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4 Ways To Not Build a Light Bulb

By Dustin Summers

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  – Thomas Edison

{{PD-US}} – published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.

“I have no experience, but I’m a big fan of money. I like it, I use it, I have a little. I keep it in a jar on top of my refrigerator. I’d like to put more in that jar. That’s where you come in.” – Adam Sandler, “The Wedding Singer”

Find me another blog that kicks off with a quote from the man who brought the world electricity and the man who gave us this.  You can’t do it.

Thomas Edison’s wise words embody the spirit of an entrepreneur.  When inventing the light bulb, he went through hundreds of prototypes before he found a model that worked.  Although I’m now happily working at YI, I’ve dabbled a bit in entrepreneur spirit and made a few mistakes you should not follow.

This is a blog about what entrepreneurs should not do. Becoming an entrepreneur often involves finding something you love, networking with the right people, recognizing opportunities and finally mixing in lots of worklots and lots of work.

I don’t have the space, the experience or the time to detail 10,000 approaches that won’t work, but hopefully these four will give you an idea.


1)   Don’t Jump on the Bandwagon

If it seems like an easy way to make money, it might be…but you probably aren’t the first to realize that.

In late 2006, I was on my way to being a millionaire (read: thousandaire). At the time, eBay auctions for a Play Station 3 were approaching five digits.

Of course, we were far from being alone and soon the market was flooded and our enormous payday petered out into a holiday season disappointment.  All told, I netted about $100.  So be original, and if everyone is selling it, no one’s getting paid.

2)   Go All In

Once an opportunity arises, don’t procrastinate and give it the chance to fizzle.

In 2008, the Inauguration of President Obama was weeks away and thousands of visitors were expected to overflow the city.  As a result, DC residents were putting their homes on the market for weekly rentals in the ballpark of $5,000.   This was a perfect opportunity except my roommate’s girlfriend wanted to use our house that same weekend.  We hemmed and hawed for months over what to do until the opportunity passed us by.

Of course, my roommate and his girl broke up shortly after…

3)   Sometimes Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number

Lacking experience is no reason to not jump in and earn some experience. Just because you haven’t worked for thirty years doesn’t mean you can’t come up with a great idea, craft a business plan, and work hard.

You’re young.  So was this guy, this guy, and this guy.


4)   Just Do It

A great idea on paper doesn’t necessarily translate to tangible success, especially if you don’t make it happen.

I have a document saved on my laptop of about 20 unfinished projects and ideas.  Most of them were sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin or envelope or scrap of paper.  Most will never be completed, but hopefully some will.  If so, perhaps I’ll finally catch my big break, but if not, I’ll be back with another dozen or so ways to not build a light bulb.


What are some other don’ts we forgot to add?