GIVE project, I had a moment.
In 2010, I worked as a lifeguard at a Summer Camp in New York, USA. The head of the whole waterfront and lifeguarding division was an early 40's big stocky American-football-type guy with a shaved head, a serious tan and a typical New Yorker accent. Nice dude and a great guy to train under but intimidating as hell. We all got proper training but there's always a tiny cut of camp staff that are kind of just not cut out for working with children or being a responsible person in general. So the head of the waterfront division would always predict that even though we were a separate division of the whole camp, 3 of us would be gone before the summer was over. It was said in a more positive way as a motivation to stay vigilant and be a good lifeguard but you get the gist. Either way, his tradition was that if you get fired (by his doing or otherwise) it was your own fault and was well deserved, and in a slightly arrogant way, he predicted it would happen so he gets some credit for getting it right. So when the time did come that a lifeguard was fired, he resorted to walking around doing a caveman/egyptian-like dance singing:
"dah dah dun dun dun, Another one bites the dust!"
So today, I am listening to a podcast and just before I sit down to work on my idea of a service that offers small money transactions between friends in the form of a gift, I hear about a service that offers small money transactions between friends. It incorporates a wallet and can be linked directly to a debit/credit card or bank account. It is free to users, is offered as a premium service to businesses and offers a POS system that has the potential to completely circumvent credit cards as a way to pay a merchant. People use it to pay back their friends for rent or dinner or furniture after a breakup (you should listen to the podcast). Businesses use it to allow customers to pay them. It's called Venmo and is actually a really good idea. So where does that leave me?
"dah dah dun dun dun, Another one bites the dust!"
Not in the sense that I have just been fired and my old boss is doing the caveman egyptian. But more in the sense that, another one of my ideas may be doomed for extinction. It's time to think critically.
Would the service I am thinking of be used by people?
Would I use it?
Am I serious about doing something with this idea?
Can I realistically do anything with this idea ie financially, resourcefully?
I have a friend with narcolepsy and she told me the story of how before she was diagnosed, she had a hard time describing the feeling of tiredness she got. After a bunch of expensive uninsured tests and frustrating proposed treatments for emotional distress and other inaccurate diagnoses, a doctor eventually asked her if she ever had a feeling like a wave of overwhelming exhaustion. She said just hearing the description made her happy to know that somebody actually understood what she was feeling and that she wasn't crazy or strange, but that she had a medical condition that was interrupting her brain.
No I don't have narcolepsy (a condition that really does get a stupid amount of negative and inaccurate press like Tourette's syndrome (I will tell my story of ignorance with Tourette's another day)). But my reason for telling this story, is that I kind of understand the relief you experience when someone describes the exact feeling you are having. My feeling is fortunately only temporary, but it still means a lot to hear that I am not alone in this feeling.
I have this idea (GIVE) which inspires my creative juices and motivates my drive, but is also extremely vulnerable because it's open for criticism and improvement. This is great really because nobody ever really gets it right on their first try or solely alone without having any external input. The other side of the coin is that self criticism is a hard one to battle without becoming ignorant and lost in your own world. You have to hover somewhere in the middle....easier said than done.
There is a podcast called Startup which tells the story of a guy from This American Life who decided to go off on his own to build a podcasting company that tells great stories. His passion and talent for storytelling are what helped me eventually just say "Fuck it" and start this whole website. If you are interested in startups or entrepreneurship or technology or even just good stories, I recommend listening to startup. available for free on the Gimlet Media website.
Their stories helped me understand that everybody has these thoughts of doubt or concern. You can't and shouldn't ignore them, but you should take the meat out of the sandwich and use it to make a pizza. Wait what? Bad analogy, but the point is use the feedback, whether it's internal or external, to strengthen your idea and then you have answers for when people ask them.
Do you have any ideas about Venmo or GIVE? Why are people NOT using Venmo? I would love to hear about it.
One last story then I will leave.
Technology, as we all know, is changing pretty much every day now. You buy a computer with a CD Drive, and then DVD's become big because they fit more. You buy a DVD Drive then software and technology makes it easier to burn your own DVD's. You buy a DVD writer then within a few years USB's and SD Cards have more storage and can be easily deleted/copy/pasted. You buy a card reader and then the cloud becomes big and you can send huge files over the internet. People who have bought a laptop in the last few years might notice that there is no disc drive at all and TV's now stream direct from the internet.
Apple is not perfect, but during the Jobs era, had a habit of taking a leap when a step was expected. I remember when Apple brought out the iPad, there was a lot of criticism from consumers, tech people and journalists saying it was doomed because they didn't make a slot for SD Cards or to plug in USB sticks. People were calling them stupid and arrogant for thinking people would use their products. But the thinking was 'we will make a product so great that people will use it, and the industry will be forced to come up with a better way to do things'. And now the cloud is the data storage pick of the year. Not that Apple is solely responsible, but you can't deny that the idea of a cloud that is always accessible wherever you go, isn't a convenient idea. Along the same lines, look at Steve Job's post written during a time when everybody loved flash, about why flash sucked and why they didn't allow for it on apple technology.
Venmo doesn't utilize banks to make the transfer. It doesn't find a way to use the existing infrastructure of a credit card terminal to execute the payment. It completely avoids it. You can have shitty credit or be 12 years old and have a smartphone using Venmo to pay for something. (read more on How Venmo makes money)
Thinking like this is the way to be truly creative and inspire change. It has motivated me to either make my idea better or move on.
What good ideas did you hit this crossroads with? What was the outcome? Would you do that again if you had the chance to go back? Let me know in the comments.
I hope this helps create some interesting discussion. Thanks for reading.