Ideas are Vulnerable, Fragile Things

According to Derek  Sivers (thought leader, entrepreneur and programmer), telling  someone your goal makes it less likely to happen.  Every time you have a goal, there’s some work to be done in order to achieve it.  Telling  someone of your intentions and receiving  the immediate  affirmation and congratulations tricks your brain into thinking you have already accomplished the goal.  Normally, the brain would not be satisfied until you had actually done the work.  In the case of sharing your goals, the brain mistakes the talking for the doing.

Well, that is a unique view point.  I don’t necessarily agree but then people are motivated by different things.   Some are encouraged and motivated by immediate feedback while others  may hesitate to share their goals due to a fear of criticism and discouragement.   In a recent Harvard Business Review interview with Sarah Blakely (youngest self-made female billionaire in history), the author stated that “Blakely recommends not sharing  your fragile idea with the world too soon.  Blakely kept her idea of making a fabulous new undergarment (Spanx shapewear) for women under wraps for an entire year while working on developing the prototype.  Only after she was 100% committed to it and ready to launch, did she sit her friends down and explain her new direction.  Sara explains that ideas are vulnerable, fragile things.  Wait until you’re completely ready to move forward before you share it with people. Meaning well, they’ll shoot it down, offering all the reasons why it won’t work.  But when they do,  you’ll be ready to deal with it”.

For many of us, simply setting a goal is a challenge in itself.  Particularly for high achievers who hold themselves to strict standards.   By sharing your goals with others, now you must meet their expectations in addition to your own.  This can raise the stakes substantially higher.  As one of my favorite bloggers (Penelope Trunk) wrote, “If I could go back to that time, I’d tell myself to stop worrying about failure. The worry just makes the change harder, and no one is a failure in the middle of a big change. You can’t fail if you’re moving toward something. You fail only if you stop.”

According to Blakely, her father followed  Wayne Dyer’s guidance in teaching his children the power of failing big.  Each day, her father would ask – “So, what did you fail at today.” And if there were no failures, her father would be disappointed.  Focusing on failing big allowed Blakely to understand that failure is not an outcome, but involves a lack of trying — not stretching yourself far enough out of your comfort zone and attempting to be more than you were the day before.   Failing big was a good thing.

Dr. Neil Fiore author of The NOW Habit, states that sharing our goals with others makes the appeal of taking risks for achievement much less appealing.  Especially if you have a history of success.   Why leave your comfortable ledge of success  to climb to a higher position?

Ironically, it is those who have experienced the most failure who are wildly successful.  That’s because they go all in, and even when they make mistakes, it’s usually done gracefully.  Warren Buffet, the paragon of entrepreneurship, has declared bankruptcy more than once.   True, people like Buffet represent an extremely small segment of our society, but the basic principle applies to all of us.

There is risk and uncertainty in the pursuit of goals.  There is disappointment in defeat and pleasure in success.  The question is how much can you stomach the uncertainty, disappointment and defeat?  Sure, we all get advice but we need to sort through it.  Figure out what is reasonable for us, while making  sure we are not shying  away from the challenge of change.  It’s a balancing act but it usually pays off in the end.

See Derek’s TED lecture  

I would like to hear from you.  Do you agree with this approach?   Does sharing your goals increase your chances of success?


Categories: Professional Development


2 replies

  1. Excellent blog! Love the subject matter.

I woud like to hear from you

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