Ideas vs Execution – which is more important?

November 9, 2017

Got any great ideas?

A lot of people approach me these days with their ideas for a blog or a YouTube channel.

“I’ve got this idea”, they say. “But if I tell you, you have to promise not to steal it.”

I think it over.

The books I already have to write. The videos to make. That novel that’s on the back burner. The accounting, the taxes, the million someday/maybe plans.

Those donuts at home that aren’t gonna eat themselves.

So I say, “Don’t worry. I’ve got a lot on my plate. No time for stealing ideas.”

They pause, dramatically…

“I’m going to write a blog… about wine.” Expectation shines in their eyes. “What do you think of my idea?”

“Sounds good”, I say. “Go do it.”

I say wine, but it could be a blog about anything.

Their YouTube channel also.

It doesn’t really matter.

I’m going to do this thing about food. About travel. About technology. About fashion. About fitness. About being a millennial going through a quarter life crisis.

“Great”, I say. “Do it. Get started.


“Then see what works, what doesn’t.

“Go from there.”

Usually they don’t do much, which is a pity.

Because, as my dawg Derek Sivers says, ideas are just a multiplier of execution.

Ideas vs execution, and why you need both

I like Sivers’ essay in his (completely awesome) book for entrepreneurs, Anything You Want.

It’s real short, and basically says that bad ideas are worth nothing. Good ideas are worth more. However, the best idea with bad execution is worthless.

And brilliant ideas with brilliant execution could be worth millions.

Guess what…

You’re not gonna pay the rent with the blog you’re “thinking” about writing, or the YouTube videos you’re “gonna” make.

ideas vs execution - which is more important
Your humble author, who calls himself Mr Chorizo from time to time.

There are lots of blogs out there… but not a lot of great blogs.

Write a great blog, or make some great videos and then we’ll talk.

One way or another, you gotta do the work.

(By the way, I’ve started probably three blogs for every one I have now. A 33% success rate isn’t that bad. Fail forward.)

What’s a good idea anyway?

Here’s the thing…

A lot of huge businesses, big projects and great were originally laughed at by nearly everyone – even those “in the know”.

It took people quite a while to realize their genius.

For example – a lot of Parisians hated the Eiffel Tower when it was first built. More engineering than architecture and made with ugly riveted steel, artists protested.

They called it useless, monstrous and ridiculous…

The Eiffel motherfucking tower.

Even the telephone was ridiculed by Western Union as a toy when Bell first took it to them. Why would you want to talk to someone across town through wires if you could just get on your horse and go see them?

Little did they know.

And apparently, Nokia engineers realized they could make a touch-screen internet-ready mobile phones years before Apple.

But when they took the idea to the president, he just laughed. Why would anyone want to use the internet on their phone?

Apple executed, and guess who has the most valuable company in the world these days?

Just saying…

A lot of smart people don’t really know what’s going to work and what’s not. Nobody really knows. Until they get to work and get their “thing” in front of customers.

Why I’m not a billionaire Facebook investor

If Mark Zuckerberg had come to me with his idea for Facebook drawn out on a napkin and asked for an investment, I woulda sent his geeky ass packing.

You would have too.

Zuck has tremendous execution… and none of us are billionaire Facebook investors right now.

(Ok, ok. Maybe a couple of billionaires read my blog. ‘Sup, Elon?)

Elon’s another good example, by the way. Nothing original about the “idea” of electric cars. Turning out thousands upon thousands of awesome futuristic electric cars is… Brilliant execution.

And if Ol’ Elon gets to Mars, that’ll be down to his execution too… Because the idea of going to Mars has been around for decades.

Ideas are easy to come up with… it’s building spaceships that’s hard.

Anyway, time to wrap this up.

I’ve got an idea for a workout to do. Imagine my biceps if I did 300 pullups a few times a week… I bet those donuts would just melt right off me, too.

Easy to say. But hard to execute.


Mr Chorizo.

P.S. If you liked this article, you’ll love my book. The Zen of Blogging is all the tough love you need to be an awesome blogger, make money, fire your boss, get groupies and become slightly famous… or more than slightly, if that’s your thing. Check it out: The Zen of Blogging. Or hey, if you’re sick of me (already?) you can also read one of the best books about writing.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. Very good advice and I do agree with what you say. If one has to ask what one should do to be successful, then, in my opinion and of course I could be completely wrong, one does not have what is needed to succeed. It is good to read what successful people write of course, but that is more than enough. I have told you before Daniel, but I will tell you again…….I enjoy reading what you write very much but to be harshly honest, it is not because it inspire3s me to do anything, it is purely because I love the way and what you write, it is really fun. Thanks Daniel

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