Plight of an Idea Hoarder
Most people gather new ideas to feel smart. Smart people try new ideas to see if they work.
You know who I used to be? An idea hoarder.
I grew up idolizing different entrepreneurs, especially inventors. After reading every story possible on Thomas Edison, The Wright Brothers, and Kōnosuke Matsushita (the founder of Panasonics who is said to be the king of Japanese inventors), I fancied myself as a fellow inventor.
I once had an idea notebook where I would write down every future invention idea I encountered - ranging from shoes with caterpillar tracks to VR bicycles.
That was decades ago. Now, years later, a surprising amount of these ideas from the notebook actually became reality.
But do you know how many of these ideas I’ve tried myself?
Not even one.
Why? Well, life got in the way. I pursued my education, a corporate job, started a family, etc.
But more importantly, that notebook itself prevented me from actually doing anything. Because the act of collecting more ideas in it made me feel warm and comfortable. I could tell myself: I am sure a few of these ideas are billion-dollar ideas. One day, I would try them all, one-by-one, until I become successful.
The problem was, the more ideas I added, the more confusing my future roadmap looked, and the more reluctant I was to try any of them. Validating an idea was really hard, but trying to decide which one to try was even harder. They all sounded good! If I picked one, that meant I wasn’t picking another.
What if I ended up wasting my time on the million-dollar idea instead of the billion-dollar one? What a horrific tragedy would that be?
That pain made me not want to try anything. And do you know what the best agent for numbing pain was? Yes. Doing what was easy and comfortable - collecting more ideas.
Until years later, I saw my notebook again and had this epiphany: Wow! I’m an idea hoarder.
Soon after that, I encountered another idea.
I was reading an online entrepreneurship forum on the topic of rejection. Someone mentioned Rejection Therapy, a card game for people to seek rejection for 30 days to overcome fear. Many people commented on how interesting the idea was. One guy even wrote, “hmm… maybe it’s time for an experiment. I’ll try this someday.”
Right away, I recognized this “I’ll try this someday” pattern. This guy says he’ll try it. He’s NEVER gonna try it. This is a fellow idea hoarder!
It takes one to know one.
Well, guess who actually tried the new idea this time? Me! I don’t want to be an idea hoarder anymore.
I took the idea immediately and did 100 Days of Rejection, which propelled me to internet fame, a book deal, a mega TED talk, and a speaking career. In fact, you are here probably because you read/watched/saw one of these media pieces. Learning the new idea completely changed my life purpose and trajectory.
Well, did it, though? Rejection Therapy wasn’t new. It was already a thing before my vlog. Thousands of people read the same forum thread I did. The only reason it impacted me this much was how fast and determined I was to try it out. Rejection Therapy would have made no difference in my life if I had just filed the concept away again in my notebook and talked about it during parties to make myself look smart. In other words, learning the idea didn’t change me. Doing it did.
Because of this experience, I am no longer an idea hoarder. I am now an idea doer. In the past 10 years, I’ve tried hundreds of ideas, ranging from marketing, product, social media, etc. I’ve kept the best ones and discarded the ones that didn’t work.
If you come across a new idea you like, put it into practice as soon as possible. If the idea isn’t a fit or doesn’t work, discard it just as fast. But if it works, keep doing it and make it a part of you. That’s how ideas can make a real difference.
Here is my challenge for you. Do you have ideas you’ve always wanted to try? Act on them in the next month. Every day, work on this idea. By the end of the month, you’ll get a good sense if it works or not. If it works, it might become the next big thing and change your life. If it doesn’t, let it go! You can do it with peace and love. Maybe host a small funeral for your once beloved idea, like Michael Scott did for a dead bird in The Office.
If you want to join me, I am hosting a 28-day Idea Doer Camp on Sisyphi. I will provide a list of actions that you can take to validate your idea, and walk you through them everyday.
But no matter if you do this yourself or with me, don’t remain an idea hoarder.