Try What If Instead of If Only

An entrepreneur recently posed a question to a group I’m a part of and asked, “What is <insert his city> missing?” The issue is that while he has had some successful ventures, success in his city is apparently not the norm. Not for startups anyway. To be honest, I’m not sure success is the norm for startups anywhere but there’s no denying certain areas of the country seem to have more than their fair share of it. While my city, Rochester, is not his city, I think there are some aspects which are very similar and this is a legitimate question if you live anywhere other than New York City, Boulder or Silicon Valley.

I’ve asked myself the same question several times also, and chatted and met extensively with others to try to figure out what’s missing here. We’re pretty smart people and there’s no shortage of great ideas but inevitably the ifs always work their way into the conversation:

  • If only Rochester/Buffalo/whatever had investors, we could get companies off the ground.
  • If only we had a density of other entrepreneurs/mentors/whatever that we could rely on for support.
  • If only we had some examples of success we could use to inspire others to entrepreneurship.
  • I could get started on my idea if I knew a developer/designer/whatever.
  • I could focus on my idea if I didn’t have a full-time job/family/whatever.

What’s that saying about wishing in one hand and something in the other…? While I agree that it would be nice if our community had all those things, the fact of the matter is that there are some it doesn’t. And it won’t. Until somebody stops wishing it would and actually does something about it.

What if, in place of saying if only, we asked what if instead? And then we tried to find out.