Crushing the Second Attempt

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Have you ever heard of the "first mover" principle? It's the idea that the first one to market wins the day because they get a jump on competition. The only problem: it is a complete myth. If it were true we'd all be checking our MySpace instead of our Facebook or doing an AltaVista search instead of Google. What a world that would be!

It turns out that the second attempt has a distinct advantage over the first. I guess the lesson is to just wait for someone to try something and then copy their idea....just kidding.

Instead the lesson is to re-frame how we think about our first attempts. The goal of the first attempt is not to succeed, it is to get to the second attempt. 

Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformist Move the World, gives a list of steps that describe how we approach new ideas. 


He argues that originals follow these same steps with one exception; they skip step four. Originals have doubt of the idea, but not self doubt. After watching Grant's Ted Talk I thought about all the unsuccessful ideas we've ran through within our nonprofit, Here are 20 ideas we've had that didn't work.  

  1. Take over an old church
  2. Create a Community Center
  3. Create a co-working space
  4. Fork n' Folk (dinner and folk music)
  5. Create online asset database
  6. Create a music venue
  7. Create a coffee shop
  8. Partner with existing church 
  9. Create a business that re-purposes old tires
  10. Get 50 blocks networked in a year
  11. Create a national network of neighboring initiatives
  12. Use a church's kitchen to start a restaurant
  13. Start a bakery
  14. Use a church to house elderly
  15. Host immersions for college students
  16. Turn a church into co-living space
  17. Create a system of mentoring for neighbors
  18. Offer online courses on neighboring
  19. Create and sell a newspaper 
  20. Work to help neighbors register to vote

I think you get the point. There are about 4 times what is listed, but I'm going to stop before I get too depressed. While those ideas did not end up working, they did shape and form the ideas that are currently thriving.  The most important part about those ideas was not the content, but the process of generating ideas that didn't work and remaining positive about self and team.

In the world of Process Communication Model and Leading Out of Drama we call this "I'm OK and You're OK" or "Plus, Plus", or "+,+". Being "+,+" is an existential position. It is avoiding Grant's step four for self and for others. So when one of our ideas goes up in flames we do not degrade self or blame a teammate, instead we choose to believe that everyone involved is still worthwhile and "OK". 

Success is less about having a great idea and more about staying "+,+" when you have a bad one. 

This of course is easier said than done. Within our community we have lots of centering practices that help us stay self-full.  These include prayer, journaling, intentional community time, tending to hobbies, making art, and many more. Staying "+,+" won't just happen; it takes work and the return on investment is totally worth it!