The author mentions piles of lore and doing research. For me, research was basically entrepreneurial porn. My mind thought I was getting something that it really wasn't. I thought I was making progress by researching everything but in reality, I was just building piles of lore. A company I'm currently working on, with all this in mind, I've decided to do no extra research beyond what is needed in the moment. Forcing myself to steer clear of the research trap and instead only work on what is going to get me to the next point.
I could go on and on about this topic, it's not talked about nearly enough. It seems like everyone has an idea for a company, app, startup, etc. Us developers sometimes roll our eyes. We think it's their idea that is bad, or that they're just following the startup hype. In reality though, none of that is true, the reason there idea isn't coming to life is because they're simply not doing it.
Since having children, I no longer have ideas, and rarely work on anything than paid contract work.
Has anyone else experienced this? I feel void of ideas.
It often seems like today's marketplace is one of "me too" ideas. "Me too" ideas are boring. Like hearing a really fascinating story at a dinner party, and then the person next to them tells a worse version of something similar, and then the person next to them tells a still worse version of similar, but slightly different thing, and so on until the conversation reaches you and you realize that the last person talking to you was actually a plain baked-potato, but you didn't notice because the level of intrigue had dropped so low that a butterless, chiveless, baconless potato had stolen the spotlight.
When I was younger the "computer" part of computer science was enough to keep my attention, as I get older I'm finding that the "science" part is what sustains my engagement with the field.
After a certain point in your life, you grow convinced that you've seen it all before, and that has a way of draining you of excitement. Children are a common tipping point because they also make you less selfish. Nobody is asking you to make those projects, so it has to come from within, and if you act only for others, you never get around to it, because there's always another household crisis looming in the distance.
The only way to pull through is to turn it into a habit, instead of relying on your whims alone.
I actually think this is due to having less time to just explore the internet, read about interesting things, try out other products, etc. I spent a large amount of time doing that when I was freelancing and although it might seem like a waste of time on the surface, I believe it was what allowed me to connect certain dots about niche opportunities that weren't being exploited that I might not otherwise have noticed.
My teenage sons are my primary project. Work is the side project.
Having kids takes that time away by default, so you have to take it back yourself and of course it's always a trade-off.
For me the trade-off is: be active with the kids and house and life and push through all the time. In this case I'm pretty much wasted by the time they go to bed and can only sustain imgur or netflix for a bit before I go to sleep. The other option is to realise that it's better for everyone if I get some time for myself as well, so I take it. Some evenings I don't spend time with the kids for example and don't do anything much else either. In this case the next day I'm full of ideas and excited to try new stuff and I see that everyone around me is also better off due to this.
So, for me the lesson has been - learn to take time for yourself. Simply because in the long run it's better for everyone, both you and the people around you.
Children alone brings in a lot of first hand experience and perspectives which have manifested in lots of ideas around products, services etc. both for kids and their parents.
But also bigger areas.
But I think it boils down to priorities.
i did have one coworker at my old job who said that the limited free time he got once he had kids motivated him to be more productive, and actually made him better at getting side projects done. probably the exception, and he was a pretty motivated and focused guy anyway, as far as i could tell.
Since my kid was born, every idea I have goes through a process of 'will it make money'->'how much'->'how long will it take'->'what is the actual $ amount per hour it requires' and if it falls lower than a very big number, I just ignore (and usually racionalize it as not worth it) and go play with my kid.
I think kids change our ambitions too. We care more about them than more broadly changing the world.
But when THAT idea strikes, I know I'll chase it.
Build a habit of working everyday on one project. It's cool to get excited about a new project, but unless I change my daily routine to fit in time to work on said project, nothing will ever get created.
Successful companies and projects aren't created on fleeting enthusiasm.
...and has a blog:
...and here are some video lectures:
...any recommendations on the books?
Can't help to wonder how oddly the pattern is to something else.
Though I still think it stems from the inability to make a decision. That's what I would say is the core. The dopamine kick as just medicine so you won't feel like shit all the time. Some amateur science here.
So why didn't I just delete those items? Because writing down that stuff helps me not to think about it the whole day if I don't want to.
The IDEAS list grows and grows, but that's okay. I don't feel obliged to implement any of these ideas. Whenever I recall an idea, I go to that document, add some notes, and that's it. No deep research, no domain buying, no name searching. Just writing or extending on what comes to my mind, and roughly structuring it.
From time to time it happens that I do want to implement one of these ideas. And in that case I have some nice, simple spec to start from.
As a side note, I started to do that after I read "Writing, Briefly" from Paul Graham (http://paulgraham.com/writing44.html), which contains the following great advice:
when you finish, leave yourself something easy to start with;
accumulate notes for topics you plan to cover at the bottom of the file;
don't feel obliged to cover any of them;
As a final note, this concept seems to be somehow related to the Not-To-Do list that some people advocate.
* IDEA: This is neat and could be helpful, but is probably okay if it never gets done.
* TODO: Not doing this has some measurable ill effect. Maybe maintainability or constraining scale.
* FIXME: This is a temporary work-around while finishing a feature. It should never be shipped.
Nowdays I moved to paper so NSA can not read my ideas and tasks anymore. For TODOs I use one paper sheet per project/subject and carry all these 10-12 sheets in a folder. Then I move the tasks on my daily TODO list in Moleskine... For IDEAS: I draw/sketch/write them on paper and store them in archive folder (just in case I need it)... :-)
I don't think that paper is a good medium for that. Often I'm not sure if I had written about this or a similar idea yet, so full text search is very handy here. Also, I'm sometimes changing ideas, which is also not so good on paper (unless you use pencil & rubber instead of a pen).
edit Also do you have anything written down about using org-mode for todos and ideas?
Indeed! The concept of a "spark file" describes exactly what I'm doing.
> Also do you have anything written down about using org-mode for todos and ideas?
This is pretty basic Org-mode usage. My To-Do list is just nested headings, each with a TODO or DONE marker (Shift+Left, Shift+Right). My IDEAS list doesn't even have those markers, it is just nested headings and nested lists. The only "advanced thing" that I do is moving items via Mod+Up and Mod+Down. This is very handy, as that moves the whole subtree up and down. And I'm using the "Tab" key for folding and unfolding subtrees.
Org-mode offers much more than what I'm using here. I'm not yet a power-user of Org-mode. For example, the "agenda view" might simplify a lot of what I'm doing (not for IDEAS, but for TODO, meetings, etc). But I didn't find the time to dig deeper into Org-mode yet.
'(("w" "Agenda and Next todos"
((agenda "" ((org-agenda-ndays 1))) ;show anything scheduled for today including habits
(todo "NEXT|IN PROGRESS"
((org-agenda-overriding-header "Working On"))) ;things that I am currently working on
((org-agenda-overriding-header "Check Todo's"))) ;Todo items to check on periodically
((org-agenda-overriding-header "Waiting On"))))))) ;things I am blocking on
EDIT: Nevermind: http://orgmode.org/
It's a hackathon weekend when you're not allowed to start anything new. You are only allowed to bring things to finish. It's not strictly coding, we've had lawyers, screenwriters, artists, authors, and sewing projects completed. The positive peer pressure is great.
When you finish something, you get to ring a bell so we can celebrate briefly.. and then get back to work.
And there are no prizes, just the satisfaction of getting things done.
Do you guys do anything in Chicago?
Drop me an email and I'm happy to chat details. :)
I'll be in Montreal in a few weeks for Confoo and would love to chat over a beer or coffee.
I'm as guilty as anyone of amassing ideas and half-baked projects in various files and/or boxes of junk around the house, but I don't think of them as debt. They're all opportunities. Some are good, some are bad, and some have been missed, but they're not debt. I happen to think that some of them have the potential to make me a lot of money should I choose to implement them, but there are no guarantees. There is nobody out there saying, "Here's a check for $20M if you implement that idea right there, and you get to keep half."
'Follow your dreams'...'Do what you love and the money will follow'...'Nothing ventured, nothing gained' these are phrases that all sound great from the other side of success, but when you have a normal life with a family and a mortgage, the decision to pursue your opportunities is not as cut and dried. Having to weigh the consequences of not earning a paycheck to pursue one of these opportunities against food on the table or missing a mortgage payment, or even just not spending those evening free-time hours with your kids changes the equation substantially.
As I type that, it occurs to me for the first time that I grew up in an environment where that was explicitly said to me sometimes. Even to this day, my now-retired father can be heard angsting about the projects he has not finished, and he tried his well-meaning best to pass that on to me. Perhaps this stems from the problems of leaving the physical projects he primarily works on half-done; a half-done remodeling is an ugly thing. A half-done car restoration takes up a lot of space and gets worse over time if you don't work on it as it basically rots. But creative projects have different rules. I've got at most a few hundred kilobytes of old programs lying in my sentimental directory... who cares? Who even knows? It's so tiny I tend to even forget it exists.
It's so refreshing to see someone else on the other side of start-up culture. I enjoy my current position including the people that I work with, but deep down, I would love nothing more than the option to do nothing all day if I wish. That always triggers the influx of, "Start your own business!" comments followed by, "Tons of people just quit, bootstrap and succeed!"
They ignore all of the failures. They ignore all of the people who ruined their family stability, who lost assets, or who gave up weeks/months/years of family time to chase a dream that didn't pan out. I'm not some curmudgeon who believes that chasing dreams is for suckers; I feel like it's very reasonable to want to set yourself up for continued stability (much like a 3-6 month emergency fund) if you're gambling your family's financial and mental well-being on your dream.
I agree with your point but I don't think that "taking entrepreneurial risks" is the emphasis of the author.
Instead, her theme seems to be more similar to these soundbites:
- he talks a big game but doesn't follow through with anything
- he has grandiose ideas but doesn't take any action
- he's stuck on "analysis paralysis"
Those ideas can be applied to other goals besides business execution. Goals like programming an ambitious open-source Facebook clone, learning ten foreign languages, climbing Mt Everest, etc.
In the meantime 'idea investment' is spot on.
Great idea. Not gonna do it. So I should stop doing any work on it.
I can't find the reference right now but it reminds me from a scheme from Feynman.
He would keep a few ideas he's very familiar with in mind. Then every time he would be exposed to a new concept, he would consider each of his "core" ideas in light of this new concept.
most ideas hold little variance, and other people will have them. But some ideas can hold so much variance that no, nobody else in the world will even think about it.
Self-regulation of goal setting: turning free fantasies about the future into binding goals.
Oettingen G1, Pak H, Schnetter K.
Abstract: Fantasy realization theory states that when people contrast their fantasies about a desired future with reflections on present reality, a necessity to act is induced that leads to the activation and use of relevant expectations. Strong goal commitment arises in light of favorable expectations, and weak goal commitment arises in light of unfavorable expectations. To the contrary, when people only fantasize about a desired future or only reflect on present reality, expectancy-independent moderate goal commitment emerges. Four experiments pertaining to various life domains supported these hypotheses. Strength of goal commitment was assessed in cognitive (e.g., making plans), affective (e.g., felt attachment), and behavioral terms (e.g., effort expenditure, quality of performance). Implications for theories on goal setting and goal striving are discussed.
too academic, didnt read: To act, also think about now instead of only dreaming what could be.
But what you posted is interesting and seems to be a perfect fit here and my project app/game graveyard. Someone actually said that I'm not building, im playing with borrowed Lego, pretty much sums it up. I think it boils down to analysis paralysis, that's the root cause. Any anxiety, any doubt, lack of focus, and procrastination stems from that. At least arrived at after really digging.
I think the idea people should be a little less protective of their ideas, especially the ones they know will never get made, and flesh them out just enough so others can run with it, and then put it out there somewhere.
I know there's a couple sites based on this concept, but maybe it could be something where ideas could get upvoted and the more visible ones might get people on board.
I don't know, sometimes I think that's what people are trying to do when they make a project open-source sometimes.
But yeah, there's a bunch of junk I come up with that aren't bad ideas, but I'll never realistically invest the time to get them done, especially considering all my other projects.
("Yet Another Ad Network" doesn't capture my imagination)
I run a business. I've had ideas, and implemented them. I have ideas for future stuff.
In both cases, the ideas are hard to separate from me. I know the market, I know the users, I know what I can create, I know enough relevant tech.
I could give the ideas to another domain expert, and they could probably implement them. Though they'd have their own take on things. That would change things. Some for the good, some for the better.
Obviously, you can get ideas from external sources. But they'll be more powerful if they're based on your own experience or readings, so that you can bring everything to bear.
To be creative, you have to just create. Just find something small and work on that if you need a place to start.
One of my favorite projects was a (not illegal) archival site building off a private p2p tracker php app and writing a custom software that would automatically download and virus scan any uploaded torrents, and then approve the listing with the virus scan results.
If anything fishy had ever popped up, the plan was to remove it later. My partner and I were really the only ones who uploaded anything tho :P
Additionally, it is important to keep in mind how many bad ideas become well-funded enterprises. Sometimes an idea is carried out just as an opportunity to arrive at a better idea.
Anyway, I've had plenty of cases where I take notice of my original idea, and weeks later with a more worked-out solution in my head, I look at the notes and realize that my original idea was indeed much better than what I had on my head.
“Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
It seems a bit odd, but the guy did make millions repeatedly (after squandering 100% of his wealth, repeatedly).
Idea debt is over-valuing existing ideas. You just have a few dozen plans that you keep going over and not acting on.
Coming up with a bunch of ideas would make that harder. You would have thousands and thousands if you kept them, so you just discard them while still improving the skill of having good ideas for when it counts.
Maybe the dangerous thing is when ideas are in a state where maybe they're plans but you're uncertain and instead of executing on them or deciding not to you just let them accumulate and sap your attention.
At work, our team isn't the biggest bunch of sports fans so our shoot-the-sh1t talk is primarily fantasy start-up ideas.
We bounce the ideas off each other, critique them, laugh. Just in the last week;
I want to create a VR game that's sync'd to your music and you hook up your exercise machine to to move through the game. (inspired by a DIY post here on HN)
My boss has moved on from a device that will shut down every device in the house for family dinner onto some Medical thing he's 'working on' with a colleague.
It's all good fun, creative & social.
Moving from a daydream to some actual artefacts the first step _away_ from Idea Debt, not further into it.
In technical terms, this could be writing a script instead of building an application or creating a spec and some documentation before writing some code. I'd argue that this is where you start to flesh-out and make real your idea.
Binders of "lore" would be an amazing resource to have at hand when you actually do come to writing your book. Surely this isn't a waste of time but it's where the idea ruminates, develops and matures. If anything, it improves the quality of an idea and can help make that idea a reality.
It being waste doesn't mean you dont need it - that's how waste builds up: you create stuff in case, or you save things in case, or you build an extra large buffer just in case. It's all done with good intentions. If one of your goals in life is to be effective you need to work to eliminate as much inventory as possible, same as the other types of waste.
Overproduction, Inventory and Overprocessing are the three most insidious types of waste - they seem like good things.
Why not gold plate the thing? Just add these few features in case you need them. Why not make a few extra just in case, why not save that thing that you may need later or maybe you will finish at some point.
The other types of waste are more clearly negative.
The problem isn't having too many ideas - it's not finishing any of them, ever. At some point you have to spend enough time on at least one project to get it out into the world.
That always means work that can be boring and feel like a chore, even if the project is the most exciting thing to happen since the invention of fire.
The difference between professionals and amateurs is that professionals have a balanced tolerance for that part of the process, and understand that you have to do at least some of the boring stuff to finish.
Amateur dabblers have none at all. When they get bored they move on, so they never finish anything. (In extreme cases they never truly start.)
The thing is that without inventory, you can't build anything. Manufacturers optimize their supply chains to keep minimal inventory and reliably acquire the supplies they need just before they run out.
...but the creative supply chain is not reliable. You need a lot of inventory because good ideas might not arrive right before you need them. Fortunately, a binder full of notes is a lot easier to manage than manufactured parts for thousands of cars.
While they would be far away from a video game or something...
To this day I am still struggling to return to where I constantly started projects all over the place only to leave them unfinished. It was so, so much better that way.
Idea | | |
Debt | \ |
| \ |
| \ |
| \ |
| `. |
| `b |
| \ |
| `. |
| ' _ |
| "o |
| `.. |
| `-. |
| `-.._ |
| `--.. |
Now it is a separate list, entitled "n-th-priority-tasks-tml.md". And I try to keep no regret for not doing things.
For doing, as cheap as it may sound "just do it". As I heard from one writer "Imperfect books have one advantage: they exist". (At least for me perfectionism is the prime reason for delaying such projects.)
And one advice from a friend of mine, when I was delaying (for 2 years) writing a quantum game (http://quantumgame.io, coming this March!): "the only thing you lack is sitting on your ass and writing code". She was right.
Also, one of my write ups:
"If you have a great project, do moonlight. Don’t wait for better times, because they won’t come. Maybe you overstate the need of money, institutional support or social confirmation?"
It's interesting to read that I'm not the only one doing this. See also my comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11032799
I chose the name "ideas" instead of "n-th-priority-tasks" to clearly distinguish this list from actual tasks. Because they aren't. None of those entries deserves to be named "task", until one starts to get serious about them and creates a prototype. And this will happen only to a tiny fraction of those entries.
I read your comment before posting my own. :)
When it comes to their length and (what is more important) being specified, it varies a lot. From a blog post I have in mind and can write in a few hours, to things that make take months or years.
I was thinking about making it public, but:
- most of them are idiosyncratic and a few words stands for a long idea,
- I am afraid of self-censorship (is it good enough for the public? doesn't it sound offensive?).
When it comes to tasks-ideas separation, it reminds me of http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive/phd073010s.gif (I used to have to do bullets which were there for years - and they were causing so much pain).
I don't intend to work on 90% of what's there anymore, it's not a TODO list. It's just a set of info that I may use someday later. I don't even know what's in there.
However, most ideas didn't come to live (and probably never will), and I prefer to have those in a single file instead creating a separate file or directory for each topic. The reason is that some ideas are vague, and sometime I split or merge them.
I have colossal idea debt, as measured by the size of the CurrentTask file. Scrolling past the most urgent items, I've got everything in there from ~ 'change that code' to 'Read 'To Kill a Mockingbird'' to a list of writing prompts that have moldered there for years.
The nice thing, though, is that the file forms an external inventory of my plans, intents, and ideas. Putting them in there lets me focus on what needs to be done now, while removing the fear of forgetting later. I'll periodically purge, moving the things that no longer matter into the logbook.
'Getting Things Done', David Allen
Edit: Having mentioned marketing; here is video screen cap of the book: https://youtu.be/yX4JTS-eIqQ
So why is this the case? Well, a few reasons really. One is because I have an awkward tendency to never, ever be happy with something simple. Ever. So the idea ends up getting more and more complicated, and I end up giving up after realising that even a team of about 200 people with a multi billion dollar budget couldn't successfully pull it off in a reasonable timeframe. Add a touch of perfectionism, and well, you can probably guess how many of my actual projects have even been started.
Most of the rest usually end halfway through after the fun part is over.
But maybe I'll finally try and get some stuff done this year. Like, not starting anything new until the things I was planning to work on/have already been working on are completion.
The funny thing is that I've flat out closed many boards, because I've lost interest or the idea doesn't seem to solve the problem any longer. That's OK. I think it lets me distill down the best ones for true idea investments. As long as it's full-filling and you learn something along the way, then why not?
I still have all the logos :)
This have never felt satisfied or truly happy since. I don't know what to do next.
Actually building it, requires a solution to a couple of hard problems, which themselve pull in even more. So the longer you work on it, the slower you make any progress and the easier it is to get lost just by the sheer range of ways to tackle it.
However, somehow those complex ones are just way more interesting for myself, I pick them every time over "the simple things", but the result is, that I too can't show any visible progress, because it's not done yet and no simple prototype can show/imitate the system as a whole.
If you ever discover a sound methodology for these kinds of problem, please tell me about it.
Also, TSTTCPW (the simplest thing that could possibly work). Pry a little piece of it loose. Don't think too much about which piece. Build the simplest possible version of that little piece. "Simplest" can be a tremendous challenge in itself, because scope creep and gold-plating are so easy. Part of the work will be decoupling your little piece from the rest of it. But make something that works!
I'd start by reducing it. Either generalize or make it less ambitious (whatever fits better your idea).
I'm an "early" programmer, so there's a ton I don't know. When I start breaking an idea I get to things like "oh, how do I have this running in the background while the user is still doing something?" That got me into Rails background workers, the Sidekiq and Foreman gems, etc. All were super useful for me to know about, and concepts that I knew existed in a vague sense, but hadn't actually gotten to yet.
That said, these totally take me down a rabbit hole, and are ultimately counterproductive towards the core idea if they are distracting enough.
idea debt is: the struggle with creative sunk costs. Thinking in circles about something you are interested in while accomplishing no really progress in making your idea a tangible thing.
For those of you who suffer from this, don't worry! It works out in the end, and it's just part of growing up. Reading random blog posts isn't going to solve your problem with motivation. Smoke a joint and cut yourself some slack.