“You Gotta Get Paid”

Kent Dahlgren
3 min readAug 12, 2022

Think about a time when you shared an idea with someone, and you knew that idea was great, but they extinguished your enthusiasm by saying “just make sure you get paid.”

How many great ideas have died this way?

In the context of delivering disruptive innovations, much of what passes as wisdom is folly

Sometimes (most times?) a great idea cannot evolve to the point of funding without a voluntary commitment on the part of one or more “stewards.”

At some level, everyone knows this, because it’s foundational to the “American Story.”

However, they avoid applying this wisdom to themselves as their risk-adverse side looks for excuses for not investing in their dreams.

“I talked to my dad, and he helped me realize that although the idea had merit, to make sure I don’t put much effort pursuing it unless I’m getting paid.”

By the way, that’s precisely why I stopped sharing ideas with my dad: he’s poised to suffocate innovation with a wet blanket of over-the-top cautions designed to extinguish enthusiasm all the way down to the salted earth.

I believe my dad is “over the top” so he can say “I told you so” when something inevitably goes wrong.

This is not limited to my father; our society is sick for a few reasons, one being a risk-adverse philosophy of fear disguised as wisdom, designed to suffocate great ideas, leaving people to believe they cannot accomplish anything unless they are getting paid.

In my experience there are two kinds of people:

(1) “jump out the window and build your wings on the way down”

(2) secure the help of “experts” to design a theoretical set of “wings,” spend 30 years securing funding to build an untested set of theoretical “wings” that fail in their first test, at which point: the project is shelved at great loss

Obvs, I’m in that first category; risk aversion is not my bag.

Back in 1990, a group of us decided to spend the next few years building the Burnside Skatepark, and of course we didn’t know at the time that it would still be around almost 32 years later.

It’s worth noting that we’d just invested over five years trying and failing to build something for ourselves; we had embraced failure as a form of game play, allowing us to transcend.

We were dirt poor, living hand to mouth, and times were tough, and yet we committed years investing our own money and labor into building “a place for ourselves,” which many of us consider “a home away from home,” and for some “the loving home I never had in the first place.”

Think about those words for just a moment:

“a place for ourselves”

“a home away from home”

“the loving home I never had in the first place”

Framed thus: our story isn’t unique: there is such a thing as an idea that’s so important that it transcends the need for money, such as “a place for ourselves and a home away from home” or even “the loving home I never had in the first place.”

I believe it’s vitally important to assist when people decide to “make the leap” to build “a loving home I never had in the first place,” particularly when they seek to help others.

“The rising tide lifts all boats.”

As it turns out, you can accomplish a great deal without a reliance upon money, WHILE getting paid.

Indeed, you might actually be a better steward for your great idea if you avoid the risk-adverse quality of money in the first few months and years; in my ample experience, the deep-pocket people tend to kill great ideas because they don’t know what they are doing, and need to be kept well-away from the idea as it takes root.

As the following video illustrates, there are forms of “soft capital” that transcend the value of money, and their use can be orchestrated to help launch a volunteer effort so it can eventually get funded.

The community activation and launch methodology guides activists from a state of outrage to stewardship through step-by-step action

It’s true. You gotta get paid, but don’t allow a fear-based bias against action prevent you from launching your great idea, for you are its steward.

And cast a leery eye towards those with deep pockets who seek to help. Often, their reliance upon money betrays their own inherent risk aversion, which extinguishes great ideas upon first contact.



Kent Dahlgren

Product management fix-it guy. World-famous people skills. Extremely small hands. (edit) marketing lady says I’m also supposed to say “CEO of software company”