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Where is Your Idea Unconscious?

“A dream is just a dream until you write it down.  Then it becomes a plan.”  Walt Disney

I recently met with a couple who have an idea.  The woman is an accomplished herbalist and has been making tinctures, mists, medicinal teas, and bath “teas” for years now and selling them to friends, clients, and at the farmer’s market.  It’s been more of a hobby than a business and now she and her husband are asking themselves, do we want to turn this into a full-fledged enterprise. 

Like anyone considering taking a hobby or personal passion into a business, there are many questions to consider.  Some of hers revolve around how hard does she really want to work?  She’s going to be 56 this year and enjoys her life as it is.  “Do I really want to work that hard?” she asked.

She’s lucky because she doesn’t need this business to support her but she would like an additional revenue stream as she gets older.  There is a vision of a venture that would require a minimum amount of start-up time and money that could become a source of income.  Plus, she just loves making her potions and sharing them with others.  In fact, one spritz of her “Beautiful Face Spray” and my skin glowed.  It was clear that the quality was in her products.

We began by looking at what it would take to start this business in terms of time and money.  I questioned them about each product in the line in terms of the costs to make and package it and what the profits were.  The answers were vague.

This raised a common question for me when I work with people and their ideas.  Where is your idea unconscious?

In this case, the idea was unconscious in the area of money. There were lots of broad strokes but no detail.  This was where we needed to shine the flashlight.  She is very good at making her products.  She has studied and experimented and explored in this area.  Now, if she or anyone is serious about turning their hobby into a business that can generate even a minimum amount of regular income, she would have to shine her flashlight onto these others areas too.

At the beginning stage in anyone’s idea development, I recommend writing everything down.  You don’t need a formal business plan but you need to understand all the different aspects of your idea at a level of detail that may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable to you.

Many of us don’t want to do what we don’t want to do or don’t know how to do, especially in the area of a passion.  We just want to do the part of it that we love.  Unless you have a partner who can be the yang to your yin, you have to look at these areas too.

When taking an idea from a spark in your brain to something on the shelf, there is both the internal work and the external work.  There is the process of facing our own unconscious, those areas we avoid through confusion, disinterest, or lack of focus.  With a baby, though, we don’t refuse to change a diaper because it’s smelly, right?  It’s the same with our ideas.

Of course there is the external piece as well.  You must ask yourself questions like:

What is the hole in the marketplace?

What is unique about your product in the market?

How do you brand yourself effectively?

But I find that the clearer you are internally, the more easily the external will fall into place.  It really does begin inside you.

As we were finishing up our meeting, they asked me, “What does it take to have a successful business?”  There is no simple answer but it made me think of a study done with Harvard Business School alums from the 50’s.  The researchers wanted to know what differentiated the people who did okay from the ones who soared.  Everyone in the study was smart, well-connected, and well-educated but what they discovered was that the small percentage of people who did phenomenally well wrote down their goals.


1. Make a list of the parts of your idea/business that are unclear to you and then record yourself talking out loud about them.  These are the aspects of your idea that are still unconscious.  When you play it back, listen as though you were listening to a stranger.  You will discover much more about your own relationship to your idea than when those words are going along inside your head.

2. Based on what you discover, write down 5 next steps.

3. Do them!

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