The Destructive Power of “Not Yet”

Dangerous business

Around three years ago, I had a coffee talk with an entrepreneurial fellow named Randy (not his real name, rhymes though).

Randy was a mobile applications programmer working for a large telco. He was carefully explaining to me about his idea for a mobile application/mobile service which I thought was just super – first in the local market, clear user value proposition, clear monetization strategy, low investment costs.  I had a lot of questions, but he gave thoughtful answers – it was obvious he gave a lot of thought to his idea. Typically, I got really excited and told him he should start working on the code immediately. I reasoned he didn’t need to resign, but that he could work on the code and the interface after hours. I immediately offered him whatever help I could give – assembling a team, a table in our office, etc…

He smiled a bit and stopped me from rambling on. Then the all-too familiar words were uttered.

“Not yet.”

He explained he wanted to “polish” his idea further before we did anything concrete. I argued with him a bit, but he was resolute. I didn’t want to appear too excited and do a hard sell, so I just stopped and asked him what his timetable was.

“Maybe in a couple of months.”

I emailed him a couple of months after. I asked him about his timetable.

“A bit busy now with work. Maybe early next year.”

I didn’t push anymore.

Around year and a half after, I sent him an email. It featured a link to a local application. It was basically Randy’s idea. Only, it wasn’t him who made it happen.

He replied with something like, “Too bad. On to the next idea!”

Too bad? Too bad?! I’m not really sure if he didn’t feel any regret at all or it was a coping mechanism. I had no doubt in my mind that the experience he would have garnered would have been tremendous – best case: a successful startup, worst case: invaluable knowledge. Instead, he chose to throw it away without trying, another startup which died without even getting a chance to live.

This is why “not yets” are so dangerous. At least a “no” isn’t self-pretentious. A “no” isn’t about fooling ourselves.

A “not yet” is comfortably nestled between a yes and a no – it’s such an easy reply to give to any question which implies a commitment. And so it remains the most common barrier to startups.

But life will not wait. Competitors will not wait. The window will not wait.

(and if you are in corporate, the longer you wait, the more the system will make it harder to for you to take any leaps)

I remember an ex-officemate once told me about his brother who got into this huge vehicular accident and nearly lost his life. The next things he did are almost too obvious: he quit his (largely successful) work in corporate, and put up a resto in Tagaytay. (If I remember right, it’s Firelake Grill – an awesome place)

Does it really take a life-threatening moment for us to pursue our passions?

Enough not-yets.

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