When Love Gets In the Way of Inventing

InLoveWithaMachineIs love keeping you from being successful at inventing? If it does, you may not even know it.  


“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . . Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” – Nikola Tesla


Love can be a wonderful thing. It binds us to spouses, family, friends, and a lot of other good people and things. But there is a down side to love. If applied to the wrong thing or in the wrong way, the results can be disastrous. Take for instance your invention. Sometimes love can get in the way of taking your invention from just an idea, prototype, or even finished product to a successful spot in the marketplace. Now you might think I’m talking about love for another person or thing getting in the way of your passion for your invention, but you’d be wrong. What I’m talking about is when falling in love with your invention actually get’s in the way of your invention actually being successful.


Unfortunately this is a scenario I’ve seen over and over again way too many times.


There’s a natural tendency to want to fall in love with your invention. After all, it really does feel like you’ve given birth to something – your idea. You’ve nurtured that “baby” and watched it grow. You watched it take shape as you started to write down, draw or model what you had originally envisioned. Then you watched with excitement as it grew into an actual prototype and then, maybe even a successful test. It’s like you were watching it take its first steps out into the world. And whether or not you’ve had real children, your invention is starting to feel like one. You gave birth to it, nurtured it and helped it grow. But then what happens so many times is that we become emotionally attached to our invention in unhelpful ways we don’t even realize. After all, you’ve invested your time, energy and money to this project. And where you put your treasure (time, money, etc.), that’s where your heart is going to be. This truth applies to the inventor and the entrepreneur and how they relate to their invention, product or business just as much as it does anywhere else in life. But sometimes it’s hard to see how attached you’ve become when you’re so close to it.


Fortunately, there are warning signs that will help you recognize this, if you’ll take the time and effort to learn what they are and then actively watch for them. So what should you be looking for? Here are a few questions you should be asking yourself:


How Do You Treat Your Invention?

Like it’s your baby? Do you pull it close to you and defend it when anyone dares to criticize it? Do you get anxious or even sometimes a little angry if anyone tells you of a flaw in how it functions, what it does for customers, the size of your market, the price it will actually need to sell for, or anything else that might look to you like a negative? If you do – this should be a big red warning flag. The fact of the matter is this: If you treat your invention like it’s a baby, it will invariably always behave like a baby, constantly demanding your time, money and attention, with nothing in return. But when you start treating your invention like a product and it’s execution like a business, then they begin to behave like those things, and good products marketed well have the potential to make money.


Do You Treat Your Invention/Idea/Business as “Perfect”?

Do you feel like your invention is just right and can’t really be improved upon? Or do you notice that you bristle at outside criticism or advice on how to improve things? This can be a normal tendency in inventors, but you really don’t want to be a “normal” inventor. “Normal” inventing leads to failure. It’s a sad fact that so many inventors take the same path of treating their invention like it can’t be improved upon, won’t listen to good critical advice that will guide them in the right direction, and end up spending up all their money and resources in areas that don’t get them anywhere. Instead, decide that you aren’t going to be a part of the crowd of “normal” inventors all going in the wrong direction! Even successful inventors that have had a good track record can fall into this trap and get pulled into this “but it’s perfect just the way it is” mentality, but in order to succeed they have to resist it and be open to criticism and advice from competent outside sources. And this kind of criticism, advice and counsel can be more valuable than you could even realize. By practice and intentional purpose, you have to develop the mindset of thinking of it as if you were finding money on the street. Many times the wise advice and direction you receive can be worth far more than money.


How Do Your Treat Failures and Setbacks?

Do you yield to your feelings and just “break up” with your invention? Or do you look deeper and try to find the hidden signs pointing you in the right direction to success? When Andrew Carnegie was making steel for the railroads, his big setback was that the railroads became overbuilt and he lost his market for what he was making. But instead of adopting an “all is lost” attitude, he instead looked for the signs pointing him where to go from there. And he found it: He moved into building bridges and buildings and ended up making a fortune because of it. This strategy of turning what looks like the end of the road into a new beginning has been successfully used by so many inventors and entrepreneurs, and can be tapped into by you, too. Your invention or business can actually benefit from failures or setbacks, and the successful entrepreneur will develop the vision to see them not as reasons to give up and go quietly into the night, but as opportunities that by contract will make your original direction make you say “what was I thinking?!”. Make a practice of turning that failure or setback around in your head, and then look for the opportunities that won’t be readily visible on the surface. Many times what you will find will surprise you, and enable you to see a new set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something you thought never possible before.


So while passion is an essential element for an inventor or entrepreneur’s success, you have to balance that with enough objectivity to be versatile with your idea, design and/or direction. And ultimately you’ll love a successful idea a whole lot more than a failure.

By Don Skaggs

 – Don Skaggs is an entrepreneur, inventor and President of the Inventors Council