Buying a car is a big commitment. Most people don’t drive one off the lot before spending hours reading reviews, gathering friends’ opinions, weighing various options and—of course—taking a turn behind the wheel. Pursuing a vision—whether launching a clothing line, opening a restaurant or starting a young professionals’ network—is also a big commitment. Before you go all in, however, you can take your idea for a spin around the block to see if it’s a good fit.
Last year, I had an idea for a novel. The story would be about two fictional characters giving anonymous gifts to New Yorkers in order to rekindle their love for the city. Although the characters would be fictional, the gifts would be real. I planned to create and distribute them all over the Big Apple. This multifaceted story would be a major time commitment. My day job involved drafting memos and articles, but I had no idea if I liked writing in story form.
Before starting an entire novel, I took the idea for a test drive by answering the following questions:
1. Is what you want to do feasible?
I knew I wanted to write my novel in real-time, meaning I would publish a chapter online every Sunday. First, I needed to test if I could actually write so quickly! My goal was to launch the book in January, so I spent November writing the first four chapters and finished each within the allotted time. This proof of concept demonstrated that the idea was feasible.
Test your idea in a trial run that holds little risk. Set a short-term goal that you can complete over the course of a few weeks and get to work right away. For example, if you want to begin a young professionals’ network, start by assembling a list of 50 contacts that might be participants. If you come up with only 5 names, you may need to reassess the original idea. However, if you can craft a robust list early on, you will have a strong foundation when you’re ready to invite colleagues to join in.
2. Are you ready to commit?
The ‘price’ of most ideas will be your time. If you’re starting a project outside of work, you’ll likely miss out on social events or give up time in front of the television. If you’re launching something at work, it may mean arriving early or staying late.
Set aside a fixed amount of time each week to work on your idea, such as two evenings and one weekend morning. If you’re easily tempted to use the time for other activities during the first few weeks, working on your project may feel like a chore in the long run. More likely, however, you’ll find that the time spent realizing your vision doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, but is deeply fulfilling.
3. Do you enjoy the ride?
As I worked on my story, I relished the experience of writing creatively. It had been a long time since I achieved such flow. I would write for hours only to look up and see it was midnight. I started the venture because it intrigued me. I stayed with it because I found a passion I couldn’t ignore.
As you work on your project, take a step back to examine how you feel. Does the clock disappear? Do inspiration and new improvements keep you up at night? Do you find yourself craving to return to the work when you’re away from it? If so, you’ve landed on a passion you can really pursue for the long haul.
4. Once you’ve committed, own it!
When you believe in your idea and know you can bring it to life, you are ready to take it out into the world. At this stage, some anxiety is normal as you wait for others’ reactions to your decision. Don’t let the naysayers bring you down! If you love what you’re doing and it makes you happy, march ahead.
When I finally announced the launch of my book, I sent the first chapter via email to nearly 200 friends and acquaintances. It was terrifying. I was sharing something that was deeply personal.. Some readers loved the story, while others found it too tinted by rose-colored glasses. In the end, neither of these opinions mattered. The writing served its purpose—I was rekindling my love for New York City and, more importantly, feeding a creative fire that kept me going until the novel was complete.
If you have a vision of something you wish to achieve, the most important part is to take the first step. It’s okay if it’s a cautious one. If you’re not ready to commit fully, take your idea on a test drive. You may just end up on the ride of your life.