Your inventions are like your children: you love them even if no one else does.
While such unconditional love serves you and your children well; as an inventor, you simply must be more reserved towards your inventions. You may fall into an enticing trap you unknowingly set for yourself:
- I'm a smart person, … ergo
- My ideas and inventions are inspired, destined for success
I would argue that 1 is almost certainly true, but 2 is frequently false.
Prolific inventors, like Thomas Edison, had many failed inventions for every successful one. You may have 19 mediocre ideas for every good one – but every idea seems inspired when it first comes to you. How do you choose the good ones? What is an inventor to do?
Like Your Ideas … just Don't Marry Them!
I know it is cliché, but the above represents a good attitude to take regarding all of your inventions.
Countless inventors risk tens of thousands of dollars on their inventions, sometimes selling their homes or other assets to fund expenses – all the while feeling their ‘manifest destiny' is to ultimately achieve glory and riches. Unfortunately, this frenetic fervor is fueled by fables of inventors who took huge risks to develop their products, then ultimately achieved success. Lost in the shuffle, however is the countless cases where everything was risked, but it didn't work out and everything was lost!
Remember, the second definition of fable is: a story not founded on fact.
Instead, you should adopt the mindset of an investor. An investor may consider many investments, carefully analyzing the potential for risk versus reward. Ultimately, however, he will select only the one investment that seems best matched for his risk tolerance and goals for ROI – return on investment.
How can you, as an inventor, apply the investor's mindset to your inventions?
First, you must learn to cull your ideas – as described in an earlier blog I wrote. Second, realize that inventions are, at best, risky business propositions – less than 5% of patent holders ever realize a profit on their inventions. Think of your invention as a long-term relationship: you may be investing a great deal of time, energy, and capital into the invention for the next 5+ years. How comfortable are you in proceeding forward on that basis? Thirdly, if your invention is successful, will you feel proud of the product, what it can do for consumers, that it will ultimately be a plus for society?
Last, and perhaps most important, you must maintain an objective, open-minded attitude towards receiving and considering criticism from those evaluating your invention. Unfortunately, emotionally, you may mistake a scathing critique of your product as a rejection of you, your validity, and your character. It is not, and you must dismiss this idea immediately. Ask yourself a simple question: why would someone who hardly knows me attack my character, my validity? This one misperception derails more inventors than any other I can think of – beware of it ensnaring you!
Stay positive, stay engaged, be persistent, but be always willing to step back and reconsider and you will do well.