Google’s got an innovations lab. It’s called X. It’s devoted to solving impossible problems.

They invest over $3 billion dollars a year it and guide it with a single stupid, yet surprisingly useful, philosophy: Monkeys and Pedestals.

It goes like this:

Imagine you’re training a monkey to juggle flaming sticks while standing on a pedestal. There’s two jobs:

  1. Teaching a monkey to juggle flaming sticks, and
  2. building the pedestal for it to stand on.

You know you can build a pedestal. It’ll cost money and take time but you know you can do it. You’re not sure whether you can teach a monkey to juggle fire though. That sounds friggin’ hard. And weird. But weird examples are fun and memorable.

The bottleneck is teaching a monkey to juggle fire. If you can’t do that, there’s no point in building the pedestal because who wants to watch a monkey setting itself on fire because some asshole human made it throw flaming sticks in the air?

In his book, Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat, Michael Masterson said, “before your business makes its first sale, it is nothing more than a set of unproven ideas that you are spending money on. Some of those ideas may be good and feasible. Others may be bad and/or impractical. You can’t know which are which until you test them by selling the product.”

As you go about building your business, there are lots of easy tasks and one hard task.

Easy tasks:

  1. Setting up a legal corporation,
  2. designing a logo,
  3. Creating content,
  4. building a website, and
  5. writing down ideas.

Hard task:

  1. Selling.

I’ve seen a lot more coaches fail because they didn’t have enough sales than I’ve seen go under from a lack of a logo.

As you embark on this journey, there are things you know you can do: Like form a legal corporation and get a logo. These are pedestals. They may be hard and time intensive and expensive to do but you know you can do them.

Then there’s sales. Will anybody buy your coaching? Because if they don’t, nothing else matters.

Google’s X has the mantra #MONKEYFIRST plastered on all of its idea decks as a reminder to solve the bottleneck(s) first before building a bunch of pedestals.

With that in mind, here’s your priority sequence if you’re starting a coaching business right now:

  1. Make your service good enough to sell; not perfect.
  2. Sell it to somebody.
  3. Once it sells, take in feedback and make it better.
  4. Sell it to more people.
  5. At some point (maybe) do all the other business stuff. Or, don’t.

Repeat this, evolving your service as you go.

Can you get a monkey to juggle fire? If you can’t, don’t build any pedestals.

Beware of false progress.