The key is to flex your “idea muscle” every day

Key Takeaways

  • Making “idea lists” every day tunes your brain to constantly find solutions to difficult problems.
  • Pushing past obvious solutions makes your brain “sweat” but results in solutions that will positively impact your business.
  • Discovering ideas that “lights your heart on fire” can change your life — if you build upon them with additional ideas.

What is your “idea muscle”? It’s a concept I first heard from author and podcaster James Altucher. At one point in his life, Altucher felt so low he contemplated suicide. He even created lists of different ways to kill himself.

The process of making those lists started him on a habit that he attributes to not only saving his life but to opening up a world of constant opportunities.

The habit that saved his life was flexing his idea muscle every day. Those lists were “idea lists,” and he began to write down at least 10 ideas every day. His lists could be about anything: 10 exotic dishes to make for dinner, 10 new routes to get to work, 10 ideas to improve his office space, etc.

Altucher says that the first three ideas come easy and fast, the next couple are much tougher, and the last five will make your brain sweat. The trick is to not get too caught up on listing only good ideas, because 99 percent of them will not be great, and that’s okay.

Why flex your “idea muscle”?

As with any exercise plan, it takes weeks or months before you start to see the benefits of flexing your idea muscle. Altucher says that you will need to flex it every day for six months to become an “idea machine.”

Becoming an idea machine will change your life in amazing ways, and it will give you the confidence to find solutions to your problems, and the problems of others, at will. When confronted with obstacles, your idea muscle will kick in and instantly start producing possible solutions.

Imagine how you could help impact clients and friends when they come to you for counsel. Think about how this talent could help salvage real estate deals and open doors to new opportunities. You could help builders find new ways to get more jobs, and help business owners find new ideas to spark more sales.

If you share ideas with them and ask nothing in return, chances are good that they’ll refer business to you.

Ideas that light your heart on fire

The added benefit of working out your idea muscle is that occasionally you’ll come up with an idea that lights your heart on fire with excitement. When that happens, make your next list of 10 ideas be about that original idea: 10 ways you could implement the idea, 10 possible challenges with the idea, or 10 ways you could enlist help from others to implement the idea.

In other words, devote your next idea lists to exploring that original idea and see if you still feel it’s great. You’ll know when you have a potential great idea because it will fill you with the kind of excitement that makes you want to stay up all night working on it. You won’t even feel tired because you’ll be lit up with drive and anticipation.

Start now

Start flexing your idea muscle now, and soon you’ll feel your idea machine kick into high gear. Start with an easy list: 10 new dishes to fix for dinner. Then try a list that applies to your business: 10 ways I waste time, and 10 ways I can be more productive. Real estate agents will find it valuable to brainstorm 10 new ways to spread the word about a new listing.

The point is: just get started, and strengthen that muscle.