Not long ago, I received a video from a customer. This, in and of itself, isn’t really shocking. As the creator of Hey Mic! (a Bluetooth lapel microphone for smartphones) we often get clips of speakers, yoga teachers, horse trainers and the like. However, this video stood out by miles.
The video was set near a beautiful lake and starred Kirsty and Craig. They were using my microphone to record their vows.
Hold on. I got a little giddy just then and I just have to say (type) that again.
They were using the microphone that I created to record their wedding vows.
But that almost didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because I might never have taken my little invention, my prototype out to the world.
You see, I’ve sketched/documented/created dozens of inventions/prototypes/crazy ideas over the years but I didn’t think for a minute that anyone else would want them.
Interestingly enough, I’m generally quite confident. I speak in front of audiences of 1000s and I even taught high school students for a semester (not a job for the faint of heart!). But when it came to my duct taped, superglued, safety-pinned microphone – I didn’t even consider taking it to market.
So, for all you budding inventors and innovators out there, here are the three lessons in confidence that I’ve had to learn and still reiterate to myself every single day.
1. You don’t have to do it alone
It was a friend and colleague named Steve Clarke who kicked me into my inventor, consumer product creator life. A serial entrepreneur himself, he saw me using my prototype at an event and demanded to know where he could get one. When I offered to build him one, he was aghast.
He’d been looking for a product like mine for ages and he couldn’t understand why I would have had a prototype built for over 2 years and not do something with it commercially.
The next thing I knew, we were shaking hands over a lunch in central London and agreeing to co-found a product innovation company that would start with my little mic. Were it not for Steve, I’m not sure I would have ever had the courage to take that product to market.
So, the first lesson I learned was that innovation doesn’t have to be a solo sport. You can find other people to go on that journey with you. These could be teachers, mentors, friends, family, co-founders…almost anyone. You just have to let them in and listen to them when they say you’ve got a great idea.
2. You don’t have to serve everyone or solve every problem
Even as Steve was raving about that little mic prototype, in my mind I was thinking, “Yeah, I guess a few other speakers like me might want one but who else would?”
The problem is that we hear these stories about products that were overnight successes. Products that sold out in an hour. Kickstarter campaigns that went viral. And it can seriously skew our perspective of success.
It took some real soul searching for me to realize that those were the rare exceptions and not the rule. That is was OK to just make a product that I was proud of and serve a market that would appreciate the problem it solved for them.
I nearly hyperventilated when we signed the paperwork to have the first 5,000 Hey Mic’s manufactured and now that little idea of mine is being used in over 30 countries by groups of people that I never expected but am thrilled to count as customers.
My second lesson was to get clear about what success actually meant to me and Steve so that we could enjoy the journey. And we have. Find your niche; the tribe of people that you’ll serve and as long as it is big enough to help you reach your goals – no matter how humble or great they are – go for it.
3. You won't always be confident and that's ok
Recently, I was speaking to several hundred university students who were beginning an entrepreneurship program. After an hour and half, I asked if anyone had any other questions for me. In the middle of the room, a woman raised her hand.
Clear and loud she said, “You’re amazing.” The whole room laughed good naturedly and then she asked, “How can I be as confident as you all the time?”
To my surprise, others echoed her sentiment. Men and women. Older and younger.
In the end, I shared my worst kept secret.
I’m not always confident. Confidence is a journey that is full of highs and lows. But, I’m a fixer and over the years I have written down strategies, reminders, rules and tips that would help me come up from those lows.
The lesson I shared with them is that there will be ups and downs in your confidence but don’t for one second think that you’re the only one that experiences them. Give yourself (and others) a break and have a strategy so you’ll know you can always climb back up.
Would the world have ended if I’d let my lack of confidence stop the development of Hey Mic!? Of course not.
But are there people who have benefited – even just a bit – because it DOES exist? Yes, there are.
For some, like Kirsty and Craig, it was very personal. For the rest of their lives together, they’ll be able to hear their vows because of MY little microphone. For others, it helped them share their business or hobby with the world.
And that’s my bonus lesson for you – one that took me years to learn.
Hold onto those moments that make a difference even if they’re small.
Don’t dismiss them (as we so often dismiss compliments). For me and, I suspect, many of you, that’s a real return on investment.
Happy inventing, innovating and entrepreneur-ing. I can’t wait to hear what you bring to life!