Hiding my nuts

I’m like a squirrel hiding his nuts. When I have an idea, I don’t like telling anyone about it. 

This tendency is a response to an idea I picked up from J.K. Rowling. Or maybe it was Schopenhauer? I know the two are not easily confusable, but I seem to have managed it. Anyway, here’s the concept that compels my secrecy and squirrelling: 

An idea, if expressed before completion, loses it’s power. 

Related to that is the observation that talking and doing draw fuel from the same tank. That’s something I stole from Ryan Holiday’s Ego is the Enemy. Perhaps that’s why an idea loses it’s power if expressed prematurely? Because the energy used to express it takes away from the energy required to execute it.

Another reason why I like concealing my ideas until completion? I’m worried they might not be good enough. Or wrong. Or sound stupid.

These reasons for concealment put me in an awkward position. If I tell someone about an idea before it’s completion, I risk robbing the idea and it’s subsequent execution of it’s mystical power. Which results in the idea being less than it could have been. But if I wait until completion to tell or show someone the idea, and it is awful and dumb and ludicrous, I’ve wasted a lot of time and resources. Things that could have been better used to find and pursue the next best idea.

What to do?

Here’s what.

Show the minimum possible cross-section of the idea. Enough to communicate it’s essence and get accurate feedback about it. In business terms, this could be a minimum viable product. In creative terms, it could be narrating the significant milestones of your story to a friend and gauging the wow factor. In both cases, the aim is the same. Get critical feedback from minimal exposure. 

Doing it this way, you should be able to preserve the sacred power of an idea, whilst mitigating the risk that you’ll spend way too much time and money on something useless. 

Doing it this way should enable you to answer a question about the idea. “Do I commit to it, or do I quit it?”