Blowing Up Your Life (#796)

Over the past week, my business manager and I talked and thought and dreamed (and drank a lot of caffeinated beverages) with one purpose in mind – to “blow up” my business and start again from scratch.  This is not because there was anything in particular wrong with Genius Catalyst – it’s had another “best year yet”  in the midst of difficult economic times, and I like to think we’ve made a positive difference in the world along the way.

It’s just that I could feel that we were in danger of continuing on an upward trajectory based on sheer momentum, without any of the inspired energy that fueled our initial ascent. And what goes up, when you take away what’s driving it up, will of course come down.

Years ago, I read a wonderful book called The Strategy of the Dolphin. While I don’t remember enough of it to know if the bulk of its business ideas have stood the test of time, the one I always remembered was a version of this simple diagram:

The bell curve represents the typical rise and fall of a business, idea, or project that tries to continue to grow in a relatively straight line from where it started. The peak of the success of the idea is also the point at which its decline becomes assured. This “beginning of the end” stage of a thing’s evolution is coincidentally known as “jumping the shark”.

(The original reference is from the TV show Happy Days, a hugely popular 1970’s sitcom here in America. In an effort to cash in on the show’s popularity, the producers put together a three part special that culminated in Henry Winkler’s “The Fonz” jumping over a shark on water skis. I actually remember watching the “Jumping the Shark” episode as a child, and even I knew something had gone terribly, terribly wrong. 🙂

In order to avoid this otherwise inevitable decline, the trick is to deliberately embark on a new project or pathway before reaching the peak of the trajectory you are on. This allows you to go through some of the early “teething” stages of a new project while still being carried forward and supported by the ongoing success of the old one.

Here were a few of the questions we asked ourselves to get started:

  • If you had amnesia and decided to start a business today based on what you’d really love to do without any reference to past success or failure, what would it do? Who would it serve? What might it look like?

 

  • What are the concerns of the world I would like to be known for taking care of? (From Chalmers Brothers)

 

  • What will be the critical factors in determining the success or failure of this new business? What would my day look like if it was designed around maximizing these critical factors?

 

The hardest part of the whole endeavor for me was avoiding practical questions like “How will this make money?” or “Can I really change my entire business model?” until I was really clear about what I wanted to create. But I have to say, the results have been worth it, and I am so excited about launching 2012 that I couldn’t wait two more weeks to write about it.

I am in LOVE with my new business, though admittedly in that first flush of love where we barely know each other yet. Things that right now look like adorable wrinkles in the plan will probably appear ugly and even scary to me when I look at them through the mist of some insecure thinking some time in the future.  But that’s OK. One of the real perks of the inside-out understanding is that being afraid isn’t as scary as it used to be.

What’s the point in sharing all this?

Well, over the next few weeks and months you might notice some different outputs from me. There will be a number of new programs being announced and some of the old ones will disappear, at least for the time being.

But more than that, it occurred to me that while “blowing up a business” has proven to be both great fun and fraught with learning, “blowing up a life” might be equally valuable. And with new year’s fast approaching, why not eschew resolutions this year in favor of something a bit more radical – reinventing your life as if tomorrow really was the first day of something truly wonderful.

Have fun, learn heaps, and happy exploring!

With love,
Michael

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