As I look back over my life, I must admit that I’ve had more than my share of ideas. I would venture to guess that I’ve had more ideas than the average person. I can attribute that to a number of unusual reasons. I’m pretty confident that I can hold my own with just about anyone when it comes to the quantity of ideas I’ve generated. Quality? That’s another story altogether! Over the years, I’ve come up with some pretty successful ideas. I’ve had many more that were somewhat average and, of course, and I’ve lost count of those that were left on the cutting-room floor.
As I reminisce, my greatest regret lies in the fact that I pursued far too few of those ideas. I’ve allowed conventional wisdom, popular opinion, and majority thinking to deter my pursuit. I’ve been intimidated and/or disheartened by those with more experience, more education or more authority. If I had the tremendous blessing of a “do-over,” I wouldn’t relinquish anywhere near the number of ideas that I have in the past. I wouldn’t permit others to disillusion or deter my efforts.
I fully realize such strategy wouldn’t necessarily guarantee success but I am confident that it would enhance my chances many times over. I can do little or nothing to obtain that “do-over” so I’m not going to don my “Monday morning quarterback” attire to protect myself from self-pity and regret. However, I can certainly resolve to be more persistent and diligent as I pursue any future ideas I may generate.
We’re surrounded by many examples of those who were focused, disciplined, and determined to pursue their vision, dreams or ideas. I’ve found increased inspiration in recalling some of the many mentors who have taken action to reach their goals. It would have been helpful to be exposed to these lessons much earlier in my career. Consider sharing a few of the following examples with others who might benefit from the knowledge.
Ray Kroc’s Idea Led to McDonalds
Selling multi-mixer milkshake machines all over the country, Ray Kroc met brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1954. He was so enthralled with the concept and success of their innovative hamburger operation that he tried to convince them to build more locations nationwide. It was his hope to provide them with milkshake machines. They weren’t interested. A year later he purchased the name and concept, started franchising and built McDonalds into the most successful fast food operation in the entire world.
Pierre Omidyar’s Idea Led to eBay
Pierre was a developer services engineer fascinated by the technical challenges of online commerce. One evening over dinner his fiancé mentioned an old hobby: collecting and trading Pez candy dispensers. It fueled an idea he had to create an efficient marketplace online. For Pierre Omidyar, it started as an experiment, which became a hobby, which eventually became … eBay.
Fred Smith’s Idea Led to Federal Express
Fred Smith was disappointed in 1965 when his Yale professor gave him a “C” on his economics term paper detailing a new business idea. It was based on a very simple observation: he envisioned a unique hub-and-spoke delivery network to keep pace with the developing computer industry. Undeterred, Fred moved forward with his “dumb” idea. In 1973, Smith launched his “C” idea as Federal Express using his own money. He established the company as the delivery service of choice for modern businesses.
Walt’s Idea Led to the Disney Empire
Walt was a misunderstood artist. The people at work laughed at his silly ideas. He was always in his own little world, fantasizing about his “strange” sketches. He lost his job. But he didn’t lose his dream. Unfazed, Walt went forward to create his magical world of … Disney which today include theme parks, movies, radio, television, cruise ships, resorts, music, toys, apparel, accessories, clothing, footwear, food, health and beauty, publishing, technology, etc.
Bill Gates’ Idea Led to Microsoft
At age 14, Gates formed a venture with Paul Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. That first year he made $20,000. He enrolled at Harvard in the fall of 1973 intending to get a pre-law degree. Microsoft was started out of Bill’s dorm room where he wrote small software projects. He was so successful he eventually left without his degree.
Maxine Clark’s Idea Led to “Build-A-Bear”
Known as the “Chief Executive Bear,” Maxine Clark is the former President of Payless Shoes and the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop, which she created in 1997. This teddy bear theme allows kids from age 3 to 103 to create their own personalized teddy bears, and other stuffed animals, from start to finish. The hands-on process allows the customer to pick the animal, stuff it, give it a heart and a name! Maxine says the idea for the store came to her while she was shopping for Beanie Babies with a 10-year-old friend. Today, there are more than 370 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide including the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia, and Africa.
Sam Walton’s Ideas Led to Wal-Mart
His early retail career began as a manager trainee for JCPenney and continued with the Ben Franklin organization. This experience led to Walton’s Five & Dime and finally Wal-Mart. Sam Walton’s many unique ideas in areas such as construction, purchasing, pricing, marketing, transportation, technology, etc. has led Wal-Mart to the proud title of the largest retail organization in the world, employing 1.9 million associates worldwide in more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. and more than 2,900 throughout the rest of the world.
Colonel Sanders’ Idea Led to KFC
Colonel Sanders started his business, Kentucky Fried Chicken, as a senior citizen. His social security checks weren’t enough to live on so he jumped in his Cadillac and drove around the country selling his “secret recipe” to small restaurants. The Colonel’s secret flavor recipe of 11 herbs and spices remains a trade secret. He perfected his method of cooking chicken. His idea has grown to become one of the largest quick service food service systems in the world with more than a billion “finger lickin’ good” Kentucky Fried Chicken dinners served annually in more than 80 countries and territories.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s Ideas Led to Google
Page and Brin, two 35-year-old billionaires, met in 1995 in a group of potential new students touring the Stanford campus. Legend has it that they were not terribly fond of each other when they first met. They soon found a common interest: retrieving relevant information from large data sets. Their initial idea was simply to create a search site that “didn’t suck.” They had three new ideas: index more of the Web, use links to rank search results, and have clean, simple web pages with unintrusive keyword-based ads. Google was first incorporated in 1998.