Sabbath Ramblings: Ideas

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In the podcast episode “Why College Sucks (& Better Alternatives), How To Win At Any Game, What You Need To Say No To, & Much More With James Altucher.,” I had a fun and fascinating discussion with the creative, brilliant, and hilarious James Altucher. Our chat included an interesting anecdote from James about how a cheap writer's pad saved his life and wound up digging him out of a huge financial and personal hole.

Basically, many big corporations didn't have websites in the mid-'90s, so James decided he would provide this service. His clients included large companies such as American Express and Miramax. Ultimately, James sold the business during the stock bubble and walked away with enough to live comfortably forever. Unfortunately, due to a lack of money skills and a variety of bad decisions on his part (which we discuss on my podcast with James) he burnt through about $1 million per week for quite some time, and eventually had just $143 remaining in an account that once contained over $15 million. 

One day, while sitting destitute, disappointed, and depressed in a New York diner, James struck upon an idea. He purchased 100 waiter's pads for $10. James loved the look of them, as they were perfect for writing lists, and he loved to make lists. Thus he began, hunched over a cup of coffee in a diner and using pure creative flow, to write 10 new ideas per day on these waiter's pads.

As he sat in that diner, James would jot down crazy and creative ideas for businesses, ideas for hedge funds he could start, ideas for potential investors he could speak to, ideas for articles he could write, games he could invent, books he could write, inventions he could license, and pretty much any other random idea that happened to pop into his head.

He attributes this idea-listing habit as one of the top things that ultimately helped him restart his life after going completely broke in his 20s. Several of his creative ideas wound up manifesting, coming to life, and making him millions more dollars!


Why You Should Try Writing Down 10 New Ideas Each Day or Each Weekend

So, why is this idea-writing practice so powerful?

James theorizes that…

“…ideas work, they mate, they multiply, they flirt, they dance, they have one night stands, they grow in population and eventually create a child that grows on it’s own, a completely mixed-breed version of ten ideas you might’ve had over the years, as long as you treated them kindly, wrote them down, respected them.”

The beauty of this type of idea-listing exercise is that, of course, anyone can do it. As a matter of fact, just this week, I stumbled upon an article by Amanda Schroeder, who heard my podcast with James, and subsequently penned a piece entitled “A Simple Habit to Supercharge Your Creativity.” In it, Amanda describes how one of her favorite new habits to increase her creativity, based on hearing that podcast, is to write out 10 ideas a day on a piece of paper.

In her article, Amanda says…

“This habit is dead simple and practically free, but it has the power to completely shift your mindset, supercharge your energy, and give you ideas to get more out of your life.”

She goes on to say…

“It’s important to make sure each list has a theme or subject, this is where the challenge comes in. The more specific, the better. They can be 10 article ideas, 10 coding projects, or 10 ways to make money online, but they need to have some overarching idea. My first list was just 10 lists that I wanted to make. I have made lists for pottery projects, lists of stuff to do when I’m bored at work, lists of articles I want to write, and lists of ways to make side income…I now have a proper notebook full of ideas I can turn to whenever I want to! Most of them are pretty lackluster or lofty, but a few of them have actually turned into projects I’ve carried out.”

As a matter of fact, jotting down ideas for topics on a simple Google doc that I have synced across my phone and all my computers is how many of the articles I write, including these weekly Sabbath Ramblings posts like this, have been imagined and brought to life. For example, to give you an insider glimpse, here's what's on my current idea list of Ramblings topics I haven't yet had a chance to write:

Anyways, that's just a brief glimpse of ideas “waiting in the wings” to be materialized into actual articles.


Will Your Ideas Get Laughed At?

But, I'll also readily admit that, at least in my opinion, it's relatively simple to come up with ideas for articles or books that one can write compared to the generation of ideas that a craftsperson or engineer or corporate executive might come up with for new inventions, new businesses, or potentially more life-changing or impactful material objects. Often, imagining the prospect of your ideas becoming businesses or material objects that could be engineered, can be daunting.

After all, what if someone laughs at your ideas?

What if they're too “outside-the-box?

What if your ideas seem, at first glance, impossible?

These are all normal fears. Related to these fears, I recently read the powerful book Entrepreneurship 2.0 by legendary business consultant Jim Collins, in which I was reminded that it's essential to keep in mind that many great ideas were at first thought to be stupid ideas. In one section of the book, Jim provides a list of historically significant creations that were thought by so-called experts (he calls them “wet blankets”) to be dumb ideas. Jim recommends circulating a copy of this list below to everyone in a company and/or putting a copy on your own wall or above your desk as a helpful reminder about the importance of being receptive to ideas. He writes that the first element in making your company (or you!) more creative and innovative is to seek ideas from everywhere and, most importantly, to create a climate of receptivity to new ideas.

Here are a few of the “wet blankets” throughout history that Jim lists:

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”; Western Union internal memo in response to Bell’s telephone, 1876.

“The concept is interesting and well formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”; a Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corporation.

“We don’t tell you how to coach, so don’t tell us how to make shoes.”; a large sporting shoe manufacturer to Bill Bowerman, inventor of the “waffle” shoe and co-founder of NIKE, Inc.

“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard and they said ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’”; Steve Jobs speaking about attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Wozniak’s personal computer. Jobs and Wozniak founded Apple Computer Company.

“You should franchise them,’ I told them. ‘I’ll be your guinea pig.’ Well, they just went straight up in the air! They couldn’t see the philosophy. . . . When they turned us down, that left Bud and me to swim on our own.’”; Sam Walton describing his efforts to get the Ben Franklin chain interested in his discount retailing concept in 1962. Walton went on to found Walmart.

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”; H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

“We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.”; Decca Recording Company rejecting The Beatles, 1962.

In 1884, John Henry Patterson was ridiculed by his business friends for paying $6,500 for the rights to the cash register—a product with “limited” or no potential. Patterson went on to found National Cash Register (NCR) Corporation.

“What’s all this computer nonsense you’re trying to bring into medicine? I’ve got no confidence at all in computers and I want nothing whatsoever to do with them.”; a medical professor in England to Dr. John Alfred Powell, about the CT scanner.

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.”; any number of experienced drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859. He later became the first man to strike oil.

“That is good sport. But for the military, the airplane is useless.”; Ferdinand Foch, Commander in Chief, allied forces on the western front, World War I.

“The television will never achieve popularity; it takes place in a semi-darkened room and demands continuous attention.”; Harvard Professor Chester L. Dawes, 1940.

How's that list for a bit of inspiration? Does that help you set aside any excuses or fear about acting upon and bringing to life your new ideas? Hopefully, it does, and should you need a wonderful tutorial on how to actually bring your ideas to life once you've generated your own personal or business list, then the very best resource I can direct you to is Tim Ferriss's classic article “Beginner's Guide: How to Rent Your Ideas to Fortune 500 Companies,” in which he fleshes out the same type of brilliant concepts you can read about in even more detail in Stephen Key's book One Simple Idea, Revised and Expanded Edition: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work, which I consider to be an essential read for any serious idea-generator.


Summary

Finally, for a bit of added inspiration, I want to share with you that, for the past year, both my twelve-year-old boys (who are now beginning to describe the details of their new ideas in their healthy living and cooking podcast at GoGreenfields.com), every Saturday, sit down and generate 10 new ideas for inventions, art, books, toys, tools, games, and more. Here's a glimpse at the type of ideas they come up with:

ideas

ideas ideas

From slushball makers to butterscotch flavored toothpaste to a baseball cap that turns into a cowboy hat, you can see how much creativity this idea-writing exercise fosters!

So, how about you?

Do you plan on trying out the 10 new ideas habit like Amanda did or like my boys and I do?

Remember: We human beings are the only creatures on the planet created in the image of the great Creator, and He takes pride and joy when we creatively create, as I discuss here; so don't underestimate your ability to generate new ideas on a regular basis. It's an enjoyable habit, it will expand your mental horizons, and it may even result in a bit of business and personal success too.

Try jotting down 10 new ideas on a few days or every day this week, or, like my twin boys, 10 new ideas each Saturday or Sunday. I dare you to give it a try and just “see what happens.” In fact, why don't you try it right now in the comments section below, or, if you do it later, transfer your 10 ideas into the comments section below. I'd love to see what you come up with.


Ask Ben a Podcast Question


17 thoughts on “Sabbath Ramblings: Ideas

  1. Diego Andres Sanchez says:

    OK, here it goes Ben. Tried it out. I am not too happy with my current job, though I recognize that the LORD has blessed me to be here currently for good reason. So, my list, is for a way to advance my career, improve my finances, all in a way that aligns more with my passions.

    2/1/2021 – Ways to make make money in a way that makes me happy
    1 Write up a 15-minute stand-up routine
    2 Instagram Carnivore Biohacking account in Spanish (target Latin American audience)
    3 The Millenial Post blog – Christian perspective from a millenial
    4 Mexico Eco-Village Poxil biohacking retreats
    5 Work for Kion and move back to Boulder, CO
    6 Work for Heart and Soil and move to Austin
    7 Work for REP Provisions and move to Tulsa
    8 TravelLight – app to connect folks during travel stops (matches itinerary)
    9 “UberEats” app within the airport, can pre-order stuff on your phone prior to arrival
    10 Variable resistance training system for kegels

    For item 10, I have been sketching some prototypes, would love to discuss with you some day :). Basically the X3 system equivalent for men’s kegels.

    Have a blessed day Ben, thank you for all you do!

  2. Diego Andres Sanchez says:

    Hi Ben,

    Wondering if you know of any Christian retreats that you recommend? Here on Maui we have a lot of health retreats where people do juicing, fasting, enemas, yoga, ayahuasca, etc. But they teach a lot of New Age stuff. On the other hand, I have attended some weekend retreats with my church, but due to the disconnect with physical health and environmentalism in the modern Protestant church, folks end up bringing pretty unhealthy food, there is a lack of movement/fitness, etc.

    Would be awesome to bring the best of both worlds, having a week-long true health retreat, where folks can detox physically, learn movement practices, all while also being focused on the Word, prayer, Christian fellowship. I know a lot of Christian brothers and sisters here in the USA struggle with obesity, eating processed foods, lack of knowledge on how to take care of their physical vessels, etc. Some of the godliest and most kind people at church are in such pain from eating a standard American diet and not moving enough. Just an idea that I have been mulling over and something that perhaps someone with an already big platform and extensive health training like yourself could bring to fruition. God bless you brother!

    1. not aware of anything like that, but it's a great idea!

      1. Diego Andres Sanchez says:

        thank you! nice to see your reply. And thank you for sharing the Gospel with Matt Maruca during your recent podcast. Very encouraging!

  3. Aaron Camp says:

    Hey Ben,

    Really enjoyed hearing you and Jessa on the Mind Pump podcast – very encouraged to hear of a health and wellness expert who also shares (basically an identical) position on faith. I work for Crossway Books in Wheaton, and it was cool to hear John Piper, CS Lewis and Doug Wilson referenced in your ‘feed your soul’ reading! I’ve been on a health journey for the past few years – eating real food, getting lifting and cardio to be regular patterns of my life, homeschooling our 4 kids – just so much overlap with what you guys talked about and it helped my wife and I process through some of our plans for the future; especially parenting. Anyway, it was a very pleasant surprise to hear all of this from a fitness podcast!

    Anyway, I’d love to send you guys some ESV Bibles or books. If you’d be interested, please connect with me and I can work it out.

    Thanks,

    Aaron Camp

    1. Oh my gosh, that is such a cool offer, Aaron, and such kind words. I'll email you!

      1. Diego Andres Sanchez says:

        So awesome to see the Lord working and connecting brothers through this podcast/blog. I am also a born-again believer and hold to a Reformed position on theology, so really cool to see a health podcast mention some of my favorite preachers like Doug Wilson and John Piper :)

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  5. simon says:

    This actually comes quite easily to me ben – i seem to be able to generate non stop ideas. Someone can give me a topic and ill generate ideas which link to common themes that are current. It’s the next step where i get stuck. Which one to action? So i find i get overwhelmed by ideas and then dont do any of them …. any suggestions for a next step? thanks

  6. Bob Bovie says:

    Ok for Zoom calls when you want to speak your box should light up like Hollywood Squares and you have the ‘ floor’.
    I don’t use Zoom so maybe that’s already a part of the platform.

    Quick reminder to take your daily MEDS:
    Meditation
    Exercise
    Diet (nutritional)
    Sleep

    That’s all I have…for now

  7. fred says:

    Here’s a crazy idea: a private company that sinks billions into developing space travel technology for private and government use. I say “Go pound sand – what a waste of money.”.

  8. Laurie Kaplan says:

    Wow, didn’t realize how challenging this would be! Could only come up with 3 (lame!) and they may already exist…

    1. An app that tracks when and why to take your specific supplements (am/pm, empty stomach, with fat, and why – immune support, reduce inflammation, cognative support, etc).

    2. An app that keeps track of your auto-ship subscriptions to reduce overlap. So many of us now use auto-ship subscriptions to save a bit of cash but I know I haved ended up with multiple bottles of whatever because I have forgotten to go in and change the ship date…

    3. Hoses that don’t leak at the faucet along with nozzles that don’t leak. There are many that say they don’t but they still do.

    I am definitely going to keep working on this!

  9. Martin says:

    Hi Ben,

    Here is my vision and ideas for my local church community:

    1) Everyone has a mentor, everyone has a small group

    2) Situation-specific groups ministering to one another (ie divorced ministering to the divorced, parents who have lost children ministering to each other, those with addictions ministering to one another)

    3) Sacramental “teams” with a follow up program for each sacrament. Accompaniment following the sacrament, checking in monthly to see how they are doing

    4) Collaboration with nearby churches to bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth

    5) Social justice initiatives such as feeding the poor and visiting the elderly, and getting the youth especially involved in this

    6) “Mental Health Month” initiatives since mental health issues are a growing issue in our culture

    7) “Health Month” initiatives focusing on healthy eating, sleeping, exercise, caring for the Temple of the Holy Spirit

    8) A retreat culture where people can encounter God frequently, where there are many opportunities for retreats

    9) A culture of testimony where people are constantly sharing their testimonies of how God has worked in their lives. “They will defeat him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony.”

    10) Marriage Preparation and Marriage Enrichment Groups since so many marriages are ill-equipped or struggling these days

    11) Prayer Teams that pray with people after church services

  10. Lenny Monroe says:

    Wow. That’s a fantastic discipline to develope Ben. I’m going to give it a shot and forward this SR to my family.
    God bless. Thank you for your willingness to share.

  11. Juliana says:

    Going to write mine right now! Excited!

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