Many parents have heard these fateful words from their sons or daughters:

Mom and Dad, I'm dropping out of college to become a ———

Fill in the blank with actor, rock star or inventor. All three endeavors have one common thread: many aspire and strive for success; but few ever make a living from acting, rock music, or inventing.

I have the good fortune of making a successful career from invention. It only took me 13 years.

The point of this post is to give you my thoughts on how you can become a successful inventor – but in much less than thirteen years!

Assess your Strengths and Weaknesses – Commit to a Strategy and Stay Focused

I wished I had considered my strengths and weaknesses and crafted a clear strategy early on – but I did not do so.

Instead, I did what many other new inventors do – the butterfly strategy – I flitted from one approach to the next and then another and back to the beginning again. I didn't really know what would work so, every time I encountered a roadblock, I shifted gears and pursued another avenue.

From the beginning, I knew I wanted to license my product and had little desire to build a business around my product. After many “quiet deaths” to licensing proposals, I decided to manufacture and sell my product – something I had little desire to do; and I was not a very good at building a product business. In the end, I licensed my product and it sells as Wonder Wallet in many retailers across the US, Amazon, eBay, HSN, and in Canada and Australia: more success than I had dreamed of: my American Dream.

Now I have finally built a strategy around my strengths: creating new product ideas, developing prototypes, then finding companies who might license them and being very persistent. I avoid the temptation of manufacturing and selling my products, even though I know how to do that.

You can do the same thing.

Determine what you are good at (and aren't) and what you want to do, commit to a plan of action, stay focused and be very persistent. I recommend that you consult friends and colleagues who know you well enough to help you develop a well-founded plan based on your strengths. This will set you on a path that is best suited for your skills and desires.

Inventing is a Marathon, not a Sprint

Unfortunately, many people are seduced into the siren song of easy wealth: somewhere, somehow, there is a method that will put you on the fast-track escalator to success. There is no such success escalator but there are many snake oil salesmen ready and willing to relieve you of your capital in exchange for false promises and magical methods. As Jimmy Buffett sang, Everyone has a Cousin in Miami.

Armed with a clear strategy built around your strengths, it may still take years for you to achieve inventing success (but much less than 13 years).

Work to develop a network of contacts and constantly seek out bona fide resources to assist you with patent prosecution, prototypes, presentation, etc. Every person whose knowledge and skills assists you along the way should become a part of your long-term team. Become an information sponge: buy books from those who have achieved inventing success, learn their skills and tips and tricks. Make an ally of every industry contact. It is absolutely amazing how your early critics will often later become your best information resources for later success if you will only befriend them and stay in touch.

So, assess your strengths and weaknesses, build a strategy and remain focused.

Listen thoughtfully to everyone you present to – especially those who are critical of your product. Continually work to find great resources and add them to your team.

That is the way to make a lucrative career out of inventing.

Good Luck!