I got this idea from James Altucher’s Choose Yourself book. If you haven’t read it or listened to his podcast, give it a whirl…I thoroughly still enjoy both (yes, I read the same books more than once…or at least my own notes…over and over…I know, dork squared!).
Anyway, the idea is that to keep yourself fresh and relevant, you should work every day to come up with 10 new ideas. This may sound daunting, but we aren’t talking about setting the world on fire, all that is required is to pick a topic and just start freewheeling. “I can’t do that” you say. Well, I beg to differ…it really doesn’t take that long and it is fabulous for getting your mind stimulated and even invigorating your outlook. Here are some starting points:
- Childhood passions
- Things that could be improved
- Things that you’d really like to buy that don’t exist
- Things that would make your day easier
- Things that could be fixed at your place of work
- Things that could be fixed at your kids school
- 10 people you should introduce to each other
- Things that your favorite business could do to be better
- Ideas for songs, movies, books, blogs, etc.
- Things your favorite team could do to improve their season
- On and on
It really doesn’t matter…the idea is to get your “idea muscle” working. At first, no doubt it will be hard, but trust me after a few goes at it, you will get better and better and really enjoy the exercise. You don’t even have to keep the 10 ideas…throw them away, give them to a friend or business, whatever. The idea is just to start exercising your brain.
Well, what if I come up with a doozy that I want to execute on. Well, start working on the next steps…what are the 10 things you need to do to push this forward and get started today. Remember this…the ideas are worthless in and of themselves, execution is everything, so don’t worry that someone is going to run off with your ideas either.
If you do this for a whole year consider that you will have almost 4000 ideas! Want to have some more fun, do as James Altucher suggests and start having “Idea Sex”…marry one idea to another and see what comes of it. I have a friend that once suggested just looking up patents and marrying them to each other and then filing for a patent on the combo…you aren’t having to do the hard labor of creating something new, just marrying what already exists.
Here’s his detailed Idea Machine post on the topic. Have fun with it!
For this one, I liberally borrowed from some really good content and I’m just going to share that up front:
Austin Kleon: Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work
James Altucher: Choose Yourself
Clayton M. Christensen: The Innovator’s Dilemma
“The man who has no imagination, has no wings” – Muhammad Ali
Innovation and creating new things is scary… you must learn to embrace uncertainty. The biggest mistake you can make is being too attached to that which has worked for you in the past. Sophomore albums usually aren’t near as good as the first because the thinking is that you did something so good the first time, why change it. However if you continually tweak you won’t get boxed in and will have more longevity. You must be ever curious and always experimenting. Dedicate specific time to coming up with ideas:
- Live out of your imagination, not your memory
- Come up with 10 ideas every single day. if you come up with one really good one, then come up with 10 ways to execute on that idea right away… don’t waste time
- Focus on ideas that are 10X better than existing solutions
- Focus on one idea every day that is a “force multiplier” (one thing that if you did it would make all other things after it much easier)
- Always be thinking of next steps
- “Do one thing every day that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Do all you can to stay out of the mode of competition… this will only frustrate you and has meager rewards… look for the blue ocean. If you are having a hard time generating ideas:
- Get inspired by other forms of art (music, movies, plays, books, museums, nature itself: sunsets, waves, clouds, stars, birds)
- Put yourself in the path of other human beings
- Stand next to the most talented person in the room and try to be helpful
- Spark “idea sex “ (James Altucher): Mesh two ideas together (two different disciplines works good… electrical + medical, software + hardware, etc)
- Copy, copy, copy what you love… then you will find your voice. “Stealing from one is plagiarism, stealing from many is research”; –Wilson Mizner
- Take time and be bored. Staring at a spot on the wall, get lost, wonder & wander
- Invent not for where the world is today, but for where it is going to be. Like Wayne Gretzky says, “skate not to where the puck is, but to where it is going to be”
Move forward with ideas by:
- Doing some work every day, no matter what. Little things accumulate quickly with consistency of acting
- Focus on magical ideas for a small niche of people, not average ideas for the masses
- Don’t do what you know, do what excites you
- “Fake it until you make it”… it works
- Ideas should come first, then specialized knowledge… Napoleon Hill
- Not waiting for better tools/technology to come along… make due with what you have at your disposal
- Wake up every day striving to do something that just might not work
“First you give life, action, and guidance to ideas, then they take on the power of their own and sweep aside all opposition… ideas have the power to live on, after the brain that crafted them has returned to dust” -Napoleon Hill
How do you know if you are succeeding. Good question. Here are a few simple formulas:
- If you are running a business, calculate the number of customers using products that didn’t exist three years ago and the percentage of revenue coming from those products…decide what is good or bad, but at least you now have a way to measure
- Another good measure is one half of your audience loves it or agrees with you and the other half he’s disagrees… if everybody agrees, why bother?
- Learn –> Create, Learn –> Create, Learn –> Create. Just learning and never creating or just creating and never learning never creates new works
Most importantly of all… enjoy the process as much (or more) than the destination as sometimes the journey is the answer. I love this graphic by Austin Kleon…