I buy them in bulk from Sam’s Club…
Obviously I’m kidding, but I poke fun because this is THE most common question I get. I figure this must be what it’s like for magicians who get asked how they perform a trick. It’s been a challenge to try and define just how I do seem to be able to “out ideate” most other folks. Here are a few of the truths I managed to arrive at on this topic.
1. I come up with more good ideas because I come up with more bad ideas
I ran across this quote by Linus Pauling early on in my life and fully believed it: “The best way to come up with a good idea is to come up with a lot of ideas.” It’s purely a numbers game. If I come up with more ideas (bad ideas, crazy ideas, old ideas, new ideas, outrageous ideas, safe ideas, dangerous ideas, half-baked ideas, out of this world ideas, scary ideas, unreasonable ideas, any and all kinds of ideas) than other people, I will also come up with more good ideas than other people.
2. I make room for more ideas
Most people can come up with one or two ideas that they think are really, really good. I mean, they absolutely feel this is a “gonna make me rich, rich, rich” idea. Or, they have the opposite problem — they get these ideas that they feel are below average, they don’t really stand out, probably already been thought-up by someone else, etc. The problem is, that in both cases the individual expends incredible amounts of mental energy either trying to retain their brilliant idea, or the less-than-brilliant idea swims around in their head as they try and come up with something more clever. The solution to either of these situations is the same — record the idea on paper (in some sort of permanent idea journal) so the brain knows the idea has been safely tucked away for future reference, and free up your mental matter so it can expend energy on coming up with the NEXT idea.
3. I constantly fuel my brain
If you’re going to treat your brain as an engine, you have to make sure it has premium fuel to burn when you step on the gas pedal. I read books, magazines, blogs, comic books, etc. constantly on the widest variety of subjects. I watch tv, movies — all genres. I listen to music (again… all genres), visit art museums, the ballet, stare at stars, do crossword puzzles, play video games, write business articles, write fictional short stories, keep a journal, sketch and doodle, go to comedy clubs, attend seminars, speak at seminars, drive the long way to work, find short cuts home from work, go to the zoo, visit coffee shops, try new restaurants, ride a motorcycle, play golf, darts, billiards, and passionate conversations (and sometimes arguments!) with friends, and probably fifty other things that I can’t even recall right this second.
The really important thing is that while I am feeding my brain all of these experiences, my radar is always “up” to draw a parallel or find a metaphor that matches whatever projects or problems I may be working at the time. The rest of the information simply gets stored into my mental database, so that it can be called upon whenever I have need new ideas.