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Weekend reading: Opportunity knocks

Money, articles, investing, news

My regular weekend ramble, plus links to some great blogs and financial articles for you to peruse.

I am not convinced that having a good idea, failing to pursue it, and eventually seeing it implemented by someone else is worth beating yourself up over.

And not just because I’d have knocked all my teeth out!

Mainly it’s because I’ve learned that good ideas are common, whereas good implementation is hard and rare. And then you need good luck.

One day I’ll do a post called I Coulda Been a Contender, but for now there’s Missed Opportunities on Eliminate the Muda. It’s my blog post of the week.

The author, Greg, explains one of his untapped ideas:

My first ‘house’ was what most would refer to as a townhouse. In fact it was a condo with a crappy design. It was a two-level built over a ‘garden home’.

The entry was ground level but immediately inside the foyer was the stairs to get to the first floor. Can you believe… no doorbell!

A quick $100 in parts at the local hardware store and I learned that running wire inside walls was not a typical DIY job. I then cobbled together a homemade wireless triggered door bell.

There was nothing like it on the market at the time. Today you see them in stores across America, unfortunately these are not mine. I never showed for the appointment with the patent attorney.

There are several other ideas where the wireless buzzer came from. Unlike me, who is a one-trick pony of missed chances (they’re nearly all in media) Greg covers the waterfront.

I get the impression Greg feels he should have made a packet. Personally, I doubt he would have. Not that he personally couldn’t have, or that nobody else did, but just because the odds are against anyone succeeding with inventions.

Starting up a business is really hard. Creating new physical products from scratch is hardest of all. Thank goodness people do it, but don’t kid yourself.

I was reading some academic research cited by fund manager Jeremy Grantham the other day that suggested all human enterprise is based on faulty logic. We hugely over-estimate our capabilities, and underestimate the odds of failure.

Or at least that’s what the people who actually get off the couch do. The rest of us are Noble Prize caliber evaluators of the bad odds.

This sort of talk always goes down badly with my finance blogging buddies, so I’ll end with a video of some bright young company founders who share office space.

It looks like fun – a 100% good reason to start a business.

This week’s money blog posts

More from the mainstream press

  • Labour made some things better – The Economist
  • Australia latest country to lose carbon goals – The Economist
  • How the parties (don’t) say they’ll cut [Graphic] – The Guardian
  • Indeed, IFS complains there’s a conspiracy of silence – Flanders/BBC
  • Why are the ratings agencies so powerful? – Peston/BBC
  • Property recovery funds missed their moment – FT
  • Shares in a hung parliament – FT
  • True cost [alas per share not per fish] of BP’s dreadful oil slick – FT
  • Income taxes should rise by 6p in the £1, says NIESR – The Telegraph
  • Falling dividends payouts could have bottomed – The Telegraph
  • Investing in collectibles – The Independent
  • Can this chap be a millionaire by 30? – The Independent
  • 10 ways to lose money trading without trying – Motley Fool
  • Video: Where next for commercial property? – This is Money

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{ 12 comments… add one and remember nothing here is personal advice }
  • 1 Forest May 1, 2010, 10:11 am

    Straight to my mac please :)… Just signed up for email delivery rather than just relying on Twitter.

    Seth Godin talks about ideas and implementation in a similar way in his book tribes…. which incidentally you can get for free in Audio format, I wrote about that on my blog if you don’t mind me posting the link: http://frugalzeitgeist.com/free-download-tribes-we-need-you-to-lead-us-by-seth-godin/

    Happy Saturday.
    .-= Forest on: Condom Soccer Balls, Not Just For Hard Times =-.

  • 2 Simple in France May 1, 2010, 10:34 am

    Thanks for the mention! Also. . .

    “Mainly it’s because I’ve learned that good ideas are common, whereas good implementation is hard and rare. And then you need good luck”

    I think you’re right about that part. I’ve got a couple of ideas rumbling around my head these days . . .it seems like the more an idea is potentially lucrative, the more investment it involves (in my case in terms of time/investment in creating technology and research to my target customers). The thing is, you can have an idea that satisfies demand and involves lots of hard work by competent people, but still fail for a lot of strange, unforeseen reasons. And you can’t do everything, can you? You have to choose.
    .-= Simple in France on: Radical simplicity, frugality–for couples only? =-.

  • 3 Faustus May 1, 2010, 3:59 pm

    The Apple shares post is a good example of missed opportunities. I always was a fan of the company, even at school in the 1990s when they were very untrendy, but it is rather galling to think that my 2002 G4 flat screen would now be worth more than 30 times its value in Apple shares if invested. Of course, I didn’t have anything to invest then, and probably wouldn’t have dreamed of it if I had, but the story of the company’s rise is extraordinary.

    Apple are still a great company, but the pessimist in me thinks that their meteoric rise can only now plateau, just as Microsoft have done, and they are still too dependent on the genius that is Steve Jobs.

  • 4 LeanLifeCoach May 1, 2010, 8:17 pm

    Unfortunately, I would have to agree with you on this one. At the time (19) I lacked the maturity, knowledge and skill to successfully navigate those waters. There was only one “that got away”, that I sometimes regret not taking action on. Like you said there a lots of good ideas, but if you don’t take the initiative and persevere you have to live with it.

    Starting a business is tough. So far I’ve built two. One from the ground up and the other came from under water! At times I wonder why anyone would do it when you fully consider the risks involved. Then again, they are fun!

    The video is great, reminds me of the ROWE management approach I highlighted recently where people really have an opportunity to pursue their dreams while keeping a work – life balance.

    Thanks for the highlight, sir.
    .-= LeanLifeCoach on: Thought Experiments – Detroit =-.

  • 5 Samurai May 4, 2010, 12:59 am

    It really is so so much easier to think about an idea than execute, sigh. Anybody who can go through with the execution deserves everything and more in my book!

    Thnx for highlighting that depressing poem called Aubade btw. Let me go jump off a bridge now! 🙂

    Sam
    .-= Samurai on: Where Did All The Time Go? =-.

  • 6 The Investor May 4, 2010, 9:03 pm

    @Forest – Glad to have you signed up! 🙂

  • 7 The Investor May 4, 2010, 9:05 pm

    @SIF – You definitely have to choose. And I’m certainly not anti-risk, entirely. I’m self-employed, I have most of my money in risk assets, and I have side ventures and so on.

    It would take a lot for me to gamble everything I have on a product-style invention, though. In fact, I don’t think I could now — it’s a game for the very young with nothing to lose, I feel.

  • 8 The Investor May 4, 2010, 9:09 pm

    @Faustus – Oh no, let’s not talk about the shares that got away… we’ll be here all night! 😉 I think you’re quite right to be cautious about Apple. I love their products to bits (I’ve never bought another brand of computer, in fact, unless you count Amigas and Spectrums and so forth as a kid) but they’re already the third biggest company in the US.

    Are they going to double from here and become 50% bigger that Exxon? I doubt it, though it’s possible over say a decade. I can’t see Apple shares as a good bet for beating the market though, and particularly not the general tech sector.

  • 9 The Investor May 4, 2010, 9:11 pm

    @LLC – Two businesses is great going. Leave something for the rest of us!

    Seriously, I do know what you mean. I have one idea in particular that I didn’t do back in the late 1990s that I think about every month. If I’m brutally honest I’m sure my implementation would have been just another also-ran. I didn’t have certain people that I needed to make it reality, and I didn’t have the skill, capital, persuasive skill or confidence in my own vision to get them, either.

    Never say never, but I’d far prefer smaller side bets now. (I guess the equivalent of your wireless buzzer — you could have patented and licensed that, with minimal risk, albeit for a big outlay in legal fees).

  • 10 The Investor May 4, 2010, 9:23 pm

    @Sam – I very much admire Philip Larkin’s writing. He was a very dry librarian all his life — you’d be disappointed with his very ‘camp’ to US ears yet I think musical British accent, perhaps — and everyone assumed he only lived in his imagination and letters. In fact, he turned out to have had several librarian-esses – a woman in a library in every town (well, 2 or 3).

    It’s always the quiet ones! Ah well, no regrets I suppose.

  • 11 Ryan @ Planting Dollars May 9, 2010, 6:39 am

    I really enjoyed the video… wish they had something like that around here, but alas, there is not. I like that they collaborate and help each other which eliminates the “out on your own” aspect of being a start-up entrepreneur.
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars on: Adding Content To Your Travel Site – Waikiki Site =-.

  • 12 The Investor May 9, 2010, 6:15 pm

    @ryan – Perhaps you could setup a Hawaiian startup hothouse? Sure you’d get lots of takers!

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