Suggestions for more consistently seeing the hidden potential in everything

Make this your mantra:

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” – Steve Jobs

James Altucher suggests writing a list every day of ideas:

“So start now, every day list 10 ideas. I make a list every day. It can be a list on anything. Today I did a list of 10 kindle singles I can write. One of them I will pick and do within the next 2-3 weeks. The other day I did a list of ideas I could maybe use as standup material. The day before that I did a list of 5 Ways in which Procrastination is Great.

In my first successful business, Reset, I would come up with 10 ideas a day for each of my clients. Ideas that could help them improve their websites. In my business, Stockpickr, I would come up with at least 10 new ideas for features every day. (i have 100s of waiters pads lying around with ideas listed from the past 20 years) When I was running my fund of funds I would come up with 10 ideas a day to get new clients. Other days I make list of businesses I can start. And some days I make list of features that can be added to businesses I’ve already started.

Or blog post ideas. I have 80 blog posts in my Drafts folders as a result. Most of them have good lists but I’m not satisfied with the writing yet. So what happens after a year: you have 3650 ideas. Out of those maybe one or two might be decent. BUT, the more you do it, the better the muscle is. Then people will start saying, ‘Man, you are an IDEA MACHINE!’ I want you to be an idea machine. I really want it for selfish reasons. I need some help on something. Once you are ready you can give me ideas on where this blog is going.”

And finally here’s my advice:

Broaden your interests. Read magazines about stuff you have no clue about. Develop your tastes. Combine new things and dream about the results. Push yourself into uncomfortable situations. Sit with the problem. Pinpoint inefficiencies. Determine from a wide perspective what is really worth doing. Will this be worth the time, energy, etc. Don’t start anything until you know how you want it to end.

Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.