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What You Learn from Bird-Brained Ideas


… by Jeffrey W. Hayzlett, Best-Selling Author, Change Agent and Sometime Cowboy

Passion is not a substitute for planning. Passion blinds you. And it can teach valuable lessons in business and in life.

Early in my career (but not so early I shouldn’t have known better), I thought pheasant farming was the most fabulous idea ever. After all, I love everything about pheasants. I love to watch them; to see them run & fly free. I love to hunt them and most of all, I love to eat them! When I took people with me, they loved it too. And when I served guests those beautiful birds soaked in my special marinade of buttermilk and hot sauce, they devoured them with delight.

I had never invested more money in anything in my life, but it was a no-brainer to me. And that’s literally what it was: all passion, no brains – the pheasants and me.

My passion fueled my desire and my business plan. I reached out to a bunch of friends and sold them on the idea. Many of us invested everything we had. We moved quickly to capitalize on the market and never questioned, researched or were even aware of the lack of competition. We became consumed with the idea. We saw money everywhere. We were pioneers. Our plan: to set up giant outdoor pens on the prairies where the pheasants could fly and run free. It would be a thing of beauty. We’d process the pheasants or sell them live to hunting operations. It was perfect. We found a farm and a recently bankrupt (should have been our first hint) slaughtering facility. Soon hundreds of pheasants were living and flying free within our giant netted pens on the South Dakota prairie. Our passion grew as we watched them. In our minds we were going to sell fresh and smoked pheasants to chefs, restaurants and stores worldwide. Visions of gift baskets with smoked pheasants shipped nationwide danced in our heads.

And then, it happened. One prairie thunderstorm and thousands of pheasants huddled together, looked toward the sky, opened their mouths and drowned. We ended up losing everything.

What happens when you hit rock bottom like that? When you’re done crying there’s nothing left to do but look at the wreckage and honestly confront what you’ve done. I let dreams of money and passion me away.

I say it again–passion is not a substitute for planning.

It’s fine to aspire to corner the market on something – own it top to bottom – but do your research. Find out if there is a market. Pay attention. Find out what the customer is saying (because you know they are always right!).

Give your business practices “The Mirror Test” and thoughtfully-yet-aggressively evaluate, deconstruct, and then reconstruct your business idea. Let passion push you straight ahead into a plan. Take enthusiasm for your dream, evaluate, put legs on it, and allow it to walk you into your future business; one that’s breathing strong and fogging the mirror every day.

JEFFREY W. HAYZLETT is an award-winning executive who received great notoriety during his tenure at Eastman Kodak Company, where he served as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Vice President. Since leaving Kodak, he has put his creativity and extraordinary entrepreneurial skills into play, launching ventures that blend his leadership perspectives, insights into professional development, mass marketing prowess and affinity for Social Media. He is a well-traveled public speaker, the author of the bestselling book, “The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing?” and one of the most compelling figures in global business.

Dubbed “The Celebrity CMO” by Forbes Magazine, Jeffrey has successfully leveraged multiple media appearances, including CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Fox Business News, and NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump. Drawing upon an eclectic background in business, buoyed by a stellar track record of keynote speaking, and deeply rooted in cowboy lore, Jeffrey energizes his role as a change agent. He is a turnaround architect of the highest order, a maverick marketer who delivers scalable campaigns, embraces traditional modes of customer engagement, and possesses a remarkable cachet of mentorship, corporate governance and brand building.


  • Jon Aston

    Dude. It’s clearly all about you. Congratulations.

  • Domain Registration India

    This is really great post and i learn few new things. Thanks for sharing and helping through this post.

  • Kirk Taylor

    Those lessons are so valuable, so painful…..  I’ve got the Mirror Test on my list of books to read as soon as I finish Gary V’s. Thx

    I’m assuming your Sioux Falls office is safe from flooding?

  • web coders for hire

    Self test is very important whatever it is.. Innovative ideas sharing with us.. Thanks a lot..

  • fashion jewelry

    Absolute? Not heard of that one. You are clearly way cooler than me…

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