Throughout my 18 years in corporate life, I put forth many new ideas about potential programs, products and services to launch, as well as new marketing strategies we should try. Some ideas were met with enthusiasm from leadership and moved forward, while others fell on deaf ears. And several of these new initiatives succeeded in a big way, making great money and generating a sound return on investment. But others never got the traction, support or investment they needed to get off the ground. (And a few ideas were just plain bad.)
In my entrepreneurial life, there have been times that I had an idea I was so passionate about that nothing would stand in my way of putting it forward. No amount of negative feedback would sway me to let go of the idea, even when key sources of support I needed just weren’t coming through.
One such experience was 11 years ago, when I began writing my first book Breakdown, Breakthrough, which explored the findings of my yearlong research study on the 12 “hidden” crises working women face today. These 12 crises are extremely painful, debilitating and confusing, and are surprisingly common. In fact, my quantitative research showed that 7 out of 10 working women I studied were experiencing at least one of these 12 crises, and on average, they were having 3 of these challenges at the same time.
After interviewing over 100 professional women across the country about these crises, I felt the findings – and new strategies and solutions that could address these crises – were vitally important for women. I simply wouldn’t say “no” to putting the book out there, in any way I could. Despite 10 agents turning me down, and offering feedback that I felt was off the mark (such as, “Make this book about celebrity women and it will sell”), I persevered in the way I believed was necessary, and just wouldn’t back down.
Eventually, thanks to a helpful introduction of a friend to his colleague who’d published a book with a strong publisher in the leadership space, I pitched my idea and they took a chance on me, without the backing of an agent. My passion project became a dream come true, and my book was published September 2008.
Now, 10 years later, I’m experiencing the same type of push back on a new passion project, and again, I won’t back down.
But how can we tell when we should take in the negative feedback we’re receiving and do something different, or just let go of the idea altogether?
In working with many professional women who have powerful new ideas, I’ve found that there are three helpful steps to take when your passion project is facing strong resistance by “experts” in the market, as an idea that doesn’t have merit or value (financial, marketing or otherwise).
Here’s what to do:
1. Evaluate the feedback or pushback without defensiveness and without agenda
Do the “experts” who are pushing back on your idea and finding it lacking in value actually offer an informed perspective that you should take into account? Do they come from a place of true knowing, and offer something that you haven’t already considered? Do they share important financial, marketing, intellectual or other insights that are outside your own perspective but are worthwhile to consider? Or are they just too limited and constrained in their thinking because they rely only on the past as a predictor of the future?
If they are too steeped in what has already worked and aren’t in the position to risk and innovate, it most likely means that you should keep the faith and keep going – continue to pursue new potential partners who “get” your perspective from the inside out. Find supporters who have more flexibility to appreciate and support what you’re trying to do. It’s critical to remember that those who are true innovators are breaking new ground and inevitably, they’re stepping far beyond current models and frameworks that have been deemed “successful.”
2. Assess your ability to persevere
Take a hard look at what it will take to continue pursuing your passion project. Can you access the time, money and energy required to persevere, and do you have the essential faith to keep going? Has your project already been met with support and success to some degree, even if you’re feeling discouraged at this particular moment?
If you feel unwilling to throw in the towel at this juncture, then listen to that feeling and honor it.
On the other hand, for some innovators and thought leaders, persevering with their passion project will result in a significant loss of some kind – perhaps of money that’s needed for other key ventures, or a loss of focus on other critical endeavors that will keep your business thriving.
If that’s the case, you’ll need to evaluate without emotion or over-attachment if persevering with this one project may be detrimental to your other top priorities and goals.
3. Can you adapt?
Finally, ask yourself if your project can be adapted to address the detractors’ concerns. Can you modify the project so it fits closely with your ultimate vision but also incorporates key changes experts feel are necessary? If you do adapt it, does it still feel as if you’re accomplishing what you long to, and it’s still representative of who you are and what you stand for?
Overall, it’s your project, your ideas and your vision. Honoring what you know to be true is essential to succeeding in a way that will bring authentic reward and fulfillment. If others don’t understand your purpose and vision, that often says much more about them than about you and your project.And it might mean that others are too locked into what has been to envision what can be.
The key is to strike a healthy balance between addressing the negative feedback effectively, with eyes wide open, while staying true to your ultimate goals and visions.
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