Imagine how you'd feel if someone told you that your baby is ugly. That's the feeling an entrepreneur suffers when someone tells them their idea "sucks."
Remember Little League baseball when you were growing up? Every player in the league is told they are a winner, and everyone receives a trophy at the end of the season. Entrepreneurship is not like that. Rejection and criticism are part of this game. If you take them personally, your career as an entrepreneur will be brief and miserable. There will be people who will call you a failure and a loser. Discouraging people will remind you, over and over, that the odds are stacked against you.
It's easy to get caught up in all the success stories but what many people overlook is how disproportionate the ratio of failure to success truly is. The purpose here is not to discourage anyone from becoming an entrepreneur -- quite the contrary. The intention is to set realistic expectations so that you don't embark on this uncharted journey and immediately find yourself lost.
My partners and I were lucky enough to stumble upon a solution to a problem affecting millions of people around the world. After being robbed at the beach, we decided to invent a portable travel safe called the AquaVault. The idea itself is the easiest component of the invention process. The true challenge is bringing the idea successfully to the market.
We began this journey without knowing a single thing about the invention process. We anticipated making a lot of mistakes along the way, and we knew landmines were inevitable. All we hoped for was to not land on one so big we would not be able to recuperate. Early on, to mitigate our risk, we asked the 10 smartest people we knew to give us their brutally honest criticism. We asked each of them for the top two reasons they could envision us failing, then we methodically and precisely addressed those concerns.
Preparation is everything and cannot be emphasized enough. As some anonymous genius once advised, "Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong."
Here's what we learned going from an idea on a napkin to an international business generating millions a year.
Related: Five Businesses Born at a Bar
How much money do I need to set aside to launch an idea? How do I create a prototype? Can I trust a patent attorney to not take my idea? Where do I find a reliable manufacturer? Is China really the best place to manufacture and if so, how do I know my product won't be sold out of the backdoor?
These are all common questions that will run though a person's mind when contemplating an invention. Fear of failure and the unknown are paralyzing emotions that deter many would-be inventors around the world. People are inherently reluctant to leave their comfort zone for something they know little about. This is why an overwhelming majority of ideas are taken to the grave. People are naturally very good at making excuses and talking themselves out of pursuing things that make them uncomfortable, but as Reid Hoffman once said, " An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down."