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  • Alex Hu

Importance of Auxiliary Ideas: An Entrepreneur's Arsenal

What is Auxiliary?

To win at chess, you must create a plan to checkmate your opponent; your opponent will try to prevent your plan while implementing their own. To understand the complexities of plans, GothamChess described the term "Auxiliary Idea", which is a sub-plan that must be enacted in order to create the right conditions for the main plan to work.

For example, if I am trying to checkmate my opponent with my queen, and my knight is blocking my queen, my auxiliary plan would be to move my knight out of the way so that my queen can go deliver checkmate. Very logical. In everyday life, an elementary example of an auxiliary plan is that in order to drink water on a trip, you must bring a water bottle.

There are so many uses for auxiliary ideas that I'm surprised few people understand their nature outside of everyday life. We all have so many creative ideas, so many goals we want to achieve. However, our dreams are often prevented by auxiliary challenges, and we convince ourselves that because of those challenges, we are unable to carry out our original plan. As simple as this sounds, many people don't create auxiliary plans to address the sub-challenges stopping their main plans.

For example, let's say Jerry Ramsay wanted to learn cooking at home to become a world-famous chef one day. However, Jerry's low-income family lacked basic kitchen equipment such as functional pots and a working stove. As a result, Jerry wasn't able to improve his cooking skills.

For Jerry, purchasing kitchenware wasn't his main goal. In fact, on the surface level, what does buying a product have anything to do with improving skills? However, it's obvious to most of us that buying pots and pans helps create the conditions necessary for Jerry to carry out his main goal, of practicing cooking.

The same set of kitchenware can serve varying auxiliary purposes in different scenarios. Let's say Jerry becomes a world-renowned chef and goes home and cooks for his family on the holidays. The reason Jerry's family will be able to eat a delicious meal isn't that kitchenware exists in the house, it's because Jerry has cooked for 20 years and has attained a Michelin star. The kitchenware has nothing to do with Jerry's fantastic skills; the kitchenware only sets the context that allows for Jerry to use his skills. If you asked Jerry's sister why she had such a good meal, she would've said "my brother Jerry is a fantastic cook", not "because we have pots and pans in the house". However, if the house lacked pots and pans, Jerry's sister wouldn't have been able to eat.

Entrepreneurial Auxiliary Plans

I believe the societal function of an entrepreneur is someone who directly creates opportunities for societal value. All successful entrepreneurs understand this sentiment because creating opportunities is functionally equivalent to implementing auxiliary plans.

Below is a short story depicting the resourcefulness of entrepreneurs.

Dotty is a Malaysian foreign exchange student in the United States studying fashion design in the Bay area. After college, she dreams of starting her clothing line, Dotty's Delightful Dresses, in Malaysia. Throughout her years living in San Francisco, Dotty has made many close tech entrepreneur friends who have taught her there are many strategies to launching a company - one of which is publicity (see building-in-public).

She immediately starts researching fashion events/competitions in the Bay Area and signs up for the annual fashion show for young designers. If Dotty manages to win with her personal take on traditional Malaysian clothing, she will attract the attention of investors, other designers, and owners of clothing factories.

In the days leading up to the competition, Dotty cold-outreaches to the influential attendees she knows will be at the competition. She asks her friend Jason, whose family runs a law firm that serves the largest corporations in the fashion industry, to accompany her to the event.

On the day of the competition, critics praise Dotty's creativity but claim her designs are too radical. However, Dotty's unique designs and pre-event emails convince attendees of her passion for creating a modern Malaysian fashion brand. At the after-party, Jason's presence alongside Dotty when meeting with attendees affirms her legitimacy as a designer.

Dotty understood from the start that she was better off convincing the fashion industry of her garments' beauty than convincing bank lenders of her business's potential for profits. She knew that trying to raise money without making a statement would be almost impossible in an industry as saturated as fashion.

Dotty then turns the event into a win even though the critics didn't award her first prize. By inducing attendees to notice her, she gained connections that she could further leverage into raising money, partnering with factories, and hiring staff. Dotty opened the door for herself by painstakingly researching, writing, and sending 200 carefully personalized emails before the event. She utilized her understanding of social proof and the valuable connections she made with industry professionals to etch herself into the minds of even the most seasoned investors.

This simple story only pertains to a single event. Imagine this mindset in action, in everything an entrepreneur does.

In contrast, for many participants who only submitted an entry to the event and didn't win, this event could very well have disheartened them from turning their dreams into reality. Believing themselves to be incompetent designers, their lives could take drastic turns.

Disclaimer: I don't actually know anything about fashion or the market in Malaysia - how to design clothes, whether Malaysians will prefer a Malaysian-founded brand to foreign luxury brands, whether people care about what they wear as much as people in the US - so please don't regard this example as a legitimate plan as it's meant to prove a point.

The World is My Oyster

Entrepreneurs like Dotty consider the auxiliary factors of every scenario to create opportunities anywhere they go, utilizing methods that seem excessive and laughable at first. The official term for Dotty's mindset is possessing a strong internal locus of control, meaning that Dotty believes that her success is mostly dependent on her own creativity and efforts rather than environmental influences. Strong entrepreneurs have been proven to possess strong locus's of control, which explains much of entrepreneurs' ingenuities when disrupting entire industries.

Fortunately, this resourceful mindset can be adopted by everyone to create opportunities. In life, so many auxiliary plans and factors are involved in our lives, hidden away from our consciousness. From proactively sending emails to update your college professor or calling ahead to reserve a spot at a restaurant to more momentous events such as proactively researching your bosses' favourite foods and music before inviting them over for dinner.

While most of us are shielded from the mind-numbing complexity of everyday situations, it is easy for us to believe we are powerless when in reality there are doors that are waiting to be opened. By considering not only our main intentions, but also the auxiliary factors that allow us to enact our main intentions, we can truly attain a strong locus of control over our prospects.

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