Scott Berkun is someone who knows. He wrote the book "The Myths of Innovation", which takes an anthropological approach to innovation, suggesting that new ideas spread a speeds determined by psychology and sociology, not the abstract merits of those new ideas. That explains why so many great innovators fail. They are forced through the inevitable emotional journey of creating anything great.
Inventing the telephone
Let us cite one of Berkun's examples: imagine it's 1874 and you've just invented the telephone. After hi-fiving your friend Watson, you head down to Western Union -the greatest communication company in the world- and show your work. Despite your excellent pitch (a century before Powerpoint), they turn you down on the spot, call the telephone a useless toy and show you the door. Would you have given up?
Fortunately, Alexander Graham Bell didn't listen to the folks at Western Union. He started his own business and changed the world, paving the way for the mobile phone in your pocket.
The secret tragedy of innovators is that their desire to improve the world is rarely matched by support from the people they hope to help.
Without emotional support, it becomes hard to remember why you are spending your life savings, or an entire weekend, killing yourself to invent something. This gap -the difference between how an innovator sees his work from how it is seen by others- is the most frustrating challenge innovators face. Creators expect to be well received. They look at accepted innovations and the heroes who delivered them. Heroes. Because that is how they are seen after the innovation has found common ground.
So to all the innovators out there: there is an emotional journey associated with creating anything great. You have been warned. Buckle up for this sequence of peer reactions, hang on, and become the next hero.
You: This is the best idea ever!!
“Wait, are you mental?”
“Whoa, seems awesome!”
“You should totally go for it!”
“I’ll support you all the way!”
“I believe in you.”
You: This will be fun.
“Do you even see all the work that this would take?”
“Wait, you’re really going through with this?”
“I like your vibe.”
“This will be awesome!”
“Off to a good start!”
You: This is harder than I thought.
“Like I said, this won’t be easy.”
“You’ll have to commit if you really want this.”
“Maybe you just shouldn’t do this?”
“Come on, just pull yourself through it.”
“I still believe you are the right person for this.”
You: This is going to be a lot of work.
“You might as well give up now.”
“If you think this is a lot of work, don’t even bother.”
“I don’t think you should go on.”
“This will only make you more unhappy.”
“Come on, just focus and you’ll get there.”
You: This sucks and I have no idea what I’m doing.
“Just quit and leave it to more talented people!”
“Yeah, this isn’t going to work out, is it?”
“Let’s just forget about it and move on.”
“You’ll get a burnout if you continue working on this.”
“How about you throw in the towel and call it a day?”
“I always knew you would crash at some point!”
“You should take some time off.”
“Just leave it at this and look for some new opportunities.”
“Hey, are you okay?”
“Well, I guess this was to be expected.”
You: Okay, but it still sucks.
“You know what, I think you might be onto something!”
“Are you still going on about that?”
“I thought you were about to give up!”
“So you’re not quitting?”
“Why are you still bothering?”
You: Quick, let’s call it a day and say we learned something.
“You’ll actually get there if you put in the right amount of work.”
“This seems to be going in the right direction now.”
“Do you really think you can afford to take some time off now?”
“Come on, this isn’t the way things like that work.”
“You should have given up ages ago.”
“I can’t believe this actually seems to be working well.”
“It looks like you’re nearly there.”
“Looking good. You’re so smart.”
“Well, I guess this is something …”
“There’s no stopping you, is there?”
“Whoa, look at you going strong!”
“This is crazy!”
“You’re definitely on your way to the top.”
“I believe this is the most you’ll get out of this.”
“Actually, this is not too bad!”
“I always knew you had it in you!”
“You’ve made it now!”
“Well I was wrong, you actually can pull it off!”
“I almost can’t believe you did it!”
“You deserve this!”
You: This is one of the things I am most proud of.
“I wish I were more like you.”
“What a hero.”
“Don’t forget about me in your memoirs.”