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Can’t get good ideas? Come up with some bad ones

It’s your brain trying to protect you from harm, from coming up with ideas that is embarrassing and stupid and could cause you to suffer pain. The way you shut off is by forcing the brain to come up with bad ideas.

Trong Nguyen
September 18th, 2019

It’s your brain trying to protect you from harm, from coming up with ideas that is embarrassing and stupid and could cause you to suffer pain. The way you shut off is by forcing the brain to come up with bad ideas.”

I stumbled upon that quote from the book “Tool of Titans” by Tim Ferriss (great book btw)

“Can’t get good ideas? Come up with some bad ones”

– James

I’ve never read it before. I had just read a similar one: “If you want to have good ideas, generate a lot of ideas”

It’s great advice, but many time, I can’t come up with enough ideas. With the new advice, it adds an emotion about generosity when finding ideas that make me feel safe and confident with any idea I came up with.

We are afraid of bad ideas, of course, we were trained to delivery good ideas to the world, otherwise, the world would judge us as not a good designer.

“What if you just can’t come up with 10 ideas? Here’s the magic: If you can’t come up with 10 ideas, come up with 20 ideas. You are putting too much pressure on yourself. Perfection is the enemy of the idea muscle.

Seth Godin has the same ideas about it:

“If you generate enough bad ideas, a few good ones tend to show up. So the goal isn’t to get good ideas, the goal is to get back ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, some good ones have to show up”

James - the interviewee, recommends the habit of writing down 10 ideas each day. The idea is for developing your idea muscle and confidence for creativity. So regular practice is more important than the topic.

Sample of James’s “daily 10”

  1. “10 old ideas I can make new
  2. 10 ridiculous things I would invent (e.g., the smart toilet)
  3. 10 books I can write (The Choose Yourself Guide to an Alternative Education, etc).
  4. 10 business ideas for Google/Amazon/Twitter/etc.
  5. 10 people I can send ideas to
  6. 10 podcast ideas or videos I can shoot (e.g., Lunch with James, a video podcast where I just have lunch with people over Skype and we chat)
  7. 10 industries where I can remove the middleman
  8. 10 things I disagree with that everyone else assumes is a religion (college, homeownership, voting, doctors, etc.)
  9. 10 ways to take old posts of mine and make books out of them
  10. 10 people I want to be friends with (then figure out the first step to contact them)
  11. 10 things I learned yesterday
  12. 10 things I can do differently today
  13. 10 ways I can save time

I started to practice this exercise every day. I have around one hour on the train from the office to my room. I have time to train my ideas muscle.

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