Innovate or stagnate. That’s the brutal reality we live in.
I follow James Altucher’s advice religiously, and every morning I write 10 new ideas. Most of them are crap. The rest are usually related to things I’m already doing, so there’s only marginal benefit to implementing a new idea.
To paraphrase Altucher, someday you may have to sprint 100 yards to escape the velociraptor. If you’ve been sprinting every day for the past year, you’ll be a lot faster when the time comes. The goal, as Altucher will tell you, is to give your idea muscle a daily workout. Then, when you really need ideas, you can deliver.
I agree with this, but in practice I keep getting stuck on the same kinds of ideas. I’m essentially a teacher, salesman, and writer who likes to travel. Virtually all my ideas end up coming back to teaching, selling, writing, and travel.
In contrast, James Altucher spends much of his life talking to interesting, successful people from every field imaginable, and he also reads for hours every day. If you want to get the most out of your 10 ideas, you have to expand your horizons.
A Whack to the Side of the Head
Fortunately I’ve found two great tools that make it easy to come up with new ideas and banish stagnation forever. The first is Roger Von Oech’s “Creative Whack Pack.” It’s basically a deck of cards.
Before we move on, let’s say really quickly that you can probably come up with a lot of ways to use a deck of cards. Matt Furey made an entire workout system based on cards. Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt created a movement with their Oblique Strategies.
Each of Von Oech’s cards has a quick tip or question, followed by a cartoon and a story. They’re designed to get you thinking. This morning I picked up a card that said, “See the obvious” and had a picture of a mouse hiding in a cat’s ear.
The story underneath almost doesn’t need telling. No cat would ever think to check its own ear for mice. If you’re a mouse, that’s the obvious place to hide, right? The card asks, “What resources and solutions are right in front of you?”
More than half of this morning’s ideas came from that card. No need to reinvent the wheel. I have a lot of valuable, under-used assets already.
I pick out a random card each week, keep it visible on a shelf in my office, and ponder it whenever I feel stuck or I need another whack to the side of the head.
The other tool I use is Twitter.
I spend a lot more time reading tweets than tweeting. This is where ideas come from. There are two ways to get them.
First, just look at what’s trending. If there’s something big that’s related to your life, you’ll definitely have something to say about it. Probably more than you can say in 140 characters. This could become your next blog post or video.
Better yet, if you have the solution to a problem that’s trending, you may have just figured out how to make your next million and save the world in the process. Good job!
But more often than not, the trending hashtags are all about the Kardashians, the Trumps, and Beethoven. That’s when you need to dig a little deeper.
Search your own hashtags. Hashtag keywords related to your industry, your passions, or news that’s relevant to you. If you spend just 10 minutes doing this you’ll almost always find something.Don’t ever forget about that velociraptor!
Six months ago I had to outrun a velociraptor. I left my biology teaching job and had to figure out how to make a living. But I had almost a year of Altucher’s “daily practice” under my belt.
I sat down and wrote 10 ideas for generating income. Almost immediately, I knew that everything would be OK. I could figure things out.
The first project took months of hard work to implement, but now it’s producing a steady income for my wife and I. The second idea is starting to bear fruit, and I’ll test the others over the next 6-12 months. Meanwhile, I’m still coming up with 10 more every day.
This brings me to one last tool that you already know about. Your very own brain. You may be surprised to find how creative you really are.
Resources for this post:
Oblique Strategies: http://www.rtqe.net/ObliqueStrategies/OSintro.html (Highlight some of the pages to see the hidden text!)
James Altucher’s most important post ever: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/02/how-to-be-the-luckiest-guy-on-the-planet-in-4-easy-steps/
Creative Whack Pack (this is an affiliate link):