If a passive income website is the way to a better life, where do you begin? You need to come up with a great idea to pursue. But don’t wait for your muse to strike at random. If you want a good idea you’re going to have work for it. And brainstorming is the place to start.
We have all brainstormed. You have a seat at your desk or grab a conference room. You grab a cup of coffee and start slapping words onto a page or phrases on a whiteboard. It feels good at first. “I’m doing something!” There isn’t much rhyme or reason to it, but it feels right. You do this for half an hour or so, maybe a little longer, and then…what? Well, I’m guessing you take that piece of paper with all of those words and phrases and file it away, go back to checking tasks off your daily check list and then never look at those ideas again.
I don’t blame you. It is easy to hide behind a checklist. Accomplishing tasks feels good – in the short term. Brainstorming is hard. New ideas are hard. But guess what? They lead to new revenue streams and new ideas that create more options for your life. That’s something we all want but few accomplish because it is hard. But you can make something hard – like brainstorming – easier by adding it to your daily checklist.
Approaching brainstorming in fits of inspiration might be useful for some. You might develop the big idea by just tossing out ideas at random. To each his own. But successful and efficient brainstorming isn’t necessarily about writing down anything that pops into your head. It’s about developing ideas.
Take a step back—we call it brainstorming but really, it’s thinking. Let’s go one step further and call it structured thinking or thinking with purpose. All of us could and probably should spend more time thinking in a structured way. Professional life is so task-driven. Brainstorming is different. Sure, there’s an end game, but it’s far more open-ended than most of what we do each day.
We don’t know exactly where brainstorming will take us. That makes it exciting but also a little scary. It doesn’t have to be scary. It can be a tool. In fact, if you’re trying to develop ideas for new businesses, structured brainstorming can be an extremely useful tool. And like any tool with the right tips, you can learn how to master it.
Let’s get started.
I love to run. But I haven’t run in more than two months. Why? It’s hard. It’s hard to get up early and run. It’s too dark in the evenings. I’m tired. And now it’s too cold. I can keep going with the excuses. The reality is that it’s just hard to get started on anything that requires some effort, even when you appreciate and love the benefits from that something.
I like the idea of finding inspiration in the shower or while just casually gazing out of my office window—it sounds good and it sounds easy—but I’m still waiting. For some people, those big ideas seem to fall right out of the sky. Good for them. For the rest of us, we need to work at it—just like anything else.
If I want to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of running, I’ve got to do it, and I need to do it regularly. Similarly, if you want to develop ideas about making some more money, you have to get started brainstorming and you have to do it regularly.
It’s a strange concept to grasp: you have to make time to think. But it is true. We have developed into such a rapid response society that most people don’t have time to think about what they do. They just move on auto-pilot, reacting to one request after another. By the end of the day, they’re done. How many times have you heard someone say or have said it yourself, “I just want to shut my mind off and watch some mindless TV.” Everyone does it. It’s why reality television is a billion dollar industry. But imagine if you rejected that notion. Imagine the competitive advantage you would have if, while your friends watched The Bachelorette, you were thinking! That wouldn’t just lead to more money but a richer life too.
I run in the mornings. It wakes me up and makes me feel like, even if nothing goes my way for the rest of the day, I got at least one thing right. A good friend once suggested I just start running every single day for at least a mile. Some days you have more time, so run longer. Other days, time is tight, so just squeeze in that mile when you can.
Treat brainstorming the same way. Plan on spending about 30 minutes each morning—or whatever time works best for you—just brainstorming. The more manageable the timeframe, the more likely you are to stick with it. It needs to become part of your daily routine—that’s crucial. Maybe one day you only have 10 minutes. That’s OK. But get back on the horse tomorrow.
So, start by carving out 30 minutes. Find a good, quiet spot in your home where you can think uninterrupted. Shut off the TV. Put down the phone. And then incentivize yourself. What do I mean? Think of something you love doing, for example, checking Instagram. Save this as a reward for completing your brainstorming session. It sounds simple but forming sustainable habits is difficult. Every little piece of motivation can help.
Here’s an approach that has worked for me: If you’re looking to develop extra revenue, start by listing things you’re good at or that you particularly enjoy, i.e. writing, organization, project management, fishing, etc. Don’t get carried away. A list of 100 things isn’t particularly manageable; it’s just overwhelming. Shoot for five to 10 items. You don’t want the list to look just like your resume. You want to think about not just what you’re good at, but what you enjoy doing. This last point is critical. Our approach rejects the notion that you have to risk it all on an idea. You don’t need to quit your day job to jump start your life. You just need to add a little bit of work each day. That is hard to do when your plate is already full. But, doing something you love, in which the line between work and fun is blurred, will help you maintain the consistency you need to succeed. As I’ll touch upon later, consistency is the recipe for success.
Once you’ve created your list, don’t just file it away at the end of that first session; get it out tomorrow. That initial list is your base. Look critically at what’s on the page. Look at each item and try to start fleshing out—very rough—ideas for generating money from those skills and hobbies. For example, do you like to read? Somewhere a local paper is looking for a book reviewer. Are you the go-to person in your office for Powerpoint presentations? Create an online course that people can purchase (here’s how to get started! ). Take each item and just jot down the ideas that you can think of. From there, you can start to pinpoint the area or areas you want to focus on as you develop your ideas.
Now, brainstorming isn’t just about creating lists. It’s about finding inspiration, finding what excites you. And let’s be honest, there are days when the ideas just aren’t flowing. In a lot of ways, those are the days where it’s the most important to stick with it. Sometimes, I feel terrible on a run for no apparent reason; but I know those are the days when it’s the most important to power through. So when things aren’t clicking, don’t just give up. Instead double down.
To really get the inspirational ball rolling, I suggest connecting with others, either in person or through their work. Maybe you find inspiration in Steve Jobs’s story, or perhaps you can find inspiration on a smaller scale. Personally, I always get inspired when I hear other people’s stories of how they developed an idea—the nuts and bolts of how he or she executed it (hence the motivation behind this site). Maybe you have a colleague or a friend who has developed an idea into a business—ask that person to share his or her story of how they developed the idea. I tend to find inspiration in those stories that resonated with me, people that have overcome challenges similar to the challenges and obstacles I face in my own life. The important part here is finding the element of the story you connect with. For example, Lebron James’s life story might not seem comparable. You probably were not a phenom since 8th grade who signed a $100 million contract before graduating high school. But you probably have some childhood buddies who you’d love to work on a project with. Lebron and his buddies built a vast business empire outside of basketball. There are lessons there that are probably applicable. Focusing on what you will never achieve – being 6’8’’- will do the opposite of inspiring you. Being able to find the diamonds among the coal means you know where to look. A key to success.
Another way to get inspired—ask Google. Kidding. But you know what, it’s not a terrible idea, particularly if all else fails. The internet is an endless compilation of information, some great, some bad, some incredible, and sometimes you can sort of get lost going down the rabbit hole. But, undeniably, it’s a resource. If you use Google, you’ll no doubt find some useful stimulus for inspiration. It is also important to remember we’re talking about getting inspired to create revenue. Getting someone to exchange money for a service or product means there must be demand. A Google search can help you validate whether there is a market for your idea and whether that market is already saturated. This feedback can be beneficial in helping focus ideas.
Narrow it down
At this point, you’ve spent time over a number of days and maybe weeks brainstorming ideas for your business. You may have a fairly substantial list of ideas before you. Now, you want to try to really narrow that focus during your daily brainstorming sessions. Zero in on the idea that seems the most promising or otherwise fulfilling. Don’t forget the other ideas—you can and should come back to them. But let’s take them one at a time.
Think about which idea has the best chance of success, of course, but also of sustainability, something you can effectively manage with five to 10 hours each week. Our approach here isn’t to shoot for the moon right out of the gate, but to develop a series of manageable ideas that generate income.
Let’s take the next step.
Turning an idea into a reality
OK, you have your idea. Now what? It’s a big question. Most people become a deer in headlights when they think about actually starting something. Because of that, too many good ideas get left at this stage. Often times, the lack of movement is tied to a lack of a plan. To take an idea and to cultivate it into something real, takes time, energy, patience, and on and on. But no one said you should tackle everything all at once. It’s all about taking a step-by-step approach. You want to develop a plan of individual tasks that keep the development of your idea moving forward incrementally. It’s not a race because this is about making a little extra money. There is no finish line. The point here is to enjoy the process.
During your next brainstorming session, think about the steps you need to take to turn your idea into a reality. Map it out. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3. Maybe you don’t know the order of the steps—that’s OK too. Just list the items. As you take a look at the list, the order will probably be obvious. If you don’t know all the steps you need to take, that’s OK too. I bet someone or some people in your network of friends, family and colleagues could provide some guidance to help you develop this plan.
This is a critical step. You have to share your MVI (Minimal Viable Idea). The longer an idea stays locked in your head, the less likely it is to be nurtured into a business. Getting external feedback is important to ensure you’re developing an idea of value and not just vanity.
Outsourcing is strategic
As you look at your idea and the steps you need to take, perhaps there is an item or two that you simply can’t do on your own because you don’t have the capacity or the expertise. Don’t throw in the towel. Think about your friends, family and associates—know anybody who can do those items who might be willing to help you out? Even better: know two people? For your idea to become a business you must eliminate single points of failure that can grind your budding machine to a halt. The reality is you are the biggest single point of failure. By thinking outside of just yourself to accomplish your goals, you’re increasing your chances of sustainability. You are also developing management skills, which will ultimately help you as your ideas become businesses.
By asking for help, you are also broadening your team of supporters who can provide valuable insight and viewpoints. This is essential. Outsiders can provide an important perspective, often catching things you might have missed. Most importantly, asking for help prevents you from getting stuck in the process. It keeps things moving forward.
Consistency, consistency, consistency
Consistency is the secret sauce. The biggest difference between those who fail and those who succeed is not talent, but the ability to “grind it out.” Anybody can have a fit of passion and generate a promising idea. But not everybody can stick with it and continue to grow, expand and develop that idea over time.
I’ll come back to my running metaphor now. Just because I ran 5 miles yesterday doesn’t mean I can complete a marathon today. I have to build to my goal day-by-day. There is no shortcut. You can’t just spend time developing your idea every now and then. You have to do it every day. Grind it out. But you’ll be more likely to stick with it if you can continuously be checking off manageable steps with a reasonable time commitment each day, rather than relying on inconsistent, marathon sessions where you try to just do it all.
Just like brainstorming, devote 30 minutes each day to your idea. Make it a priority. If you can be consistent in your approach, you will be successful.
Remember, you’re not trying to build a massive, 100,000-person company; you’re filling out a portfolio of ideas. The approach is to do a number of smaller things, which means that you’ll never be locked into one idea (or one job) forever.
But to take this approach, you need to keep up the brainstorming. Make structured thinking a part of your daily life and you’ll never be without options.
Now that you’ve got the great idea, it’s time to turn it into a passive income business! Learn more on how to do that now!