Tonight there was one inventor featured in Chicago that had spent the last 26 years working on and promoting his invention, bulletball. 26 YEARS! And the invention a sort of cross between ping pong and knock hockey just wasn't that good. 26 YEARS!! He had quit his job; ruined at least one marriage; and lost his house.
What is even sadder than this guy's story is that it is all too common. I have known inventors who have spent everything they had chasing the dream. There is a fine line between the dedication and devotion needed to make an invention successful in the marketplace and going so far that you lose sight of all other aspects of one's life.
The one thing to always keep in mind is that an invention should merely be a means for an inventor to enhance his/her life not destroy it and often when an invention gets in the way of what's really important it should often be sidelined.
If your spouse is against spending tens of thousands of dollars on an invention; the question you must ask is this invention worth ruining my marriage over? By the way, marriages fall apart over these kind of things all to often.
Some inventors spend so much on their inventions, such as Mr. Bulletball above, that they will live in virtual poverty for extremely long periods of time. Even if they eventually make it, is a few years of wealth worth the years of poverty? Remember life is finite, no inventor should put all aspects of his/her life on hold to blindly devote everything to his/her invention.
I guess this brings me to my next bit of advice: enjoy the journey. So often we look exclusively to the future and the rewards that await us then and are out of reach in the present. Inventors are, of course, famous for this always planning for and searching out the next big break. And the sad truth is that in most cases the inventions will never be successful.
I do not suggest that inventors do not plan for the future. In fact, failing to plan is a recipe for disaster. However, inventors should reveal and take great joy in the journey and the mini successes along the way. When you first conceive the invention, revel in it. When you built the first prototype sit back and congratulate yourself. When the patent application is filed, go out to dinner and celebrate. When the patent issues, throw a party. When you get in to see a representative from a major company you would like to license your invention, realize that you have made it further than most inventors in just getting the meeting.
And perhaps most importantly, know when to say its over and let it go. Also realize that with ultimate failure, the process need not be so. You will have learned so much that can be applied later in life to the next great idea. The knowledge gained from the process can far outweigh the ultimate failure. Believe me, I have been there and done that.
In the early nineties, I founded a Mountain Bike component company built around a handlebar of my unique design. Luckily, I was single at the time so that I did not have to worry about family time and family finances. In the end, everything fell apart and I walked away owning almost nothing more than the shirt on my back. Some might be inclined to think the three years I pursued this venture was ultimately wasted. But the knowledge and experience gained during those three years has made me the person I am today.
For example, many people fear starting their own businesses because of the uncertainty in contrast to a regular paycheck and because of this they never follow their dream. I have not such fear; I have been to the bottom and while not particularly fun, it wasn't as bad as fear would lead you to believe. I know more about the practical side of startup businesses and bootstrapping than your typical MBA graduate. In short, my experiences in the early nineties have helped make my practice successful today. Always keep in mind failure can be the manure from which success grows (wow what a terrible metaphor).
So to end: Chase you dream but do smartly and try to enjoy the chase along the way.
Till next time...
Labels: inventing, patents