Patience is not always a virtue. Actually, when it comes to being an entrepreneur, it can be a career killer.
Several times, I have delayed jumping on ideas I thought were great, and my procrastination allowed the competition to eat my lunch and steal an opportunity to take my career to the next level.
Example #1: For several years, I frequently flew from my home in Chicago to Los Angeles on business. I always stayed in the same hotel, directly across the street from the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. When I first started staying in the hotel I noticed that people in super hero and movie character costumes dressed up and took pictures with the tourists in front of the theater. I thought those people dressed like Superman and Captain Jack Sparrow were employees from the studios used in some kind of clever guerrilla marketing campaign.
But as I stayed more and more in the hotel and explored the neighborhood, I realized that many of these folks were actually homeless individuals who had cobbled together makeshift costumes, and the tips they received from the tourists was their way of making ends meet. It was a fascinating dynamic, and one I felt could be the raw material for a great book of photography and a fascinating documentary film.
And then I sat on the idea for about a year before I finally started lining up what I needed to begin the projects. It was only then that I discovered that a book of photos had just been published and that a documentary film was in the works. It still stings when I think about those missed opportunities.
Example #2: While reading a magazine article, I came across a very small mention of a fascinating part of New York City history. It seems that in the 1940s and 1950s a man who became known as "the mad bomber of New York" planted more than 30 explosive devices in the city. He ended up being caught, and was one of the first people ever apprehended using FBI profiling techniques.
The story seemed made to order for a book, and when I checked, nothing significant had yet been written on the episode. I mentioned the idea to many people and they all thought it was a natural for a great book. But I sat on the idea, and just as I was about to begin putting my proposal together for my agent, a well received book titled "The Mad Bomber of New York: The Extraordinary True Story of the Manhunt That Paralyzed a City" was published.
Once again, sitting on the sidelines kept me out of the game.
The moral of these frustrating stories is pretty simple -- when you have a good idea, go for it, or someone else probably will.
The web has made getting to market faster and easier for everyone, so the longer you wait to pull the trigger on something you think may be your next big break could end up backfiring on you.
John Thomas, the former longtime editor of Playboy.com, has written frequently for the New York Times, Playboy magazine, the Chicago Tribune and the Village Voice. He is currently editing a book on digital journalism ethics.