Differentiating between a great idea and a terrible idea.
I’ve had some good ideas in the past. Of course, by ‘good’ I mean shit and by ‘in the past’ I mean a few years ago. As a matter of fact, I can clearly remember in high school having a new terrible idea nearly every week.
There was a time when I convinced myself I had the greatest idea of all time. I had just finished watching a documentary on how bad sugar was for you, and I decided right then and there — I was going to be the Willy Wonka of organic, sugar-free, all-natural snack bars.
It pains me to tell you this today, but ‘Kind Bars’ kind of stole my idea (get it). Bastards.
Hey, That’s My Idea!
Have you ever seen something and heard someone say, “Hey, that’s my idea! They stole it!”
I used to be the type of person who would say things like that. I would have an idea, think about how great of an idea it was, and then forget about it.
The only time I would remember my ideas was when I saw someone else had built it. At which point, I demanded the financial compensation I so rightfully deserved.
In reality, none of my ideas were ever great, or even mediocre. Although they weren’t great, the mentality I had set me on a path of destruction where I couldn’t distinguish between a great idea and a terrible one.
My thinking was toxic because I had no real intention of following through on any of the ideas I had.
All Talk No Walk
I wasn’t the type of person who had these terrible ideas and kept them to myself. Rather, I would have one of these terrible ideas and then tell everyone how great it was.
I would go on to tell them how I was going to build my idea into a glorious kingdom the likes of which even Zuck would be jelly of.
The next week, the same people would ask me how the idea is going. I would proceed to tell them I had a better idea I was pursuing now, which would be infinitely better than the last one I told them about.
This never ending cycle never kept me committed to anything.
It Begins With Self-Awareness
I was oblivious to my toxic thinking, until someone I respected deeply stopped me mid-sentence one day. While we were having a conversation about another shit idea they said to me, “You never follow through.”
I paused for a second (I was a bit shook), and began to rebound with a big ole’ ‘but’ statement. They interrupted me again and said: “You never follow through.”
I stopped, took a good hard look at myself, and admitted, “They were right.”
At that moment, I realized I had been burning all my time on ideas I was never going to follow through with. I then vowed not to put any time or effort into any idea, unless it was a great idea.
What Makes An Idea Great
For me to be able to acknowledge what a truly great idea was, I had to admit to myself every idea I had up until that point was shit.
Once I stepped back and looked at my ideas, it wasn’t hard to realize I was being naive. Before, I was so infatuated with the concept of having a great idea, that I fooled myself into thinking every idea I had was great.
I decided for an idea to be considered great; it would need to be a few thing:
- It needs to be something I have a practical understanding of. (I can’t just say, I am going to build the Hyperloop!)
- There needs to be some form of validation for it. (If no validation exists, it must be created before pursuing it any further.)
- It needs to be scalable. (It has to be able to grow substantially.)
- It needs to be something I believe in.
- If it is an idea I want to pursue, I have to go all in.
After a few years of patiently waiting, I was sitting in my kitchen one afternoon. I was thinking about disruptive technology I was working with and if similar concept could be executed in different industries.
All of a sudden, the idea hit me like a ton of bricks. I instantly knew — I finally have ‘the idea’ and I have no choice but to pursue it.