11 Jan Are you worth other people’s time
I’m tired of people with good ideas. To be more precise: I’m tired of people who claim to have an idea worth conquering the world, but suffer from the syndrome called zero-execution. These are the kind of people who are willing to spend countless of hours of their—and your—time on philosophizing over their unmatched idea, but are also completely unable to take the first step of implementation.
People ask me for my opinion on their business plans almost every week. I gladly welcome this. I do the same and reach out to those who I appreciate. But there is a difference in whether you ask for advice or just abuse others’ good will. Not everyone is worth our most limited resource: time.
I’ll give you an example. A few years ago I was introduced to a feasible business idea. The market potential was huge. Out of the 65 million potential users worldwide a rough estimate of 20 million would fit the target group. It was an innovation that would measurably add up to the everyday life of the target group.
I want to be clear: this case was not about introducing just another trendy gadget. It was an improvement to a necessary commodity that is already sold millions of pieces a year, only this time you’d get a significantly improved product with just a little higher price. An open market with zero competition.
Of course I wanted to help the future entrepreneur out. We started with a list of know-how required to produce a test piece. I used my contacts to find a designer, a craftsman and a retail-expert. They were also willing to help unconditionally. None of us asked for money or took up the issue of ownership or shares of the future company.
So there was an idea of an in-demand product and a team to help out with the prototype. The planning was done, including a rough, first version of the market research and the estimated figures about the viability of the business. There was a huge market potential and all that was needed was to get started. What happened?
Nothing. Excluding some theorizing around the subject nothing concrete took place. Two years later I read on a newspaper that someone else had carried out a prototype and was now looking for investors, with good results.
The lesson learned? Unless you prefer dreaming over delivering, do not spend too much time on people not being able to spark off. They might be good company and people you enjoy spending time with, but maybe you should invest other kind of time than professional guidance on them. Otherwise you’ll just end up being cynical towards the next person asking for advice.
Luckily you can spot a time thief from a distance. They come out of the blue, full of excitement and ready to launch their operations here and now. The undeniable characteristic they share is that every time you meet them, they showcase you what they have been planning. What you never see is what they have been doing in between the meetings. There’s never anything tangible.
To avoid wasting your time, be all eyes on these characteristics. Be sceptical towards people wanting to pitch you an idea but never delivering anything concrete.
And as vital as it is to be able to avoid time thieves, you should also know if you are one yourself. After all, getting feedback is essential if you want to get better. Therefore you should bend over backwards to make sure that you don’t drive off potential mentors.
Anyone can stop being a time thief and become an inspiration instead. Just take a moment and put yourself in your mentor’s shoes. You probably aren’t the only one asking for help, so what could you do to show that you appreciate the time and effort put in your coaching?
- Submit your questions in one bunch at a time, maybe once a week, and in one channel. Avoid spamming on instant messaging, because first of all you most likely are interrupting something, and secondly, no-one wants to read novels on WhatsApp.
- If you prefer to meet or have live feedback, ask for a meeting. Only narrow out those days and hours when you really, really, can’t make it. Then, when you are offered an appointment, take it and do the necessary adjustments in your schedule. Do not cancel the meeting unless you have a damn good reason.
- After every meeting ask your mentor what you should do next. Do not propose a new meeting before you have ticked the whole to-do-list and a bit more. By overdelivering you show that you are serious and worth the mentor’s time.
- Thank publicly. Recommend on LinkedIn or write a blogpost. Introduce and bring together people when someone is in need of a professional in the mentor’s field. Ask if there’s a favor you can return.
Sharing is caring, as they say. Inevitably we sometimes end up receiving more than giving. Still we should always be ready to step forward when those who have helped us need help. Only by following these guidelines you’ll someday be the one mentoring others and thanking yourself for having followed these guidelines.
In conclusion, most people are willing to help you. But only to some extent. If you expect to get help, do your part and show that you are serious. After all, having a skillful mentor is one of the rarest and most necessary things anyone can have.
Nous avons eu notre moment. Bisous, M <3