Two Tools for Finding Good Ideas

If there’s one thing that’s true about the good ideas I’ve had, it’s that they didn’t show up immediately.

I’m not saying anything new here. John Cleese and others have been calling it from the rooftops for years.

But what I can share are some tools that have been helpful for me.

When I go walking in the morning, I’m scavenging for ideas. And the first round of ideas usually stinks. They’re at the top of the pile, the easiest things to grab, and they grow right from my mind’s standard operating procedures.

But here’s the key: I need to be patient here and not judge myself for how dull and unimpressive the first round was.

If I can do this, I’ll bumble my way – and it is a bumble, I’ve never found this process to be a straight shot – to a second round of ideas. These are a little more lively and unexpected. Usually not great, but these ideas that are further down in the pile are fresher and freer.

And then, I’ll start banging into a third, fourth, fifth round of ideas. And somewhere here, deep in the middle of the pile, there are often, though not always, a few unpolished rubies.

But I’ve never once been able to get to those middle-of-the-pile ideas without starting at the top of the pile. So, it helps if we give ourselves time. And, equally as important, it helps if we resist the desire for self-judgement during those preliminary rounds of ideas.

And if you said, Okay, great, Caitie. But what tools can I use to find good ideas? I’d say that the hands down best tools I know are patience and self-compassion.

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