Incubate Your Ideas

As a child, I had tons of great ideas. I invented and designed things all day long. Every idea I had was just as good as the next.

But as an adult, I felt like my well of ideas had run dry. Do you ever feel that way?

What happened to my creativity and my inventive spirit? Why haven’t I had any good ideas in a long time?

Well, I finally realized a couple of things.

First, aspects of the brain are comparable to muscles. If you don’t use a muscle for long time, it weakens and atrophies. The inverse is also true — take memory as an example. The more you try to memorize information and demand that ability from your mind, the better you will be able to remember things.

I wasn’t using my creative muscles, and they were wasting away. I decided to encourage myself to have ideas by writing down any idea I had.

Let’s be honest, though — some of my ideas are just plain awful.

But that brings me right to the second realization I had! I was being much too critical of my ideas, even while they were brand new and raw and under-developed. I was skeptical of every imperfection in any thought I had. And every time I criticized my own ideas, I mocked my creative muscles for their achievements. It was a negative feedback cycle, making it harder for me to produce ideas because I was discouraging myself each time.

Which is pretty silly when you think about it.

Why would I pick on a newborn idea that has had no time to mature and defend itself? Why try and make complete rational sense of an idea when you don’t even know how to apply it?

So in response to these ideas, I started doing two things.

First, as I said above, I started writing down every idea I had. Goofy or brilliant, money-making or money-wasting, I write it down enough to jog my memory later. This way, I am thanking my mind for its creativity and asking for more.

Second, every idea will be protected and incubated until it has matured and can defend itself. I decided not to pick on logical fallacies in an idea I had just written down. It didn’t have to make sense or be able to make money or save the world. Ideas need a safe place to grow and develop, or else they will wither away.

Even if an idea stinks, it is the result of using my creative muscles — which strengthens those muscles and increases the quality of ideas produced over time.

Since I started incubating my ideas a couple of years ago, I’ve had many. Not all of them are million dollar ideas, and nor do they need to be.

Let’s just say I haven’t had a shortage of ideas since.

Do you regularly allow your mind to wander and dream and create? Do you give ideas a safe place to grow and mature without criticism?

What Slackers Don’t Know

By the term slackers, I’m referring to those of us who coast through life as a wandering generality. Things happen to them, not the other way around. They flock to the path of least resistance and dodge responsibility — not to mention any obstacles whatsoever.

Part of me wants to be upset and bitter at these slackers. But I can’t.

Instead, these are the very people I feel sorry for. They don’t understand one bit of what they’re missing.

Slackers are content — no, thrilled — to cheat the system. Come late and leave early. Exploit the process. Take advantage of all of the benefits without putting in all the effort. Cut corners whenever possible.

And slackers choose all that over something much better…

The satisfaction of a challenge overcome. A burden lifted. A responsibility fulfilled. Wages earned honestly. The wonderful feeling of serving someone wholeheartedly. Work as worship.

A good day’s work.

There’s nothing that can replace it! I wouldn’t trade that feeling for the world.

Did you do a good day’s work today? Why or why not? How does it feel?

Freedom with Discipline

You cannot enjoy freedom until you earn it through years of developing discipline.

Think of the musician who has been playing the saxophone for 15 years. Think of how fluidly he seems to transport notes from his mind into the air around him. There is no sheet music anywhere around; he is making up the tune as he goes.

He isn’t exhibiting discipline — he gets to playing whatever he feels like. Isn’t that freedom?

Yes, but at a hefty price.

Freedom doesn’t exist until you fully understand the rules of any system. Until then, you will not even know where there is freedom or how to make use of it.

This is not a child who just started playing in the school band. This is an adult who has taken lessons for years and has practiced daily on his own. This is someone who studied music theory and understands what notes sound good together and why. He can read sheet music and interpret notes and rests on a page. He has played through musical scales several times a week for years.

He is only able to enjoy freedom because of the years of disciplined effort he put in beforehand.

Now, he understands how to string notes together effortlessly. He has taken a difficult skill and made it accessible at any moment. He knows so much about the system of music that he can create music on demand, leaving rests in all the right places to fully engage the listener and increase anticipation.

After more than a decade of being a slave to his tool, he is now master over it. That is true freedom, which only comes through discipline.

Why are we unwilling to put in the discipline necessary to achieve true freedom?

No Problems, No Profit

In his book Integrity, Dr. Henry Cloud tells of a poster he once saw that said, “No Problems, No Profit.”

The concept keeps coming to my mind at work and home. What if we started to see every problem as a potential for profit?

I’m attempting to think of problems as unavoidable, necessary, and opportunities for growth and profit. Obstacles that need to be overcome. Challenges to conquer.

It is not the number or kind of obstacles you encounter — it is the mindset to overcome them that determines your trajectory.

And when problems are solved, profit and success are the reward from those who are grateful for your efforts.

If we think this way, we can be glad problems exist.

Are you glad a certain problem exists? Tell about it.

Fail Better

We’ve all heard of Thomas Edison fail thousands of times to find the correct element that would give off light. This is a flagship story about trying again and again.

Yet trying harder and more often is a pointless goal if you and your process never improve!

The point is to overcome failure by learning and adapting from each experience.

Practice makes perfect, but only if you’re getting better over time.

Yes, to have many successes, you need to be willing to fail often. But that’s not enough — you need to get better at it! Plenty of people miss the mark often, but that alone never made anyone successful. Success and growth are much more dependent on how you deal with failure than how many times you fail.

Do you get frustrated by a failure and throw in the towel?

Do you repeat your process exactly and find yourself in the same hole you just left?

Or do you bounce back quickly by examining what went wrong, so you can attack the same problem from a better perspective?

The most resilient and most successful people are those who have not only failed often, but those who have failed well.

Success depends on mindset and perspective. Revise those two, and you will find yourself able to learn and adapt each time. Work on a positive attitude so you can bounce back quickly and see each one as an opportunity to improve your process.

Do you deal with failure well? How can you fail better? Be specific!