How To Start a Large Project: The Importance of Thinking Small


Somewhere between 8 and 15. That’s the number of big successful ideas riding the bench in my brain, growing bigger and more intricate every day. 8 to 15 is also the number of big ideas that I know cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future – I’ve let them grow too large.


The bigger an idea becomes, the farther it runs away from you.


“Wouldn’t it be cool to make a web series? We could have a great cast who lives in a space base on mars. We could shoot it like a Wes Anderson Film. We’d have fantastic special effects and realistic costumes.  The characters would be named after our favorite singers. ‘No! Ed Sheeran don’t go warp speed into the enemy fleet, that’s the A-team!’ We could get it picked up by Netflix!”


This is no doubt a great idea, especially if you caught the Ed Sheeran A-team reference. There’s something curious about ideas though – most ideas are great – but most great ideas never happen.


The unfortunate idea maker builds something so big it becomes impossible to start. Making matters worse, they fall in love with the ultimate form of the idea and cannot fathom presenting their idea to the world at a basic level, “But that’s not cool enough. Imagine how much everyone will like it when it’s perfect!”


The trick to achieving big ideas is to think out the entire idea then begin with a version of the full idea that you can start right away and be done with at the end of the week (some would argue month but I think that’s too long – we’ll get there).


Taking our musicians on mars web series, the only way to ensure this idea comes about is to start today. Grab a camera and yourself and possibly a low budget set (cardboard space base in your bedroom). Work on the script and make something that you put out to the world by the end of the week. (“But that will be so bad?!”)


The next week make the set a little nicer (paint the cardboard white and add LED lighting behind some walls) and add another camera angle. The next week write a part for your friend. The week after that, make costumes for you and your friend. The week after that include another friend to work the camera and get moving camera angles!


You will gain fans (probably a lot of cringes as well) but after 6 months to a year you’ll have the setup you wanted from the start. A great cast, good filmography, an interesting set and a flow to the story, then possibly  have the chance to sell it to Netflix 🙂


Imagine the alternative for a moment. Let’s say the idea isn’t overwhelming and you have money saved up or enough social currency to get other professionals to help you for free. Think about the things you have to coordinate and pay for to make your goal happen. Set, actors, camera men, audio equipment, free time, a good script that everyone knows…


Let’s entertain the idea that everything goes perfectly and you achieve the ultimate version of your idea the first try (basically impossible). You put it out to the world, and 1000 people see it. Was that level of production worth it? I would venture to say no.


In the small start scenario, by the time you achieve your ultimate version of the web series you will have grown an audience on the cheap the entire time and have 100,000 views or more, depending how hilarious your script was and how many times Beyoncé teamed up with Freddie mercury to defeat Waka Flocka. You might have a real shot of getting picked up by Netflix.


This example is slightly comical but the principle applies to every idea under the sun.


Project: To have the hippest restaurant in town

Method: start making food in your kitchen for your coworkers and neighbors.


Project: To have a web application that educates, entertains, and gives useful tools to beginning designers.

Method: Start writing articles in a blog format.


Project: To get a job as a designer for google.

Method: Start posting a new design everyday on Instagram.

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