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It takes guts to create something from scratch.

It takes guts because you’re in uncharted territory. 

If you’re inventing, designing and building something from the ground up – from idea to physical, tangible product – there is no template to follow.

It takes guts because your project might fail. 

Your product (or service, or initiative, or speech) might not live up to your expectations, or receive the type of praise you hoped for.  The marketing campaign might not drive sales like you planned.  Your startup – regardless of the time spent planning and preparing – may lose money from day one and never turn around.

(*This is a graph of the statistics from Small Business Trends.  The graph includes self-employed persons, so actual startup company failure, as most entrepreneurs understand the concept, may be more severe)

It takes guts because you’re exposed. 

As soon as you put pen to paper, you’re opening yourself to others.  When you finally push the publish button – on your first self-published novel, or that terrifying first blog post – anyone in the entire world can see it.  When you push the publish button, you can’t hide behind anything anymore; that’s scary.

But most of all, it takes guts because making something and taking ownership of it opens you up to criticism. 

It is fear of criticism – from peers, or family, or “others” – that we fear the most; that keeps us from doing our meaningful work.

Sadly, since birth, we’ve been programmed to avoid criticism at all costs (is it any wonder the most common fear is speaking in front of an audience?).  To avoid criticism, all you have to do is make nothing and take ownership of nothing.  To avoid criticism: hide.

And that is exactly what most people do.

Instead of starting something new, they stay with the pack and uphold the status quo.

Instead of trying something bold, they ignore the impulse and quietly go back to work.

Instead of speaking up, they stay quiet.

And months and years later, these same people will complain about the same inequalities, and hardships, and daily tribulations that they’ve always complained about (but more bitter).

They had the chance to instigate.

They chose not to.

And then there are the few who do start something new, or try something bold, or speak up when the rest are silent.  These people are the movers and shakers – the people we remember and the companies, products, and services we talk about.

Drew Houston, CEO and founder of Dropbox, designed the digital storage platform because he wanted to solve a problem that others hadn’t yet been able to solve.  He built Dropbox into one of the fastest growing companies in Silicon Valley and turned down a multi-million dollar acquisition offer from Apple.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, spent years building the company to the (ridiculously enormous) size it is today, all without an exit plan.  He has no plans to sell out to another company.  Or, as he puts it, there is no exit plan for your life’s work.  Incredible.

Jonathan Fields (author of Uncertainty) created a whole new platform to bring entrepreneurs, instigators, artists, and change makers to the rest of the world.  The content is brilliant.

Scott Dinsmore created Live Your Legend (referencing the transformative book The Alchemist) to inspire others to live a life of purpose ON purpose.  His writing inspired me – it might just inspire you.

These people all have one thing in common – they all draw their own map. 

They didn’t wait for permission from someone else – they developed their own ideas into successful, tangible products and services.  They each created their own reality around the things they care about.  Whether it’s solving the problem of digital storage or figuring out a way to inspire people to find and live their passion, each person here has done something important, bold, and unique.

So the question is this: how do you plan to draw your own map?  What is holding you back?  In what ways can you instigate change in your own life (or work or play)? Share your thoughts below.

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