Become an Idea Machine by Claudia Azula Altucher

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Execution is a subset of ideas.

When you exercise your idea muscle every day you become an idea machine.

The Five Big Ideas

“Ideas are the currency of life. Not money. Money gets depleted until you go broke. But good ideas buy you good experiences, buy you better ideas, buy you better experiences, buy you more time, save your life”.

“Coming up with ten ideas a day is like exercise. And exercise makes the idea muscle stronger”.

“When you come up with 10 ideas a day, or about 3000 ideas a year (depending on weather you include weekends or not), ideas will explode out of you. You will be unstoppable in every situation”.

“Idea sex is mixing ideas and releasing control. It might lead to the birth of brilliant, more powerful ideas”.

“The more value you bring to the world with your ideas, the more value you will bring to yourself, your family, and your community”.

Become an Idea Machine Summary

“Ideas are the currency of life. Not money. Money gets depleted until you go broke. But good ideas buy you good experiences, buy you better ideas, buy you better experiences, buy you more time, save your life”.

“Coming up with ten ideas a day is like exercise. And exercise makes the idea muscle stronger”.

“When you come up with 10 ideas a day, or about 3000 ideas a year (depending on weather you include weekends or not), ideas will explode out of you. You will be unstoppable in every situation”.

“Remember: complaining is draining. So I wanted to make better use of that energy rather than fight it”.

“And change can only start with us. From within by making sure we are physically healthy (take a walk, bathe, take care of your health), mentally healthy (practicing the ideas of this book), spiritually healthy by going beyond ‘thank you’ and really feeling gratitude for new and different things every day, and emotionally healthy by surrounding ourselves with people that support and cheer us up”.

“That is what happens when you train your idea muscle and then you stumble on one you love. You are acting from inspiration, there are no goals, there is just flow, there is just now, and this amazing feeling of doing something really good”.

“When an idea has electricity in it you will have no choice but to move into action. And you will love it because it will set your heart on fire”.

“Idea sex is mixing ideas and releasing control. It might lead to the birth of brilliant, more powerful ideas”.

“The more value you bring to the world with your ideas, the more value you will bring to yourself, your family, and your community”.

Recommended Reading

If you enjoy Become an Idea Machine, you may also like the following books:

Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live The Dream by James Altucher

The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher

The Rich Employee by James Altucher

One Simple Idea Summary

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 One Simple Idea shows you how to turn your ideas into licensed products and build copmanies around those that use outsourced manufacturers to produce, market, sell, ship and distribute those products.

Food-heating lunch boxes, biodegradable deodorant, a zen rap album, an easy self-tester for alcohol levels…the number of ideas I’ve come up with over the years is staggering, trust me. Sometimes I sketched them, sometimes I just made a note and on a few occasions I even ran into them in the real world a few years later, the only thing I never did, was execute them 🙂

According to Stephen Key, you don’t have to. He’s been “renting out” his own ideas for decades, coming up with small tweaks and incremental improvements to existing products and then licensing them with established companies, who go on to build and sell the product.

In this book he teaches you how to do the same. Here are 3 lessons from One Simple Idea:

Eliminate the competition by partnering with them.

  • Get your foot in the door of manufacturers with referrals from established buyers.
  • For new products, always make sure they appeal to a sub-audience.
  • Want to leisurely license your ideas and make money? Let’s do this!

Lesson 1: “Eliminate” your competition by simply partnering with them.

When you come up with ideas that are incremental improvements, they have the benefit of being validated already. If people buy red umbrellas, chances are they’ll buy green ones too. However, it also means that there will already be plenty of others trying to sell differently colored umbrellas.

Stephen suggests taking on a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality and to always explore opportunities to work together with competitors.

For example, his company Hot Picks creates fun guitar picks, covered with pictures of celebrities or shaped in the form of certain symbols or even Disney characters. Instead of starting a war with their competitor Dunlop, they simply hired them as a contractor to produce their guitar picks, turning a fight over market share into a win-win situation.

Whether these collaborations are about marketing, service or production doesn’t matter, but trying to turn enemies into allies will save you a lot of time and stress.

Lesson 2: Use referrals to get your foot in the door with good manufacturers.

One of the most crucial points of licensing out your idea for custom-designed popcorn buckets is finding someone who makes really good popcorn buckets. We’ve all bought a cheap knock-off with a wrongly spelled, fake designer brand name at least once in our lives (at least I know I have), or gotten a product that fell apart the minute we looked at it.

Renting out your ideas means that in the end, you’ll stand for the product’s quality with your name, so make sure you live up to it.

As Warren Buffett likes to say: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” Whoever manufactures your product better be good. But the best suppliers already have a lot of business, so how can you get a class A producer as a newbie?

By getting a referral. Remember the collaborations mentioned above? If you can get one of your major player allies to introduce you to their manufacturer, you’ll have a foot in the door and can negotiate a deal with someone who’ll deliver top notch quality.

You can’t just call Nike and say “I have this great idea for a running shoe, will you make it and put my name on it?” But getting John the local sports store owner to introduce you to his contact at Nike? That’s doable.

Lesson 3: When you come up with new products, make sure they appeal to a sub-audience of your current customers.

Lastly, chances are you won’t stop at renting out one idea, because if you can get it to work once, you’ll want more of it. But there’s one pitfall you have to avoid when coming up with more products that are similar to your previous one: changing the target audience.

For example, let’s say you’ve come up with an extra set of custom hiking trail maps for a car navigation system. The product’s out, it sells, people love to drive around mountains knowing where to go. So now you think “why not sell an ambient lighting system for cars that adapts depending on what music’s playing?” Sure, this is also a car gadget, but the audience is entirely different.

People who buy map sets want to go somewhere outdoors and hike, music freaks who want their lighting to match the bass probably want to stay inside the car as long as possible.

It might seem like their tangentially related, but not really. Instead, build something that either servers the same customer segment, or a sub-set. In this case this could be a portable charger for GPS systems, so people can take the maps outside, or another set with maps of good fishing lakes for hobby fishermen.

For example, Hot Picks started with picks aimed at rockers and with Disney picks just expanded their audience to teens and children – a sub-set of guitar players, but not an entirely different audience.

My personal take-aways

To be honest, I feel like I had to pull the lessons out of my ass here. They’re minute details, because that’s the only valuable thing I found here. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, the book’s subtitle is “Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work.” This is not only a bullshit statement, it’s also a lie, because everything the book describes is hard work – yes, even outsourcing takes a load of time, if done right.

The best “results” 5-star reviews on Amazon can talk about are thinking about old ideas from dusty lists – this book is not really designed to make you take action. The time frame it covers is way too long (to me it felt like 10-20 years) and if all you do is list the hoops people apparently have to jump through, then it’s no wonder no one will even get started.

Making Ideas Happen Summary

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Making Ideas Happen is a systematized approach to coming up with creative ideas and, more importantly, actually executing them, that teams and companies can use to move their business and the world forward.

Scott Belsky is an investor, entrepreneur and the author of this book. In 2006, he created Behance, a place where designers and creatives can display their work online and show their portfolios to the public. Since 2010, he’s been investing in startups in the early seed stage, and he’s hit some home runs with unicorns like Pinterest, Uber and Warby Parker.

In 2012, he sold Behance to Adobe and has focused on investing ever since. Having built such a creativity-focused company, he decided to share what he’s learned in the process in this book.

Basically, it’s a call to action for creative people to not spend too much time with their heads in the clouds and get executing. Here are my 3 favorite lessons:

  • For each new project, come up with a full task list and sort all of them into three buckets.
  • Figure out whether you are a dreamer, doer or incrementalist and then get partners that complement you.
  • Sort your projects in the right order with an Energy Line.

Ready to make 2017 the year you’ll make ideas happen? Let’s go!

Lesson 1: Break all of your projects down into tasks in three categories.

As long as you’re in school, life is wonderfully straightforward. Turn to page 19 of your workbook, do exercise 7f, 3g and 12a and you’re done for the day. But the minute you finish it and want to get something done in the real world, you’ll realize life is actually a whole lot messier.

Your boss won’t tell you who to send the email to, which task you should take care of first and what creating a marketing plan specifically contains.

But don’t fret. Scott has simple three-category approach to tackling projects, which, with a little thinking, will make your life almost as easy as it used to be in school.

Let’s say you’re given the job of hosting a workshop for your sales team. You can then start working out the three different kinds of tasks you have to take care of:

Action steps. The actual steps you have to take in minute detail, which in this case will range from “create participants list” over “book a room” to “write outline for the program,” etc.

References. Valuable pieces and sources of information you’ll want to consult or look at for your project, for example adjusting the program in accordance with all sales team leaders or looking at last year’s sales numbers so you know what needs to be improved.

Backburner items. The things that would be “nice to have,” but aren’t necessities. Decorating the room or arranging an afterwork dinner party, for example will improve your workshop, but aren’t vital parts in pulling it off and can be left aside if time gets tight.

By sorting your tasks into these three buckets, you’ll have a clear picture of what to do first and a good overview of what really needs to be done for a project to be successful.

Lesson 2: What are you? A dreamer, a doer or an incrementalist?

Knowing your tasks is one thing. Knowing yourself is another. According to Scott Belsky, there are three types of people when it comes to making creative projects a reality:

Dreamers. You know, the guy with hundreds of ideas, but not much results to show for, because he’s so preoccupied with coming up with new, arguably awesome ideas, that he has a hard time seeing one of them through.

Doers. The pragmatic girl from accounting, who always asks about the financials first, because she’s focused on what’s feasible and realistic. While good at finishing projects, she can’t really warm herself to new and exciting ideas.

Incrementalists. The people who can do both when they need to. The thing they struggle with is that they often start too many things at once and end up not finishing many projects or not giving important ones the attention they deserve.

Which one are you? It’s really not hard to discern. The second I read the definition of an incrementalist, I knew I was one. I have ideas. I execute. But I keep starting more than I can handle and then shutting down some things.

No matter which one you are, all of these have advantages and disadvantages. The point is that once you know, you can partner up with the people that complement you, because they’re a dreamer to your doer or an incrementalist to your dreamer. Together, you’ll go a lot further than alone!

Lesson 3: Create an Energy Line to make sure you spend your time on what’s most important.

Look at all those files, folders and stacks of paper on your desk. How many projects currently in progress are there? 3? 5? 10? No matter how many there are, we usually make one fundamental flaw in judging which one we should be working on right now:

Deciding based on how much energy we’ve already put into them.

It’s tough to let go of the cooperation with the local school when you’ve already put so much time into it – but if it’s not getting results, it’s not getting results.

Go through all of your projects. Sort them by strategic and economic value. Think about how important they are. Forget about the sunk costs, time and energy. Ask how much time you should put into them in the future, not how much time you have put in in the past.

The new pile will become your Energy Line – the line of your projects sorted by how much energy you’ll put into them – and it can serve as a guide for what to do next at all times.

My personal take-aways

I’m a big believer in anything that helps you become more self-aware – and this is definitely a book that helps you do that. Knowing whether you’re a dreamer, doer or incrementalist alone will have a huge impact on how you do things in the future. Thumbs up!

A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young

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An idea occurs when you develop a new combination of old elements. The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on your ability to see relationships. All ideas follow a five-step process of 1) gathering material, 2) intensely working over the material in your mind, 3) stepping away from the problem, 4) allowing the idea to come back to you naturally, and 5) testing your idea in the real world and adjusting it based on feedback.

Read the full book summary »

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