Necessity is the mother of invention.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Many people ascribe this quote to Plato; others bring up Einstein when this quote is mentioned. While the author of this proverb is unknown, its meaning is not. Countless numbers of leaders, coaches, and entrepreneurs have trumpeted the merits of this proverb. My father first introduced me to this proverb and the idea behind it, in my early teens.
The idea behind the quote was explained to me as follows. Anyone given anything doesn’t have to learn; they don’t have to struggle, adapt, or change.
On the flip-side, those who need something, yearn to create something, or otherwise have no easy route to his or her stated objective, must figure out how to achieve the stated objective. Needing something, as opposed to wanting or desiring something are two completely different positions. The latter can be justified away and put on the backburner. The former requires attention immediately.
This proverb encapsulates everything small-business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs face on a daily basis. Heck, sometimes on an hourly basis. We need to figure out a way to drive more leads or troubleshoot a software glitch that has hundreds of customers up in arms.
Sometimes, it’s managing a customer service nightmare, like releasing a second iteration of a popular product that most of your existing customers hate. In situations like these, no one is stepping in, blowing a whistle, and pressing the easy button. There’s no Regis Philbin from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and his variety of lifelines. Nope it’s just you and your nose to the grindstone.
Below are a few personal lessons I have derived from this proverb over the years. At the end of the day, if you aren’t constantly sharpening your skills and adding more tools to your tool belt, you’re going to get passed by.
Another way to look at this is if you’re not constantly challenging yourself and your business then you aren’t forcing yourself into uncomfortable positions. If you’re not in uncomfortable positions, you’re not growing and therein lies the lack of a “need.” You’re stagnant and this is about the worst place to be if you’re a small business owner with a limited amount of customers and a limited target market.
Fail fast. I heard this recently from my bosses who had attended a Google summit in New York City a few weeks ago.
I love this statement on its own, but I also know that this ties directly into the proverb. If you do need something and are tinkering and iterating and figuring out how to achieve your stated goal, you must recognize when you have reached a dead-end. Testing and failing is one thing, but allowing a failed test to run, which in turn negatively impacts results, is a whole different matter. Test, fail, take these learnings and apply to another test … rinse and repeat.
Asking questions is great, but jumping into a project and figuring it out is oftentimes even better.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked over to my boss’s desk, curious as to how he set up Google Call Forwarding numbers for our client’s search ads. He wasn’t at his desk and because of this, I jumped into Google Adwords and decided to figure this out on my own.
Within a few minutes I had set up Google Call Forwarding Numbers for my own client’s search ads and had learned the ins and outs of this feature in Adwords. Asking questions is great but this takes the “necessity” out of learning and places the majority of the responsibility on the educator. By passively watching someone teach you, you aren’t as fully immersed in the data/service/feature or whatever it may be and as a result don’t master it as fully as when you need to figure it out on your own.
Don’t be scared if you don’t know the answer or don’t have the solution to a client’s problem.
View this as an opportunity. Don’t use this as a reason to justify why you aren’t fit for the job. I have realized in my short amount of time on earth that no one has all the answers. Knowing this, I am comfortable telling clients and prospective clients I can do something, even if I have never tackled this particular project or assignment before. I am confident that I will figure it out and if I can’t figure it out, I will find someone who can help me.
It’s ok to struggle a bit and hit a few road bumps. As I mentioned earlier, if you’re not pushing yourself and your business, then you’re not maximizing your potential.
If you’re not pushing yourself, than you’re not struggling and failing. As human beings, we have a tendency to view failure as a negative and view “struggling” as a deficiency.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Failure means you’re learning and pushing yourself. Failure means you have entered unfamiliar areas and are testing new waters. You’re not sitting back in your cozy office and performing the same functions, but rather you’re going outside your comfort zone. Failure is not a condemnation; it’s an opportunity to grow.
What do you think of the above proverb? Do you view this proverb a bit differently? How does this apply to your life and your business? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Get Busy Media is a blog and resource center that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs build smarter companies. For more information on how to jump-start your small business marketing, please visit www.getbusymedia.com or connect with us on Twitter, @GetBusyMedia.
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