If you weren’t an entrepreneur already, and I met you sometime in the past 10-15 years or so, it’s pretty easy to guess how that conversation would have gone. Within about five minutes, I would try and find out what your passion is, and then, a minute or so later, I would formulate how you could turn that passion into something that you could put online, make a career out of, and spread to the various corners of the world.
Instantly in my head, I would see your new enterprise—YouCo, let’s call it—growing from a little upstart operation into a multi-billion-dollar worldwide chain of franchises, outlets, distributors…you get the idea. There’s almost nothing that you could say was your passion, where I wouldn’t turn around in a minute or two and be able to suggest to you ways that you could turn that passion into something actionable, tangible, and marketable.
I guess I have a bit of a gift for coming up with ideas. But it’s not all good, like the gifts I get from people (which can often be returned for cash). This gift is more like Gizmo, that little cutie from the Gremlins movies. You know, the one who spawned thousands of mutant brothers and sisters out of his back once he got a little water on him?
The water in my case would probably be the modern Internet, which allowed me to see every idea and possibility as something that could spread wildly across its target population, eventually reaching global (and then universe-wide) saturation. At first, it was just my ideas that I saw that way. That later gave way to the trend I mentioned above, where your idea was the seed I wanted to cultivate into a giant forest. And I still want to do that…if I can ever get control of my own mob of gremlins, who continue to spawn on a daily basis.
You see, it wasn’t just the Internet that has helped me become such an idea generator. If it was, I could just shut it down. (Sometimes I’m not sure I ever should have invented it in the first place.) But whenever I go to blame the Internet for my excess of new ideas, it’s always like, “Hey man, don’t blame me. This crap didn’t really become a problem until you got your voice recorder.”
That’s not true. The Internet is a big stinky liar. OK, maybe it’s kind of true. I certainly didn’t have a backlog of 8,000+ recorded notes before I owned a digital voice recorder (which is basically a tape recorder with an infinite capacity, where recordings can be transferred to the computer). I’ve been capturing virtually all new ideas and storing them on my computer for almost 8 years now.
So yes, about 1,000 recorded notes a year, on average. (Sigh.) Though not every one of those is a brand new project or idea; many notes refer back to existing things, and some projects have dozens of notes associated with them. Still, there are a LOT of recordings that begin with “Here’s an idea for a…”, which I have never even played back once. I’ve laid down so many new ideas and projects in there, that I often when I do hear them, I don’t even recognize them!
Which begs the question: why even bother coming up with all that stuff, if I might not ever get around to acting on most of it? I have a few ways to answer that. One answer involves pretending that I’m going to someday have the resources to mine through all those recordings and manifest whatever remains which is worthy. Another involves a fantasy where my recordings become this famous public archive after I’m dead (titled “Portrait of a Freak’s To-Do List”, perhaps.)
Actually, when I bought my first voice recorder, I thought the purpose was to make sure that I didn’t lose or forget any more ideas. That’s still what drives me to make sure it’s in my pocket whenever I leave my house, and that’s what gets me to press Record whenever I am struck with a new song, poem, business concept, website, screenplay, book, speech, non-profit service, or other idea.
But when I listen to old recorded notes, or I leaf through my stored files, I get a strange feeling which I think speaks to the true value of my giant mountain of ideas.
The feeling is relief. Given the amount of crowding in my head on any given day from all the new “gremlins” hatching out of my “gizmo”, I think that if I hadn’t released the ideas I did, I’d probably be wandering the streets somewhere, talking to the sidewalk cracks (and my imaginary pixie friend, Stuart Rumplesby).
So even if I never get around to acting on my 8,000 notes from the past, at least I’ve ensured that I can stay sane enough to keep making more of them. Which may seem small to you, but given the alternative, I’m counting it as a win.
Lance Brown is an avid idea collector, who actually considered starting a business called Idea Man. But he did not begin the recording of that idea with “Note to Self:”, and asks that you never do so either. Find Lance here: http://lancebrown.org and follow him here: http://twitter.com/freelancelance