I read a really interesting blog post this week, by Peter Shallard, “The Shrink of Entrepreneurs”. This guy has some really neat stuff on starting a business and the psychology of those who try. This week’s post was about why epiphanies will destroy your business. (Not starting a business? Don’t worry, this article will apply to you, too.)
Peter Shallard opens by presenting the familiar picture of one who is waiting for the next big realization:
“You’re just one big aha moment away from figuring it out. Right?
They spend their lives having one epiphany after another, always telling themselves that they’ve finally figured out what’s holding them back. An epiphany strikes and they think they’re finally going to be productive and creative.
At last, they’re going to turn their life and business around!
Except they don’t.”
Why? Because epiphanies don’t work, according to Shallard. Firstly, they tend to happen quickly – not a good sign. Most entrepreneurs, he says, have reached success through a slower process.
And here’s an idea I especially like: Shallard points out that what happens during an epiphany is that we tell ourselves a myth; we trick ourselves into believing something. “A big epiphany gives you cause to believe you’ve broken through and that things are about to change. You pat yourself on the back and promptly do nothing.”
I can personally attest this. I’ll have some big realization that life should be lived a certain way, or that money doesn’t matter, or one of those other bright ideas that most people will stumble upon at some point in their life, before ultimately rejecting it. Or, to relate it to business and entrepreneurship: I have had a few ideas in recent years for genius business plans and super lucrative start-ups that I might buy a domain name for, and then proceed to leave untouched until the domain expires.
So I guess Shallard is right – when you have some big epiphany or the universe magically sends you an ingenious idea – its good to be aware that it might not work out. Similarly, my business ideas and life philosophies that have actually developed a bit more were the ones that came not by epiphany but by a more careful thought process.
Shallard continues his post to relate epiphany-tripped entrepreneurs to schizophrenics: its when they appear most out of it that they actually experience the greatest sensation of clarity. And that’s pretty much how my epiphanies go: I may think that hipsterbible.com is a great idea, but I am in actuality
going through a moment of insanity mistaken.
Shallard concludes his argument by foreseeing the negative outcome of having (and taking seriously) an epiphany, which is that we’ll stop growing. I’ve got it all figured out now, so why waste time thinking? I know how the world works, so I’ll stop listening to others. I have a new and better business idea, so I should scrap my other projects for this one.
Check out his post to learn which positive qualities to look for in the opposite of an epiphany. And tell me what you think of his post!
How has your luck been with epiphanies?