About 20 years ago, space exploration wasn’t a mainstream undertaking. Sending shuttles to space was reserved for governments and military operations. The few private companies that were involved in space exploration were not known because they didn’t cause any significant ripples to be noticed. All this changed when a young South African entrepreneur came into the picture. At only 31 years old, in 2002, Elon Musk founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company. What’s amazing about Musk’s space venture was his approach. By the time he founded SpaceX, NASA, the leading space government agency was struggling with funding. Public opinion about space exploration had shifted and budget for NASA had been reduced. Their approach to building rockets was not helping them either. To tackle the gigantic mission for which SpaceX was intended for, Elon Musk employed a thinking he had learned from his Physics background. He referred to it as First Principle Thinking (F-P-T). This approach of thinking led him to ask himself, what are the fundamental requirements for space exploration? He realized that using used old space shuttle parts could save him money. He also knew that manufacturing his own rocket parts would be much more cost effective than outsourcing. Eighteen year later, SpaceX is the leading private space exploration company in the world.
What’s true and applicable to us is understanding that the first step to doing great exploits (doing something that has never been done before and breaking new grounds with our lives and making progress), like Elon Musk, is shifting our mindset. I am convinced that everyone, you included, have at least one big idea, with great potential that isn’t exploited. And you can sense that if you worked on that idea, your life would be transformed, and people would be blessed. The challenge is, when you look at the idea, whatever the idea is, like starting a business or pursuing your life’s purpose, you see the work that it will take. At times it can feel like you are battling an elephant. You are not sure how to turn that big idea into the big results you envision. What I have observed is that for every big idea to be turned into big results, what I refer to as conquering an elephant, progress must be made from idea to results. My goal in today’s post is for us to apply the F-P-T approach that will assure you victory in turning your big ideas into big results. Here are three approaches:
The first step to applying the F-P-T approach to conquering your elephant idea is asking yourself what tools are required for turning big ideas to big results? Often people with the most valuable ideas don’t make an impact because they aren’t equipped. Ideas will remain in your mind if you don’t have the ability, tools, or support to bring them forth. Being equipped means having what is required to turn your specific idea into reality. Being equipped might mean acquiring a special skill or building a team of like-minded people. It might mean having a certain amount of capital or aligning yourself with collaborators. What I have observed is that people who know how to equip themselves are the most impactful in the society or their personal life. Whenever I have an idea that I want to actualize, my first question has always been, “What do I need to have to be successful? Once I have come up with a list of items I need, I go in search for them. In my life of work, it might require an equipment or an expert in a specific area who I want to be in my team.
I have also realized that equipping begins with the carrier of the idea. In business it begins with the vision carrier. And it begins with personal growth. The rate at which you progress to turn your big ideas do big results is dependent on your growth. If your growth is limited, your progress is limited as well. But if you are equipped but lack a plan to execute, you won’t see any results.
2. Planning and executing
The second step to applying the F-P-T approach is by asking yourself, what plans do I need to have in place and how am going to execute? Big ideas often take extended time to materialize. They also require consistent action to turn them into something visible and tangible. Planning is taking into consideration the time of the process and the actions required at specific stages of the process to see progress. Brian Tracy, author of The Gift of Self-confidence, stated that, “A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” Planning allows you to see the actionable steps to turning your ideas into results; it increases your confidence to execute.
The best planning approach that I have found to be effective takes three things into consideration. First, I determine the minimum and maximum amount of time a task or a goal will require. The maximum time acts as an upper limit and the minimum time as lower limit. This clear demarcation of time enables me to work at a productive pace. Second, I determine who will help me in doing what. Identifying potential support in advance allows me to ask for help early and reduces the chance of being turned down. Third, I determine potential setbacks. The journey of turning your ideas into results, has potential setbacks. Considering them in my planning helps adjust quickly and keep moving without much delay. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.
The final approach where you can apply F-P-T is in taking in to consider the changing of times and circumstances. Here the F-P-T approach leads you to ask yourself, are my plans up-to-date, are my tools still effective? Calibration is the adjustments done to your plans and actions to ensure you are progressing effectively in the right direction. It’s impossible to increase your effectiveness without having the ability and willingness to adjust. Times and circumstances change, tools get outdated, and sometimes a new team is required to go to the next level of success. Calibrating often is necessary in the process of turning your big ideas to big results.
The best way to calibrate your progress is by asking relevant and current questions. I use these three questions to calibrate my progress:
- Are the skills that I have matching the problems that I am facing?
- Are the people in my team well equipped to face the current challenges?
- Am I on the right trajectory towards my goals?
I have found that calibrating often makes progress easier and smoother.
You might not be as rich as Elon Musk, you might not be planning on space exploration, or you might be feeling that you are too old to turn your younger self ideas into big results. I want to assure you that regardless of who you are or what stage you are in life, if you apply the First Principles Thinking approach in the three areas we have covered, you will be on the way to turning your big ideas into big results. If Colonel Sanders, founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken, turned the idea of a “secret recipe” for frying chicken into a multibillion franchise at the age of 65, I believe you to have great odds for success for big results.
I urge you to get a sheet of paper or a journal and write down the ideas that you believe need to be turned into big results. Next to the ideas apply the thinking approach we have learned to answer these questions; what skills do I need? and who can help me turn my idea into results? I am sure this practice will lead you into a journey that in the end you will be glad you took. I am cheering you on and looking forward to hearing how you are progressing.