The missing ingredient

The missing ingredient

Imagine you are cooking something and you realize that you have forgotten one of the ingredients (that may or may not be crucial). Then you have three options: don’t cook, cook without the ingredient or start cooking and send a friend to get the missing thing. This may sound really simple, but it is also true in many other cases. At the start of their careers artists may not have the money they need and at the end they may not have the inspiration. New businesses lack the base of loyal customers that they may later develop. Singers and musicians may lack the experience or practice that separates the amateurs from the professionals. Entrepreneurs may not have the capital it takes to scale successful ideas. Newspapers and other media may lack reach on the ground because other, bigger players are obstructing them.

There is almost always something missing, something that can be better or that you want to have more of. Whenever you are missing something, you are stuck. Just like the cooking debacle, you are stuck with options. You can give up what you are doing and cut your losses. It takes a lot of courage to pull the plug on something you have worked on but have realized that the key component is missing. The cost of going on doing the thing that you like, is a lot more than the returns (financial, emotional or any other). The pain involved in moving on and doing something else, is considerably less than pumping more energy and just hoping things work out. The flip side to this is that you are missing something trivial. For example, if a big company with lots of assets and revenue enters a new market, it may not have the name and respect of the customers. But it has proven itself in the old markets and that reputation will help it to gain the customer confidence it needs. It is also not difficult or taxing for them to buy advertisements and publicize the product or brand in a way they want, because they have the capital to do it. So the cost of going on (penetrating a new market in this case) is very low compared to the cost of giving up (and losing all the potential customers).

The real problem (or challenge) lies in between these two extremes. It’s when you are not sure if the ingredient that you are missing is vital, and if you will get it soon. The decision, of carrying on or stopping, becomes more difficult if there is money involved. The missing ingredient can be money, reputation, experience or any other important aspect. The possibility and fear of failure (with the resulting losses) need to be carefully compared to the chances of success. There is a simple (it may seem too simple) rule of thumb to handle these situations. If failure means you won’t be able to try anything else, then don’t carrying on. For example, if failure may result into, let’s say, bankruptcy then you won’t be able to try anything else; then don’t try it. But if trying this thing means that you may lose some money and not all, it’s worth a try. I am using money as an example, but this is true for anything. Emotionally, this can mean something like this. If you will be completely destroyed and lose all hope if a relationship goes wrong, don’t get into the relationship. But if you know that you can recover, and that getting into such a relationship will be more good than bad (even if it is slightly), then it’s a good idea. A simple way to explain it is “It’s okay to let yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back.” Try something where a loss doesn’t restrict you from trying anything else ever again.

So basically, trying new things broadens our outlook, surprises us by showing us our hidden talents and rewards us for the risks we have taken. On the other hand, we should not put all our eggs in one basket and try to protect ourselves from losses. Every good idea needs to be tried and tested. It may not work at a certain time, or in a certain place but eventually if you try many things one of them will work. It is also interesting how one thing that works can wipe out all our losses and motivate us to try more. You can fail many times, but you only need to succeed once to make up all your losses. You just need to make sure that the missing ingredient in the equation isn’t too crucial and you will be able to make up for it in some way.

– Mayuresh

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