20 Mar 2009

The Impetus of Inspiration

Just over two months ago I made a promise to you. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s probably good and bad. The promise I made at the end of the article Turning off the Corporate Cruise-Control was that I would within a day or two provide a followup post detailing actions one could take with the knowledge. I have since utterly broken this promise for which I profusely apologize. As promised, I’m continuing the thread where I pointed out the obvious benefits that can come from building an Automated Income Stream, or simply, AIS.

This time around I’d like to focus mainly on what it takes to create one or more AIS’s. Ultimately, the desire and determination will have to come from within you, it’s not something I can provide for you. If you’ve read the previous post and agree with even half of what I said in it, then continue reading. If not, I truly hope that you can achieve your life goals by working for someone else, though I have found it difficult to do so. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, and neither is the corporate 8-to-5 model. Let us carry on.

Have you ever had that spark? I know that you have. It’s an experience I’m convinced everyone has had (likely) many many times during their lives. I’m talking about the time when you were minding your own business when “out of the blue” an idea came to you that was so absurdly amazing that you stopped everything you were doing just to think about it. Depending on how consumed you were with whatever it was you were doing, you spent anywhere from 15 seconds to several hours thinking about this idea. Sometimes, the idea was so good you talked about it to friends or colleagues. You might have written about it in your journal or blog, or perhaps kept it in the back of your mind for another time that was more appropriate to explore and/or act upon your initial thoughts.

You can call this process of discovery whatever you want, dumb luck, happenstance, Inspiration & Insight (wink), revelation, etc. Regardless of what you call it (though I would have to argue that it is not happenstance or dumb luck), it is Powerful. I’m sure that many people have these “Aha! moments” and simply let them slide by, or keep them around just to keep conversation. Assuming you are an entrepreneur or would like to be, DON’T let them go by! Write down your inspirations as they come. Keep a notebook or similar on you at all times, ready to take this inspiration as it comes. Write and do not edit. A sheer brain dump will always be more powerful than if you stop and think. Go on autopilot for this.

Lately, I have had a very specific biological clock regarding when my inspirations come. I either receive amazing inspirational ideas in the dead of night (generally from 1 to 4), or while showering in the morning before heading to punch the clock. My two most-recent examples:

1. Typical Programmer

For nearly a year I’ve had a specific idea kicking around in my head about a certain business product I would love to find or build. The initial idea was fairly ambiguous in nature, not like the sudden inspiration we’re talking about here. For several months I would think of it randomly, without much inspiration surrounding it. Then one night a few months ago I woke up at 3:30, the idea had finally reached inspiration status. At first I mulled the new concepts over in my mind hoping to go back to sleep and I could think about it in the morning. This was obviously not working by 4, so I decided to do something about it. I popped open my laptop, sat up in bed, and went to work. By the time I needed to start getting ready for work, I had a fairly good working copy of the application in Rails. I hadn’t dealt with specifics like design or branding, but just focused on building some of the core features that had come during the night. Since that time the idea has again taken a back-burner role while I sniff out some potentialities regarding some of the more high-level features. Even then, I have a fairly solid base to work from when I decide the time is right to come back and work on it. Lesson learned: you can get an incredible amount of work done in the middle of the night because there are zero distractions.

2. Singing in the Rain, er, Shower.

I take really long showers. Like, 30 or 40 minutes sometimes. Ok, so lately they’re usually more like 15 minutes, but still, I love hot water. The funny part is that I basically just stand there under the water the entire time, washing my hair only when I’m ready to get out. Weird quirks aside, I’ve noticed that I get quite a lot of inspiration just standing and not really thinking about much at all. It gives my mind time to wander and think about random things, rather than when I’m at work or with my wife and kids where I have to keep up some level of logical thought and concentration. So it was about a month ago when I was taking a shower, thinking about something random when the inspiration struck. For the past 9 months since the iPhone SDK has been out and available to developers, I’ve always wanted to come up with some app ideas to build and sell through the App Store. Up until this particular day, I had basically come up with a lot of really lame ideas that would be so wildly unpopular apple would surely send its thugs to break my fingers to prevent me from ever writing a line of code again. Then the inspiration came, and within a 10 minutes shower I had well over 20 new app ideas that were absolutely feasible, dare I say profitable. When I got out of the shower I immediately wrote down the bare minimum for each idea that came, then throughout the next few days gathered feedback from developers and colleagues alike regarding supposed feasibility of the apps. Since that time I have steadily been growing my knowledge of Objective-C and the iPhone SDK (many thanks be to Jason Barker on this), as well as lining up business contracts to make this a viable income stream. Lesson learned: don’t give up if the ideas don’t seem to be coming. One day they will flood you out if you are looking for it.

I was hoping to be able to contain this into a single post, but it is clear to me that I can write pages and pages about creating income streams and entrepreneurialism in general. So, I will let your eyes rest for now, and promise that a new post will come soon with more good things. I part with a query from Ryan Byrd, leave your comment below:

What are you doing today to break free?