1402 Words. 8mins 56 seconds.
My wife and I have 14-month-old fraternal twins, son Ryan and his younger sister by 11 minutes Madeline.
Other parents have shared with me how awe inspiring and impossible to understand the development process is. I find it doubly so with two kids who share 50% of their DNA but seemingly nothing else, excluding my wife and I as parents.
Most people who see them remark on the obvious external differences, Ryan with his curly hair and brown eyes, Maddie (as we call her) with straight hair, fairer skin, and bright blue eyes. From the shape of the ears to the structure of their toes, looking at them is like looking at a game of Mr. Potato head where two siblings managed to pull their parts from two different parts bins.
Their internal differences, those that my ninth grade biology class cannot help understand, fascinate me as much, if not more than any external difference. We see behaviors common to both because of their age, but I am amazed at the differences in how they process and express what they learn.
My son reminds me of me – sensitive, silly, linear, and determined. My daughter must take after her mother given that her problem solving that already tops mine and as my mom tells me, has patience and calmness not seen in my unless cartoons were playing. Maddie just figures things out without having to try and understand each of the components. I love my son, but I’m often in awe of our daughter. She doesn’t sit there and do what makes sense because it is the obvious way to do so, nor does she hit a wall and keep trying the same thing again and again until deciding to take a different tact.
According to my mother, I was indeed a lot like my son as a child. I suspect then that he too might develop into being an idea guy; whereas his sister, is more like the hacker. He will wonder why things are the way they are, and she will figure out how to use what exists to get things done faster, cheaper, and better.
Like other idea people, no topic seems unexplored, from a better bathroom experience to those inline with my current efforts, such as ideas for new conferences or event technology. Some I will share; others, I still think are so good they deserve to be locked up in my head waiting for that moment when someone else does it, but where I at least get to say – I had that idea.
Those ideas that we don’t share, are they really the best ideas; or, are the best ideas those that you could share because no one else can pull it off as well as you? As much as I’d like to say it has to be the former, the truth is probably closer to the latter, at least for the ideas that matter. If it’s an idea you can’t share because you don’t want someone else to do it, there is probably a chance you aren’t the only person with the idea or even the best person to pull off the idea.
That notion, that the best ideas might be those that you could share, is what has taken me far longer than I hope it will take my kids to understand. The true value of any idea only comes when it gets executed. Similarly, the success of the idea rests not in the idea but how well it gets executed.
In “Idea Versus Execution A Tale of Two Founders,” I wrote:
In thinking through ideas versus execution, there are three things I've had to come to terms with personally. The first is that I'm an idea guy through and through. The second is that a large number of my ideas exceed my ability to execute, and the most difficult is that almost all of my ideas have been thought of first by others. The ONLY thing that matters is who executes best - not even first but best. For idea guys, this principal can be painful, because it means learning to let go of ideas and realizing that ideas aren't where the value is.
So, why are we still so hesitant to hang on to our ideas? Is it because we truly think that we are the best person for the job, or could it also be something else, i.e., the power of hope the way buying a lottery ticket fills you with promise despite the near-impossible odds? Only in this case, the idea is a perpetual lottery ticket that you can hang onto without having to hear multiple-times per week that you have not won. And even if you lose, i.e., someone else does it, you still get to feel as though you accomplished something by its clearly having been a good idea.
Speaking of hope, this (finally?) brings us to Angry Anthony. Granted, talking about Anthony as an example of an idea guy is slightly extreme and/or depressing, but it does help illustrate the value (or lack of inherent value) in the idea. I call him “Angry Anthony” (well, not to his face), because he is a rather vitriolic sort. He is white, in his forties, and an ex-con. If he finished high school, it does not show in the spelling or grammar of his signs.
Anthony was born and raised in Upstate New York, which like the parts of California not within 75 miles of the Ocean or major metro, resembles a completely different world – one that typically has less transparency about how to escape a world of seemingly limited opportunities. So, it is an unfortunate cliché that Anthony was drawn to the glamour of crime, which in the short-term provided greater excitement and access than the slower, less certain paths. His path though meant at least eight years in prison for a non-violent crime and forever carrying around a felony conviction. Not that he seems all that remorseful, more nostalgic for the days when he had things and experiences worth remembering.
I have already dedicated more cycles than I should to thinking about Anthony, be from a marketing perspective of wanting to A/B test his signs to the cadre of classic curiosities around ways to break the cycle. It’s his ideas that are the most interesting, because like so many ideas, they don’t actually suck. His signs clearly do, as “If I were illegal, I would be working,” is not the sympathy inducing fare likely to win wallet share when up the street sits a man with 1.5 legs, even though his use of funds has some very suspect applications. Add to that Anthony’s views on homosexuality and gender equality, and it whittles down the pool of sympathizers in the form of money. He is though truly homeless, and I’ve not seen him drunk or on any form of drug other than nicotine.
The first idea I heard from Anthony was his wanting to see a KISS themed hotel. He believed that certain brands had enough pull that people would rather stay at a hotel with that brand’s likeness than the one-size fits all approaches of today’s hotels. Would True Blood fans want to? Why not? Maybe this is called Universal Studios, but clearly there is something not completely idiotic about the concept. Anthony even had met someone that was a developer and another person that worked for the KISS brand.
His most recent idea is almost an ad-tech one. It’s essentially an offline ad network leveraging building real estate that in NYC is currently overlooked/underused. If there exists a business painting the sides of buildings with ads, this one can surely work too. He event knows one of the companies that could facilitate (think ad server) were the two sides of the network put together.
Would you pay for this idea? Would you work on it and give some percent of the profits to the idea? It’s arguably not patentable, and even were it patentable, he couldn’t afford to do so. It’s an interesting conundrum that helps illustrate when ideas have value and when they don’t.
In the past, I’ve proposed an Idea Marketplace. With Angel List, Quirky, Kickstarter, etc. we are getting close, but we aren’t quite in a place where an idea can lift someone up from the streets. Hopefully, for Anthony, the “I’m sweating my balls off” sign will perform better than usual.