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The Best Plans Are the Crazy Ones

Typical line, I know, but it’s not entirely wrong:


What I’ve noticed is that, usually, when there’s an issue in the system - like school not preparing you for going to interviews and getting a job, or feminine hygiene products not being easily accessible - most of us simply accept it and work around it. Only a few people actually try to fix the problem rather than circumventing it, and often, we just look at them and consider them to be extraordinary or driven and special.


Don’t get me wrong - they definitely are. But I feel like this is what makes the statement true. You have to be somehow other to propose an actual solution and have the courage to work for it.


The best plans are the crazy ones.


I hope you noticed my use of the word “us” when referring to the people who don’t try to fix the issues in our society. For a long time, I’ve been a part of that majority, but recently, I’ve felt an increasing need to make my own contribution to my community.


So, I’m trying to learn how to put myself out there and acquire the skills and knowledge I need to accomplish that goal. And naturally, when I learnt what a coffee chat is and had the opportunity to arrange my first one, I chose to talk to someone who has experience with non-profits and start-ups and making ideas happen - Emily Liu.


And the essence, the main underlying concept, of bringing your ideas to life is this:

Before you can realize an idea, you have to be able to market it to people.


A picture of a young plant cupped in a person's palm

It’s like a plant: you have to plant it (launch it) and tend to it so it grows, but how can you tend to it without resources like water and nutrients? To start an organization or initiative, those vital resources come from other people - as advice, help reaching out to the target audience, support, perhaps money, and the target audience's use of your product/service.


And this can be broken down into 3 main lessons/takeaways:


Confidence

I know it sounds cliché, but hear me out: confidence is key. Sure, you may not have as much experience as others (especially you, fellow students), but you have to give the impression that you’re just as capable as anyone else. How do you expect anyone else to have faith in your idea and capability if even you don’t believe in yourself? Confidence is vital to gaining support.


Not to mention, it helps get you in that “I can do it - I just need to figure it out” mindset for the inevitable obstacles ahead. (After all, since when does everything go perfectly according to plan or easily?)


A plan of action

Second is that, along with having the confidence of someone who knows what they’re doing, you have to show that level of preparation, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean having all of the resources and everything in hand already. But think about it: if someone was asking you for a donation, for example, to make their idea a reality, you would want to know exactly how your help is going to contribute to this grand plan - even if it was your friend. So as someone starting up, that’s exactly what you need to do - give them your plan: How do you intend to get from x to z?



I know that sounds overwhelming - asking you to trace what seems like a winding path shrouded in mist. But then there's some helpful advice that Emily gave me:

“Break it down into smaller chunks.”

Try to get an idea of the “checkpoints” you have to pass, so that you have an idea of the direction that each stretch will take. Then, you can work out how many steps you need to take to get to each point. Voilà, a plan of action is taking form!



Branding

"Knowing how to reach your target audience and get them to actually buy your product or service."

Branding is, essentially, making sure your version of your story is put out there, so that people get the impression you want them to have. That could mean literally writing an “Our Story” blurb like you see at restaurants (even if it may seem cliché, what’s the worst that can happen?), creating a social media page where you post content about your organization and the difference you’re making, or even just going out and talking to people about who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish.


Effective branding is important because it deals with so many aspects of the process:

Advertising your proposition and organization so people know about you

Convincing people to invest in it (be it as customers, helpers, whatever)

Showing both your value and a high level of preparation, yet again (after all, you’ve taken the time to design all of this to make your idea flourish)


A particular tip from Emily that I liked with regard to branding is that, in the beginning, it will be more manageable to advertise on only one medium (e.g. Instagram) that is most strongly suited to your target audience. Then as your organization grows and develops, you expand onto other platforms to reach more people.


(You could probably even make “Content creator/manager” an official position for your organization and find someone to fill that role, as a lot of more experienced organizations do. It could be a friend/colleague or you could recruit someone with experience via advertising on your already-existing page and Google Forms.)


Overall, I feel like talking to Emily gave me a lot of clarity, as I could see how certain parts of my crazy idea fit into different portions of an action plan or potential branding - like pieces starting to fall into place - so that now I know what gaps to fill to make my idea happen.


So, if I had to give any other advice to anyone who wants to start something great and make a difference, especially if it’s your first time like me, it would be to talk to someone else about it.


Even if you feel silly, or you just ask them to help you sort your ideas into the components I’ve mentioned, it’ll help. It’s practice for sharing your motivations with someone else, seeing how people interpret it, what it means to someone else, building confidence, and potentially more.

It’s an opportunity.


As parting words, here's a quote from my grandpa:

“Try and fail. But don’t fail to try.”

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