(or) You Start by Scrutinizing
Do you buy a business before you look at the financials? Do you propose marriage after one date? Do you print letterhead and business cards before you launch your blog?
That last question ties directly back to my column about starting before you get bogged down in paralysis of analysis. The beauty of the Web is that we never have to go to press. But there are other situations in life that call for patience, practice and precision. My friend, Darius, who has worked in venture capital, likes to remind me that sometimes in life we only get one chance to kiss the pig. Thus, we better be damned sure we put our best foot/kiss forward when we do get that chance.
If you rush into running a marathon, you’re begging to get injured. If you’ve come up with a catchy website, you’ll probably lose the URL if you don’t register it right away. As for meeting key people, show up unprepared or without a compelling pitch and you’ll alienate them and prevent future opportunities. All those points seem to contradict the notion that you “start by starting”. Like most things in life, there’s a balance when deciding if you should dive right in or perform meticulous due diligence.
When I was running my literary agency, I set up the Stuey Ungar biography as a film with Academy Award-winning producer Graham King and Warner Bros. and had to negotiate my back-end compensation as an executive producer. My friend Ray was in the exact same position with another project. We both had to decide whether to dive in and sign our respective deals or spend the time and money to scrutinize every clause. I decided to pay $1,000 to have an attorney quickly negotiate the contract. Ray spent $25,000 on legal fees and his deal was in limbo for almost a year. Even so, he kept boasting, “If this movie makes money, I want to be at the big boys’ table on the payout, not at the little kids’ table.” Neither film ever got made.
It sounds like I’m the smart one here, but I think we both made the right decision. For one, Ray stood to earn far more than $25,000 if the film was a hit. But more important, Ray was building his production company (while I was still focusing on my agency) and establishing a quote that would determine his payout on future deals. In short, it was a long-term investment and given Ray’s situation, his decision made sense.
A Partial List of Situations to Scrutinize Before You Act
- A job or college application.
- A major financial investment.
- An invention or anything related to intellectual property.
- Pitching an investor or meeting with a career influencer.
- Purchasing a non-refundable airline ticket
- Recording/filming your demo.
I finished the first draft of a screenplay yet I’m not showing it to agents. Does this sound like classic fear of failure? Perhaps. But for me, this decision is strategic. I know that it’s not my best work (because I did share it with friends) and showing an unpolished draft could close the door on a future meeting.
Think about situations in your life that present the question of starting or scrutinizing. If your first move is to scrutinize, decide if you’re acting smart or acting scared. If it’s the former, do your research. If it’s the latter, lean forward, pucker up and kiss that pig!