Every time I send an idea to any of my friends, I cross all my fingers and say 300 hail-Mary-mother-of-Gods.
As I proclaim, “Hey, check this out,” I put a fake smile in my voice and ask like everything’s cool. “What do you think of this one?”
While I tiptoe around my room waiting for their feedback, my head screams: Damn, I have gone and done it again. Shouldn’t I know by now that nobody wants to see another hot new brainwave from me!
And to a large extent, I’m right. Most people don’t take too kindly to other people who blast them day in day out with an endless barrage of parboiled ideas. They can try to be polite and say Okay, this is great you’re a genius… but, trust me, they don’t want to see your 100,000,001st concept this month that will surely revolutionise the world.
People don’t like you to have too many ideas. In fact, they want you to focus on one thing, maybe that business racket you dreamt up when you were 14 years old. They want you to stick to that one—and “finish” it! What’s this with all this new thinking sef? If everyone is like you and they have a “brilliant” new idea every single day, don’t you know there won’t be new ideas for unborn children to live on? Don’t you know if unborn children don’t have new ideas to live on they won’t be able to breathe and they will die? Do you want unborn children to die? No, I don’t want unborn children to die.
That’s why when you share another one of your harebrained schemes, your family members and girlfriends immediately shoot back with: “what is this one again? What about that idea you were working on just this morning? What happened to that one?”
But all jokes aside, they have a point. One reason many of us perpetually generate new ideas while still “developing” old ones is that new ideas, after the initial fireworks, soon become boring as we start to execute. Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and now chief product officer at Adobe, calls this part the “messy middle”. The messy middle is the plateau at which we struggle to tune the concept into a viable product and get others to pay money for it. This part feels like rolling a wrecking ball up a flight of 201 stairs.
Which is why we, as expert and proud and highly accomplished ideas people, let ourselves be seduced by the next shiny thing. This part is like swallowing amala that’s been rolled in magnificent ewedu.
So, if I may advise us, let all of us who are prone to letting our brains run amok with lateral thinking, wordplay, and serial “what if” questions that invariably lead to unexpected a-ha moments take a massive dose of the chill pill right now.
But I know this is easier said than done.
So, instead of burning our alchemist hats, maybe we can consider some of these ways out of our merry-go-round.
Permit yourself to be crazy
We don’t need anyone’s permission to think new thoughts. If you’re the idea generator in your generation, so be it. It’s what you do with the thoughts that count. You may give the ideas away, you may build them into something already in progress, you may sell them, but don’t let your brain atrophy.
Deadline the thing
It may be “shameful” to be known as the person who never finishes something. If that’s the case, then it may help to create a deadline for the execution. What stages are required to get this thought from jotter to naira (or dollar) notes?
Let’s follow through. Author Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant suggests you limit the amount of time you spend on a new project because “Too much time often exacerbates confusion and indecisiveness, especially when you’re faced with too many ideas.”
Allow the ideas to percolate
Some of the probing questions from concerned family and friends include the following: How are you doing to make money from this? Aren’t you doing too many things? You have a lot of websites o! Now, these questions come as you try to build a minimum viable product or test landing pages, which you may soon have to discard because the ideas can’t work. So, instead of building that site or that sample, sleep on it. For several nights. Who knows, you may get some clarity.
Build the ideas into what you’re already working on
Is it possible that you already have the most fulfilling project of your life in your hands? Maybe it’s possible to make what you have more robust by screwing this new light bulb onto the house you’re currently building. Imagine if the Like Button was spun out of Facebook as a separate product.
Gain from it
Mia Scharphie is an artist and writer who currently runs two companies, both of which are profitable. There was a time, though, when she had about a dozen different ones, all of which made her less money than these two. But she hasn’t stopped generating new ideas. But here’s what she does: she looks for “equity”. She asks herself: “How can this project still build lasting value for me?” Sometimes the experience of thinking helps you expand professional capacity and that’s enough.
Some ideas don’t deserve the effort. Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant describes ideas worth following as the Red Dress in a sea of little black dresses at a party. The one that grabs attention is the one that stands out. In his little bestseller The Dip, Seth Godin says this: “The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realise that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.” If an idea doesn’t have the potential to be truly outstanding, chuck it.
Just do you
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do,” –
Steve Jobs Rob Siltanen. Follow the intuition, the gut feeling. If Malcolm Gladwell’s hypothesis is anything to go by, extraordinary things often happen in the Blink of an eye.