For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to, consumed by, even obsessed with, ideas. I’m a meta-idea person, meaning I like to spend a lot of time thinking about the idea of ideas. I’m often accused of being “in my head.” And this time of year finds me generating more ideas than usual–partly because the holiday season gives me a bit more free time, partly because the tradition of making New Year resolutions puts me in an optimistic frame of mind.
But to be quite honest, I abandon the vast majority of my ideas. Most should be abandoned, because they aren’t very good. But some of them shouldn’t be…I should act on them. Do something with them. Yet I don’t.
I’m sure you have a lot of ideas for 2012 too. After all, it’s that time of year. The question is: what are you going to do with them?
As serendipity would have it, on New Year’s Day I stumbled across and read a short manifesto that addresses this very question, written by Tanner Christensen, who owns a boutique e-book publishing company called Aspindle. The timing was perfect, and as we head into 2012, his book How to Use Ideas delivers an inspiring mix of wake-up call and call to action.
“Maybe you can relate to the experience of abandoning ideas, of believing that some of your ideas may never work, or of being overwhelmed when the pressure of failure started to build,” writes Tanner. “It’s okay. Ideas do get abandoned or lost or pressured away from us. These things happen. There’s really nothing wrong with pushing an idea down or abandoning it all-together; it happens to the best of us. We can’t let our ideas get away from us any more. Our ideas – each one of them – has the potential to change our lives or the lives of those around us.”
Here are the four simple steps outlined in How To Use Ideas that will help you bring your ideas to life in 2012:
Step 1: Recognize your fears, but set out to pursue ideas regardless.
Says Tanner: “You have what it takes to use your ideas, even when the fear of failure or making a mistake feels overpowering and all-encompassing. You only need to acknowledge the fears your ideas stir up inside of you, and then remember that fear is no predictor of the future (if it was, we would all be very happy and rich and secure, right?). So in our process of using ideas, the first thing to do is to recognize that you will have fears and doubts, and then to push through anyway and try to do something with your ideas.”
Step 2: Give yourself time to find the right motivation for using an idea.
Here’s Tanner: “Try to recall ideas you’ve had in the past that simply faded away or somehow you forgot for a while. How many of those ideas could have been great if you had let somebody else focus on building them out? Which brings up a new problem when it comes to using ideas: acting quickly on an idea. If you want to be someone who uses his or her ideas effectively, you have to learn how to act quickly, to do something right away before the idea gets pushed under everything else going on in your life.”
Step 3: Do something with your idea right away. Start by writing it down.
Tanner again: “Write your ideas down first, always. Then, if you have time as you’re writing down the idea, ask yourself: ‘What can I do right now to make this idea more of a reality?’ Write down any answers you have for the question too, then follow through with them, immediately. If you don’t have time to think of ways to act on idea right away, at least write it down and then make a note (or, if you’re up for the task, set an alarm or reminder) to go back and think of ways you can act on the idea when you get a spare minute. Writing down your ideas won’t automatically make them a reality, of course, but doing so will provide you with the constant nagging of knowing that you have an idea that needs pursuing.”
Step 4: Dive In.
No explanation needed. Just do it. I’ll do it with you. In fact, my 2012 resolution is to follow these steps to improve my ideas-to-action ratio.
On a parting note, remember the words of the late Peter Drucker: “Ideas are cheap and abundant. What is of value is the effective placement of those ideas into situations that develop into action.”
Now, go bring your ideas to life!
Matthew E. May is the author of “IN PURSUIT OF ELEGANCE: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing.” He is constantly searching for creative ideas and innovative solutions that are ‘elegant’ – a unique and elusive combination of unusual simplicity and surprising power.