Was GI Joe Wrong?

By Bryan Orr

If you grew up in the 80’s you may remember the GI Joe public service announcements where a kid was usually about to do something silly and GI Joe would ride up in a jeep or motorcycle and say something like, “Don’t put gasoline on that fire, Billy, gasoline is very explosive.” And then Billy would look up and say “Thanks, GI Joe. I didn’t know I shouldn’t put gasoline on fire.” And then GI Joe would say …

Say it with me:

“Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”

Far be it from me to question GI Joe (he is a great American hero after all), but my experience has been that he didn’t quite get the ratio correct. In fact I tend to side with another great American hero, Thomas Edison, who said it takes 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Knowledge Isn’t Power (By Itself)

When you are an impressionable youth, watching patriotic cartoons and being encouraged to stay in school and keep batteries out of your mouth is probably a good thing, but these ideas can  bleed into adulthood, where they just don’t work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to go back to eating packing peanuts or testing the effects of gasoline on fire. It’s just that when you’re a kid everything is about knowing, because the doing of things you learn is REALLY inconvenient for adults. It’s much easier to have kids watch Dora the Explorer than it is to let them loose in the woods, but the truth remains, you aren’t an explorer until you explore. You aren’t a scientist until you practice science, you aren’t a doctor until you practice medicine.  Power comes from the ability to apply knowledge and that only happens though practice.

You may be reading this thinking “What the heck does this have to do with business?!”

Everything.

Some Failure Required

There’s a big push in the entrepreneur community toward the idea that failure is good and you need to fail to succeed. I think this is more of an effect than a cause. The reason so many successful people fail a lot is because they take a lot of action. When you do a lot of things there is a greater chance that some of them will fail… but also that many of them will succeed.

GI Joe wants you to know stuff first, knowing is half the battle and it’s THE FIRST HALF, but when you are an adult he never shows up in a helicopter to give you those bits of wisdom about stranger danger in that possible strategic partnership. Our cartoon and real life teachers taught us that we need to know the answers and that the answers can always be found. Business shows us that sometimes we just need to act on the best information we have and make it work from there.

Your Idea May be Great… but It’s Still Worthless

This principle of action over knowledge has another side that causes many business owners and “wantrepreneurs” great consternation. The reality is that good ideas are a dime a dozen; it’s the execution of the idea that makes it worth anything.

Since we are on roll of applying arbitrary numbers to these concepts, I like what entrepreneur, author, and speaker Derek Severs says on the subject. He says a brilliant idea is worth $20 and brilliant execution is worth a $10,000,000 multiplier.

Childhood in modern America prepares us to know things that we learn in school and from cartoons: get good grades, take tests and believe in our dreams. The trouble is that knowing is only 1% of the battle and our dreams are only worth $20.00.

Maybe Willy Wonka said it even better than Edison: “Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.” This makes very little sense, but neither do most things about being in business or being an adult for that matter.

Take that, GI Joe.

Image credit: davidd

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Bryan Orr
Bryan Orr is a blue collar business owner who helps executives and business owners use storytelling to communicate powerfully with customers and staff. Bryan is a founder of an award-winning small business in Orlando, Fl as well as sought after podcast producer and consultant. Get to know him at Bryanorr.com.

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