Selling Acorns in a Lumberyard or the Habit of Evaluation

August 28, 2019

This week I want to share an idea from a recent Seth Godin blog post (Originally posted here) about selling acorns at the lumberyard. Take a minute to read it before you continue, it’s short and good).

Last week we talked about generosity as a habit and how it starts with a mindset but must be come a practice to develop a real impact. In that discussion, I referenced a line in a David Everett essay that reads “Large streams from little fountains flow, Tall oaks from little acorns grow”.

If you are a social entrepreneur you are looking at large problems and asking big questions. You may have found a small idea, but in order to grow it into something substantial, you need to evaluate and develop the idea, testing and incubating it into something you can execute. As Seth Godin talks about in his blog, some places (markets, investors, support platforms) are like lumber yards. They are not geared for acorns, they are looking for building blocks, prototypes or finished products.

I think Seth Godin’s point is to know or use wisdom, and input from others to evaluate where your idea is and then choose carefully how and when you pitch it. Decide when it’s ready for sharing or “Shipping”. It can often be hard, in a world where “lumberyards” are common. It is not always obvious ..when Is your idea ready for an incubator/nursery, the lumberyard or somewhere in between?

While you are evaluating and when you first start to cultivate your idea, you may be the only one who sees it’s potential. You may need to nurture it for a while before others understand and want to be involved as a supporter or collaborator. That’s ok. During this time, If you can find others who understand the value of incubating acorns, the process doesn’t have to be so isolating. Just like not everyone is cut out for the bravery of teaching kindergartners, not everyone has the patience and staying power of fostering the growth of generous social change. It’s during this time of evaluation that a generous and thoughtful community around you supporting you gather as you gather the depth and breadth of resources, expertise, and experience you will need to take your product/solution to market or put it in front of investors.  

At OpenSpace, we love the small and tender stage. To us, this cute early stage is exciting and energizing….to see the beginnings …”before they are famous”. We’ve had (and still have) our own little acorns, and we appreciate the excitement of wanting to share the idea, and at the same time the tentative, protectiveness you may feel for this fragile little unformed nugget. We get the love it takes to nurture it and keep it alive long enough to see it grow into something more substantial. At some point you may find a generous champion with a lumberyard, but for now, it may have to be you and hopefully a few close friends. Don’t give up on your idea just because it’s not ready for the lumberyard today, find a way to let it grow.  

Stay Strong. There are people out there waiting for just the kind of idea you’ve been cooking up!

1 “…I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter.”….

9 “Two are better than one, one, one, because they have a good return for their labor:10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Ecclesiastes 4:1 & 9