Are you fishing in a bathtub?

A pal was sharing how frustrated he was in getting his non-profit idea off the ground. He has decided his solution was to convince a big tech company to fund it. He mentioned various ones he knew had big bucks, but I knew his idea was not aligned with what their foundations funded.

He was staunch in his belief that he could get them to fund him if he just met with the right people. I told him he was bloodying his head pounding it on a brick wall to get someone to embrace his idea and fund it for millions of dollars.

Finally, I said, “You’re fishing in a bathtub. You need to find a pond of fish who want your bait.” I didn’t mean to trounce his idea, but rather to help him find a more fruitful path.

The question for most of us with big ideas and dreams is: When to admit the solution we’ve envisioned isn’t working so we can pursue another path? Of course, there are always examples of someone who persevered a long time toward a dream and was finally successful. We don’t hear about the hundreds of thousands who gave it a shot for a long time and then decided there was another way to be successful.

If you are so locked into there only being one way to your success, you’ll reject any other ideas. My pal’s plan was to drive around a local company’s headquarters campus hoping someone would approach him to find out about his vision, then connect him to the right person. While that could happen, it would be much more effective for him to find organizations that were already interested in ideas like his, then use his connections to get in front of someone there.

Perseverance is admirable. But if your perseverance has yielded no results, you’re not being smart, only stubborn. Your persistence may in service of a noble idea, yet it’s not getting any support. Successful people — especially those selling ideas — are nimble. They seek wise counsel. They take input and make modifictions to their approach. They don’t insist that their way is going to yield the results they seek and are unwavering that their way will work, even in the face of no traction.

If you have an idea (or business) that isn’t getting traction, step back and objectively ask if you are being persistent or just stubborn. Are you pursuing a path that isn’t getting you anywhere? If so, it’s time to reevaluate where you’ve been dropping your fishing line. Maybe there are no fish there. Or the fish are not interested in your bait. It’s time to see if you’re using the wrong bait, or fishing in the wrong place, or both. It’s hard to face the reality that it’s not just that you haven’t cast your lures enough, but that you’re trying to catch fish where there are none, or they want something different than you’re offering.