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Posted on: Sunday, 14 February 2010 by Rajiv Popat

In any given year, I get proposals for working on at-least one and sometimes even more than one business idea someone has cooked up. You are sitting with a casual business acquaintance, a sort of a weak tie who introduces you to someone who has been trying to launch a startup. It begins with chit-chat. What I like to call meaningful small talk.

He shares his idea, you tell him why it will not work, he tells you how much he has thought about it, you tell him how he has not thought shit (of course you do this politely). The next thing that happens is you find yourself scribbling things on paper napkins in a restaurant and then you are called for another cup of coffee on the weekend that follows to brainstorm further.

A couple of whiteboard discussion later, people expect you to jump in and get on-board. I don't mean get on-board in an intellectual-exercise-for-the-brain way. I mean get on-board in a get-paid-and-start-working-on-the-project-during-the-weekend way. But what the young and budding entrepreneur does not understand, is that you are not in a committed relationship with the idea. You are just flirting with the idea. I do it all the time.

I like flirting with ideas, stimulating my brain with them. But then, I have serious commitment issues as far as ideas are concerned. So I leave the idea alone and after about a couple of months of no touch, no connection, my relationship with the idea comes to a painful halt. 

That, dear reader, is my typical idea love story.

At any given day my brain is looking at three or more different ideas, flirting with a couple of them for more than a day and then moving on.

These are not the ideas that will make you fall in love with them. These are not the ideas that will keep you up all night. These are not the ideas that will, for lack of a better word, f@#k up your brain and make you slog for hours at the machine. These are not the ideas that will make you give up whatever little personal life you have left on weekends. The ideas that can do all of these are exactly the kind of ideas and projects I love working on.

The problem with genuine ideas that have the potential of making you do all of this, is that no matter how hard you try or for how long you brainstorm on a whiteboard with your weak-ties, you cannot find them.

To put things more specifically, when the time is right, these ideas, find you.

It is a subtle sublime inspiration or incident that brings this idea into your life. You see something drastically wrong with the way the world works and you see how the idea can help you fix it. The idea keeps you up all night. You spend a couple of hours thinking about it. Then you bring up your IDE and code just a couple of screens. A prototype, that would sit there on your machine for weeks as you get busy with your work life.

The difference between this idea and the one you are flirting with, is that you just find yourself opening the IDE and adding just a little bit of code on this project every time you get some free time.

This is not causal flirting. You cannot seem to move on. You keep coming back to the IDE and you keep adding just a couple of functions each day.

Before you know it, you get hooked. Committed. Stuck.

You, dear reader, are in love with the idea.

You have found the idea or to put things slightly more specifically, the idea has found you.

You have no intentions of making money out of the idea, no intentions looking for venture capitalists and turning it into a Google. In fact, chances are that you will not make any money out of the idea and that you are not on your way to becoming a Google either, but you have what we call, a project worth slogging on. A way to make a small dent in the large universe. Something that is fun to work on and a blank canvas where you can draw in bold colors.

If you are a 'practical' entrepreneur who talks about 'business model', 'revenue plans' and 'venture funding' you probably have no freaking idea of what I am talking about here. On the other hand however, if you ever fallen in love with an idea in your life you know exactly what I am talking about here.

What happened to that idea? Are you still slogging away at it during late nights and weekends?

If not, might I use today as an excuse to suggest that you dig from your hard disk, one such idea that had found you, fire up the IDE and just start adding a couple of functions to the project, again. We don't want you to change the universe, just make a dent or two on it. We don't want you to break up with your loved ideas. We want you to bring them to life. Show us what you can build through committed consistency and dedication.

I wish you good luck.