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Ideas, Convictions and Dogma.

Ideas come and go. Every day, I write down a handful of new ideas in my planner. I’ve done this for years. I try to write down at least ten, not because any of my ideas are all that great, but because it gets me in the habit of seeing ideas come and go. Also, it doesn’t hurt to capture what’s in my head. Occasionally I will stumble across something really interesting and my only hope of remembering it is to write it down.

I’ve read the biographies of too many great thinkers, writers and comedians who keep journals or blank note cards on their nightstand to forget this lesson. In the middle of the night, if they have a great idea or new joke, they write it down. So, I’ve adopted the habit too.

Recently, while coaching a very productive member of mine who owns a lot of real estate and retail businesses, I was not surprised to hear the way most deals get structured in his niche hasn’t changed much for 40 years. We laughed about the old joke that progress in any industry seems to happen “one funeral at a time.”

Strong convictions and dogma take a long time to overcome.

In his case, the way brokers are paid and how bonuses are structured has been a long-standing tradition for more than two generations. His grandfather started the business. His father and a few business partners tried to leverage the first wave of growth without a whole lot of traction. He’s had tremendous success, which is not the way it usually works out. The third generation almost always screws up what the first two built, so this client is unique.

He and I have our work cut out for us. We must convince a group of shareholders to part ways with the dogma of the past and start fresh without bursting the illusion they’ve built for themselves and seem content to live with (i.e., that their stodgy old niche inside of a niche within the commercial real estate market isn’t as prone to disruption as reality and data indicate), and we must not trample on their feelings while illuminating the veracity of what we’re saying to them and the direction in which the firm must head, if it wants to survive, let alone thrive.

This phenomenon can be observed within any industry, market, profession or niche. It repeats itself like clockwork. A group of neophytes test some provocative new ideas, some of which gain traction. They get comfortable enjoying the results of their disruption, but somewhere along the line, they grow firm in their convictions that “this is the way things are done around here.” Left to their own devices, these leaders allow their convictions to petrify into dogma. No one realizes the next tidal wave of disruption, lurking on the horizon, until it crashes violently into the soft sandy beaches of outdated ideas.

You can rise above all of this by constantly testing new ideas and never being surprised when a bunch of them fail. Learn what you can from the failure (write it down) and repeat the process. Don’t lose faith or grow tired when some of your best-loved ideas no longer work. Even the most-successful ideas on the planet have a sell-by date. Don’t let your convictions and dogma blind you to this fact


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