Cultivating Good Ideas

I started this blog 153 weeks ago with the goal of consistently posting one entry per week.  So far, I haven’t missed a week yet!  What’s amazed me most about this journey is how every week I find a new idea to write about.

I like to post my entries on Saturday, but on Sunday, 6 days prior to posting, I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about.  It isn’t until I start going through my weekly routines of reading, having conversations with people, and listening to positive content that an idea for a topic pops into my mind.  These ideas burst onto the stage of my mind without any warning.  It’s an amazing process that I’ve really enjoyed over the past 153 weeks.

Ideas don’t just happen.  Whether it’s ideas for writing, planning, or myriad other forms of creation, I think there are certain disciplines we can practice to greatly increase our likelihood of coming up with good ideas.  Those disciplines include the following:

Expect that you can and will come up with good ideas

Henry Ford stated it well when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Pay attention how you talk to yourself regarding your ability to come up with ideas.  Instead of telling yourself you’re not good at coming up with ideas, change the internal dialog and state how capable you are of coming up with not just one, but several good ideas.

Consume positive content

Positive content, in the form of conversations, reading, podcasts, or any other method, is the fertilizer that helps grow new thoughts and ideas.  Your ideas will come out of whatever you have been putting into your mind, so be mindful of what you’re allowing in.

Set a deadline to come up with good ideas

For me, I imposed an artificial deadline of generating a blog post every week.  This created a sense of urgency that forced me to generate an idea.  So far it’s worked out well.

Practice cultivating good ideas

Every day, write down 10 good ideas on any topic.  It can be anything from ideas for generating extra money to titles for a make-believe TV show.  The objet here is to just get in the practice of generating ideas.  The more we do it, the better we can become at coming up with ideas.  James Altucher says that this is how you stretch your “idea muscle” and become and “idea machine”.

Set yourself up to be a generator of good ideas by following the steps above, or share some of your own ideas for generating ideas in the comments below.

Ideas are the starting point of all new adventures.  If you want to have a more adventurous life, you only need to start having more ideas.

How to Make a Difference

Most people have a desire to make a difference.  Whether it’s in their family, relationships, community, or career, people want to know what they’re doing, or have done, matters; that they have added value to others; that their efforts have made a difference.

I feel the same way.

Sometimes it can be challenging to determine how we can make a difference or add value to those around us.  The challenge of “how” to do this can often keep us from taking any action at all.  I think one way to determine how we can make a difference is to follow this simple 3-part process:

  1. Determine what you do well, what you enjoy doing, and what you are excited about.
  2. Find someone who has a need you are able to solve and, excited about doing so.
  3. Get started.

I started doing this at work earlier this year, after feeling like I wasn’t making much of a difference.  Here’s what the 3-part process looked like for me:

  1. I enjoy providing information about our business in a clear, simple format that business partners can easily understand and use to make business decisions. I discovered that the company I work for has a great tool (QlikView) for building information dashboards, so I began learning how to use this tool.
  2. The business unit I support has been lacking clear, easy to understand business reporting.
  3. I began using QlikVeiw to put some dashboards together and share them as prototypes with the business. The business found the very useful and asked me to create additional dashboards to help measure the business.

Since I took this initiative to make a difference, I really feel like I’m making a significant contribution regarding how the business receives and uses data.   The work I do feels meaningful, relevant, and important.  Plus, I just love doing it!

What about you?  What do you do well or what are you interested in that you can share with others?  Look around.  Who has a problem that you can solve with the skills and interest you possess?  Have you identified them?  Good.

Now start making a difference.