Principles vs Methods: Why Some Ideas Never Become Profitable
Principles vs Methods. What’s the difference, and does it even matter when it comes to bottom-line business results? In my experience, the difference is vast, highly impactful, and scarcely understood by most aspiring entrepreneurs.
Simply put, principles link effects to causes through the working of natural laws. Methods are simply the means of aligning our actions with these principles in order to get results. People who understand this concept are the pioneers and innovators of our society. Because they understand principles, they can adapt to almost any change in society or in business. This is why they always seem years, or even decades, ahead of everyone else.
People who can’t (or won’t) understand this always end up working for the people who do. These are the “worker bees” of our society. They show up for work to follow a set of procedures. They typically work very hard, but they rarely, if ever, apply creative thinking to reinvent themselves or their methods. Even worker bees who question or criticize the methods they apply at work rarely have an idea how to do things better. This is how billions of people around the world end up working for someone else instead of cutting their own path in life.
This famous quote from Harrington Emerson summarizes the concept perfectly…
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” –Harrington Emerson
Every year, loads of aspiring entrepreneurs start their own businesses. Most of them either never become profitable, or they have a short run of two to three years before being forced to go back to work for someone else. This is because they burn up their time, money and energy chasing trends instead of innovating new ideas. I still remember when “Groupon” became popular, nearly overnight. For the next year, I overheard dozens of conversations (online and offline) of people planning to start their own Groupon-like business.
This is the wrong way to go about becoming an entrepreneur. By the time an idea becomes a roaring success, it’s too late to jump on the bandwagon. Real entrepreneurs have the foresight and initiative to create new ideas, and to get them into the public consciousness before anyone else has thought of them. How is this done? By understanding and applying the principles which drive economic and societal trends.
Again, people who understand principles can do this. But those who can’t, or won’t, take the time to understand principles will always be forced to chase after trends. You’ve probably met people like this. Every week, they’re chasing a new opportunity. But they never get far because they’re living as effects instead of causes. To live as a cause is to see or to create your own opportunities, in advance, as a result of understanding the basic principles of human behavior, and of natural law.
For example, in 15 years after publishing his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey published The 8th Habit. I still believe this highly underrated book to be one of the most important and prophetic business books of the 21rst Century so far. I also suspect historians will eventually come to discover this book as the book that defined how society would advance over the next 30, to 50, to 100 years.
So, why is this book so much less popular than The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? I believe the answer lies in a question Dr. Covery answers in the book. The question was whether the principles in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People “still relevant” considering the speedy advances in technology between 1989 and 2004. Dr. Covey’s answer was that the seven habits were even more relevant than ever. I’ve had many conversations with people who still don’t understand why this is. I’ve seen their comments on forums and on business or personal growth related book reviews.
These people ask questions or make short-sighted objections like these…
“This book is out of date. It’s 30 years old. The internet wasn’t even invented back then.”
“Some of the ideas in this book are clearly out of date.”
“This is an interesting book, but keep in mind that it was written in the ’70s and most of what the author says is probably not relevant anymore.”
Or, one of my favorite gems of a question…
“Are the ideas in this book still relevant, considering it was written in 2004?”
Sometimes, these objections are valid. For example, we live in a time when books about how to use specific technologies can go out of date in just a few years. But books which are based on the timeless principles of human behavior, and of natural law, will never go out of date. The methods for applying these principles may change, and change rapidly and dramatically. When they do, people who can’t or won’t understand the concept of methods vs principles will run off in pursuit of the hottest new trend. But, as Harrington Emerson said, those who understand this difference will choose, and reinvent their own methods. And as they do, they will appear years or even generations ahead of those who fail to understand or accept the difference between methods and principles.
Goals and Progress
- September Income: $1,864 (September Goal $1,500).
- Bodyweight: 241.6lbs (Goal 185).
- Linkedin Connections: 3,453 (Goal 10,000).