The lesson of the Holy Shit is that when you stumble upon a truly revolutionary idea, you have the ability to recognize it. There are lots of people who, when they first saw a web page, thought, “I can order pizza on the phone with a live person. Why would I do it on the computer via, what’d you call it? A browser? Also, why is that text blinking?”
You didn’t see pizza. You didn’t even see the blinking text. In fact, you saw nothing in particular; you just had a gut feeling. There was no logic or strategy behind the gut feeling, it was a sense of deep potential. Your amorphous thought was, “I can’t think of anything I won’t be able to do on the web.”
A Holy Shit is the instant of instinctually recognizing massive potential.
As epiphanies go, Holy Shits are few and far between. My gut says you’re lucky if you stumble upon one a year. However, smaller versions happen all the time.
A by-product of obsessively, constantly surfing the net to discover the bright and the shiny is a steady flow of promising new ideas. Mostly slight variations on existing great ideas that tickle your fancy. For example, after staring at Twitter for nearly two years, I’m guessing I’ve had a dozen bright ideas about Twitter-inspired products. These ideas tend to show up in the morning during the drive, after appropriate caffeination, and more often than not they fade the moment I walk into the office.
But some stick.
My rule is: if I’m still thinking about a bright idea when I’m driving home, it’s worth writing down. By passing the idea through my fingers I make it slightly more real… I give it definition.
And then I sleep on it.
The following morning, if I’m still chewing on the bright idea, I start to worry because the logical next step is to pitch a friend. The rule here is: all ideas improve as a function of the number of eyeballs that see them. The troubling converse rule is: as soon as your idea gets out in the wild, it’s no longer yours.
In the corporate world, there’s a legal instrument to protect bright ideas generated inside of the business and it’s called a Non-Disclosure Agreement or an “NDA”. When you sign an NDA for a company, you’re legally saying, “I’ve agreed to take on the responsibility of protecting and not revealing the company’s intellectual property even if that intellectual property consists of ideas that came out of my head in the first place.”
There are lots of interesting variations of the NDA, but the two significant ones are: the Two-Way and the One-Way.
The Two-Way NDA says, “Anything either of us says is private”. The more scary One-Way states, “We can use anything you say, but you can’t use anything we say”.
Neither of these legal instruments is useful to me when I merely want to pitch a friend about my idea. The concept of getting Phil to sign an NDA over a beer while we shoot the shit about my random drive-to-work idea makes no sense. Phil’s a friend.
But I want Phil to know that what I want to chat about is more than our average conversation. I want slightly more than a smidge of ceremony before I spill the beans about my bright idea and I call this ceremony the FriendDA.
The FriendDA is a non-binding, warm blanket agreement that offers absolutely no legal protection. I’d suggest if the idea of legal protection is even crossing your mind that the FriendDA is totally inappropriate for your current needs.
Ideally, the understanding you want to get to with the FriendDA requires only a simple question. The moment you’re about to pitch Phil on the idea you ask, “FriendDA?”
Phil takes a sip of beer and nods.
And you’re off.
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