Do you still lament an opportunity you missed five years ago?
Or you are where you are because you’ve had no opportunities. Or you’ve been faced with too many opportunities and couldn’t make up your mind.
Opportunities are ten for penny: you have to learn to spot them.
Even better, you have to learn to create them.
Even better yet, you have to learn how to create opportunities and how to ensure that you’ve done all in your power to realise them.
It doesn’t matter whether it is about getting a job, creating work, performing at work, building a business or developing a side hustle.
Anyone can do it! You can do it.
After all, an ‘opportunity’ is nothing more than a problem that you have solved in a creative way.
This is the ultimate guide to help you generate, develop and implement projects so successful that they’ll impress a teenager.
The Guide is structured in 10 steps: from the idea generation stage to celebration (and everything in-between).
This post is long. Be patient and pay attention: it may really change the way you do things.
#1. Work on these ideas
When it comes to ideas, most people sit around, waiting for the Eureka moment to slap them in the face.
I don’t believe in Eureka. Okay, it did happen; it does happen. People suddenly have an idea, a flash of inspiration.
The reason I don’t believe in Eureka moments is not because these don’t happen; I don’t believe in them because they are usually the bright explosion at the end of a process of long, slow burn.
Ideas don’t come out of the blue; these are shapes through a long sustained effort. And fast and wild imagination.
Trouble is, most people have very limited imagination and aren’t able to come up with any ideas. (I believe this happens not because we humans are not imaginative, creative and entrepreneurial but because socialisation and education ‘beat’ those out of us).
Even the people who come up with ideas routinely generate ideas that are not interesting, original and transforming.
Have you heard people say: ‘I’ve been doing this for 10 years’ when claiming expertise?
This is why the ‘ideas generation business’ is hard.
Industrial societies and economies thrive on perfecting doing what is done. This is achieved by doing the same thing again and again and becoming an expert.
The age of the expert is ending. Welcome the age of the maverick!
Translated this means, that you may find it difficult to generate ideas: this is only natural. Still, you have to learn to generate ideas because this is what the new network economy demands.
Don’t give up!
James Altucher claims, and I agree, that becoming an ‘ideas factory’ is a matter of practice and training; that our ability to generate ideas has to be trained just like you’d train your body to run a marathon.
Exercise: Become an ‘ideas factory’ by generating ten to fifteen ideas every day (morning is best) on anything that takes your fancy. You’ll start seeing results in about two week (it will get easier and your ideas will start making more sense).
To come up with ideas for a successful project:
- Create lists of ideas on what the project may be about.
- Make the same list several times – you’ll see that some ideas will stubbornly stick around but you’ll also come up with ideas you didn’t even know you have in you.
- Select the ideas that sound like they may be a possibility.
Repeat the idea generation at any point where there is a problem and you need imaginative solutions.
Keep a record of this exercise. (I usually do this using pen and paper and keep the lists in a normal folder. Mind-maps also work very well.)
#2. Dream the dream
This is the wacky part of the process of getting a project off the ground.
What I want you to do is to spend ten minutes just dreaming each of the ideas you’ve already selected as a possibility.
Sit comfortably, make sure that you won’t be interrupted and start dreaming. See in your mind (in great detail) what realising the idea will be like. Don’t judge, don’t criticise and don’t put yourself down.
In your dream, you are omnipotent and anything is possible.
It is very important to go into great detail. If you will write a novel dream about holding it in your hands. How long is it? What is on the cover? Dream about how it feels in your hands? How does it feel to be holding your published novel in your hands?
Write down (record) your dreams and put them in your folder. Mark the dream(s) that felt right: you felt great and the butterflies in your belly were ones of excitement not fear.
#3. Make a plan
Remember I said that you are omnipotent?
Forget it! This is only possible in a dream.
Now, you have to look at you dream and ask yourself the following question:
What do I need to do so that my dream can become reality?
A list of all that you need, all the conditions you need to create, with deadlines is usually called ‘a plan’.
Make a list of the resources you think you need to get your idea the ground.
Have a second look and adjust ‘the needs’.
Set up realistic deadlines in sequences.
If, for instance, you want to design an app, you’ll most likely need:
- Excellent coding skills (are you going to do it or you need a partner)
- Splendid graphics;
- Knowledge of the market;
Keep going! How are you going to make sure that you have the resources you need?
Create a plan for your idea. Write it down and put in your folder.
#4. You need a strategy
Usually when people talk about strategy, they talk about what they want to do.
A strategy is about knowing what everyone around you (in the niche) is doing and how are you going to implement your plan using this knowledge.
To develop a strategy for your project you need to:
Know who the other actors ‘in the field’ are. This means you should:
- Know who you compete with;
- Know who you cooperate with;
- Know who you learn from;
- Who can help you with your undertaking;
- Who is likely to object;
- What are you going to do about it?
Research the developments in your niche. Answer the questions mentioned above and any other questions you consider relevant. Develop a strategy, write it on a page and put it in your project folder.
#5. Ideas and plans without actions are good for nothing
Now that you have a plan and a strategy, you need to map your actions.
Go back to your plan and to your strategy. Make lists of small actions that will get you to the desired outcome within the planed timeframe. You should generate a list for every day.
Make sure that you assign yourself no more than two or three actions per day and that these can be completed in no more than 30-40 minutes.
You have to break the big and daunting task in smaller, doable parts.
Record these actions and put a copy in your project folder. Another copy you pin above your desk and make sure that every evening you know what you are doing the next day that will bring you closer to the completion of your project.
#6. You have a prototype and have to make it better
This step is about refinement.
To get back to the example with designing an app (or any piece of writing) your first aim is to have the whole app.
Please do not fall in the ‘perfection game’ – if you wait till it is perfect you’ll never get it out. You have to make sure that it is good enough.
A mistake that many creators make (irrespective of what they create) is that they stop at the ‘good enough’ stage.
To develop a product that is not simply good enough but outstanding you need to get back to it and improve it continuously.
Perfection is not an act but a process.
Look at the prototype you’ve created. What are the three things you can change that will make it 80% better? Do them!
I’ve separated this one as a step in the process but in reality monetisation is something creators have to keep in mind while creating.
Having an idea who would use your app (monetisation) will affect the way in which you develop it. Deciding whether or not to involve users while designing the app is not only a feedback loop – it is also a channel for monetisation.
As Robert Kawasaki once said, it is important to ask yourself all the time ‘who gives a sh*t?’ If the answer is ‘nobody’ forget about monetisation and go back to the first step.
Come up with ten ideas for monetising your project; record them and place them in your project folder.
#8. Feedback loops
It doesn’t matter whether you are designing a app, writing a book or starting a business – to create something that contributes value to people’s lives you need to solicit feedback; and solicit it often.
You’ll need to decide:
- Who do you ask for feedback?
- What are the points in the creative process at which feedback is absolutely essential?
- How to act on the feedback?
One issue here is that when you solicit feedback, you have to make sure that at least some of it is critical (you learn little by people simply telling you that things are great) and that you are strong enough to take it.
It is very painful to hear people critiquing your creating – train yourself to react rationally rather than emotionally.
Every time you get critical comments, ask yourself whether these are helping you make your creation better. If the answer is ‘yes’ then use the feedback to make it better.
#9. Cope with the fear of creation
Creation is frightening. This is largely because of:
- The effort that is necessary;
- The level of uncertainty it involves; and
- Fear of failure.
There are ways that people have worked out to cope with the fear of creation (see Jonathan Fields’ book).
Some of these are:
- Create rituals for creation. Figure out when is the best time for you to work on your creative project and do it. Do it for a certain period of time (30 minutes, for instance) every day.
- Create a support network (beehive). Surround yourself with people who go through a similar experience as you do. Going back to our example with creating a computer game, you need to create a ‘beehive’ for yourself consisting of other people who are creating computer games. Meet once a week for coffee and share your experience of creation.
- Break down your creative project into small stages that are simpler.
- Do not fear the judgement of others. Most of us are eager to please and be pleased. So when we have this fear that others won’t like or appreciate our work. Don’t fear the judgement of others; use it to make your work better!
- Go to ‘ground zero’. Use few minutes to write down what is the worst thing that will happen if your project fails. Put it aside. Read what you’ve written on the day after. Is it so horrid? What can you do to offset the worst possibilities? Once you’ve done this, you’ll see that it is not as frightening after all. And if you fail, you’ll be ready to try again.
This one is pretty obvious, really.
When everything works have a party. Give yourself a big pat on the back (this can take different form depending on what you really like. I’ll probably get some jewellery but then something never change.)
After the celebration, start from the first step. This is what makes life fun!
You want to write a book?
Start a business?
Develop a proposal?
Follow the 10 steps in this guide to develop and implement ideas so successful they’ll impress a teenager!