How to Become an Idea Machine

Excellent article from James Altucher. Here’s just some highlights:

So don’t be afraid to test, fail, test, fail, try again, repeat, improve, test, fail again, and keep improving. The way to keep improving? Keep coming up with ideas for your business and for other new businesses.

As your idea muscle improves, so will your ability to “fail quickly”. Failing quickly is a better skill than executing quickly.

You may not have a side project going on right now, but you can make money by starting one. I’ll tell you how here.


– 10 things I can do differently today. Write down my entire routine from beginning to end as detailed as possible and change one thing and make it better.

– 10 Things I Learned from X. Where X is someone I’ve spoke to recently or read a book by recently. I’ve written posts on this about the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Steve Jobs, Bukowski, the Dalai Lama, Superman, Freakonomics, etc.

– A problem I have and ten ways I might try and solve it.


At any given point I have about 10-20 books on my “to go” list. Books that I can just pop in and continue reading.

Every day I read at least 10% of a non-fiction book that gives me tons of new ideas, an inspirational book, a fiction book of high-quality writing, and maybe a book on games (lately I’ve been solving chess puzzles). And then I start writing.


If you stick to an abundance mentality, and be grateful for the ideas that are flowing through you, then they will be infinite. Where they come from, nobody knows. But they will be infinite and lucrative for you.

So give ideas for free, and then when you meet, give more ideas. And if someone wants to pay you and your gut feels this is a good fit, then give even more ideas.

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What do you hate *not* doing?

Derek Sivers:

When we wonder what’s worth doing, we’ve all asked ourselves, “What do I really love?” or “What makes me happy?”

That question never really goes well, does it?


So try this question instead:

What do you hate not doing?

What makes you feel depressed, annoyed, or that your life has gone astray if you don’t do it enough?

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Your most scarce resource is focus.

Jeff Walker:

Your most scarce resource is focus.

The world will conspire to distract you. Your phone, email, text messages, instant messenger, social media, and more will all pull you away from what you should be doing.

Many people wake up and instantly look at their phone. They check messages, check email, check various social media. That’s a huge mistake—the only thing that’s waiting in your phone is someone else’s agenda. If you check your phone or your email right away in the morning, you’ve lost control of your agenda. There will be emails and messages waiting for you to respond, and once you start responding you’ve lost control of your day.

You should start the day by focusing on your highest-value activities before you get caught up in other people’s agendas for you. What are your highest-value activities?

See also: Mapping Out Your Life

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Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Tom Bilyeu:

As the saying goes, people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in 10.

I went from “naughts” to “yachts” in 5 years, you can do even better.

But you’ve got to have your eye on the fucking prize. Because it will not happen by accident.

It takes a level of maniacal focus that will surprise you, but it is possible.

Just remember, not a damn thing is going to change in your life if you don’t change what you’re doing.

So build a crystal-fucking-clear vision in your mind of what you want to accomplish – including a detailed breakdown of HOW you’re going to get there and then systematically execute against that plan. That’s it.

And it will all happen just as fast as you’re prepared to move. No short bursts, this is a marathon sprint, baby.

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Start Now

William Feather:

Too many of us wait to do the perfect thing, with the result we do nothing. The way to get ahead is to start now. While many of us are waiting until conditions are “just right” before we go ahead, others are stumbling along, fortunately ignorant of the dangers that beset them. By the time we are, in our superior wisdom, decided to make a start, we discover that those who have gone fearlessly on before, have, in their blundering way, traveled a considerable distance. If you start now, you will know a lot next year that you don’t know now, and that you will not know next year, if you wait.


Here is the secret of inspiration: Tell yourself that thousands and tens of thousands of people, not very intelligent and certainly no more intelligent than the rest of us, have mastered problems as difficult as those that now baffle you.

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Fire and Motion

Developer Joel Spolsky talks about progress and moving forward:

For me, just getting started is the only hard thing. An object at rest tends to remain at rest. There’s something incredible heavy in my brain that is extremely hard to get up to speed, but once it’s rolling at full speed, it takes no effort to keep it going.


It took me another fifteen years to realize that the principle of Fire and Motion is how you get things done in life. You have to move forward a little bit, every day. It doesn’t matter if your code is lame and buggy and nobody wants it. If you are moving forward, writing code and fixing bugs constantly, time is on your side.

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Do It F*cking Now.

It’s written from a business angle, but this post applies to any goal you have:

Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. The winners in this world are not the ones who find the greatest excuses to put off doing what they know will make them more money. The winners are the ones that prioritize and seize the day.

Create a list of action items to make sure your important tasks get accomplished. Every project you’re working on should be in action. If you’re not moving, you’re standing still. Your next step towards making money must not be “something I’ll take care of maybe sometime next week.” If it’s going to help make you money: Do it Fucking Now.

Some of you may think that you don’t need the “fucking” in “do it fucking now”. You do. You need that impact, that force, that call to action and mostly, that kick in the ass to get you moving. Otherwise, you’ll end up another loser that had a great idea a long time ago but never did anything about it. Dreamers don’t make money. Doers make money. And doers “Do it Fucking Now.”

Pete Michaud:

If you want change then change, goddammit. Radically and permanently alter your daily life. Leave everything behind and literally, not figuratively, join the peace corps, or move to a commune, or travel the world. Cut yourself off from old patterns and old baggage.

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The Wall

Coal Akida:

When I was 15, I wanted a job at McDonald’s.

My dad said to me, “If you want a job so bad, I will pay you $6 an hour,” which was a lot of money 25 years ago. He wanted to pay me to stand and stare directly at the wall. He said, “I will pay you $6 an hour every hour you stand looking at the wall.”

I was so excited my dreams of buying a motorcycle came to the edges of my mouth, and I asked him “for real?”

Then, being young, I asked “Is there a limit to how many hours I can stand?”

“No” he said, “every day, all day.”

My younger brother was jealous and said, “What about me?” My dad said, “You too!” So we both faced the wall in the dining room and he only had two rules: we must pay attention to the wall and not lean on it.

My younger 12-year-old brother lasted less than a half hour and I lasted two and half hours; standing was okay, but focusing on the wall was near torture.

Having no goals […] not trying to exceed your own abilities in any way is simply choosing a way of life that leads to the wall, which then leads to drugs and alcohol to cope.

I can always spot someone who ended up choosing the wall. They have this dead look in their eyes, smeared with a wet glaze as if a hundred tears have built up inside them and yet not a single tear can fall. Be careful of the wall that my father taught us about, for it can lead to some very very bad places.

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Tom Bilyeu:

I’ve always told myself that on a long enough timeline, I can beat anyone at anything.

It’s all about skill acquisition, and I know most people don’t have my level of tenacity.

Most people give up after a while.

People can go hard for a month, maybe even a year. The hardcore motherfuckers out there can go for a decade.

But what you see above is the fact that I’ve been practicing my public speaking for 30 years now.

If you want to get truly great at something, all you have to do is go at it, balls out, day after day for decades.

Hold yourself accountable. Push yourself. Make insane demands of yourself.

Always have fun, but never be satisfied. Fight through boredom. Relentlessly self-assess. Risk embarrassment. Try and fail. Try some more. And never, ever, ever fucking quit.

Do that, and you can accomplish just about anything you set your mind to.

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The World of Social Flow

Steve Pavlina:

One of the greatest areas of stuckness among my readers stems from trying to work on personal goals that would work so much better when framed as social goals. When you do that, you have to self-power everything.

It’s like hosting a party all by yourself and trying to make it fun and interesting all alone, with no one to help you, and with no guests participating. Then you may tell yourself that once you have a really good party going alone, then you’ll finally invite some people. What you don’t see is that people are the party.

In business and life, people are the success. People are the money. People are the fun.

The best part is that you don’t have to figure out all of the party details by yourself. You can co-create an awesome party together. It all starts with your intention. A party based on your personal goals isn’t likely land well. So step back and create a more aligned intention. Start telling people you want to host a fun party, and ask them if they’ll help steer you in the right direction. Ask them what would make them happy to attend? Listen. Involve them. Even if you only talk to one person about this, that can build momentum.


If you want more money and success flowing through your life, don’t focus so much on trying to acquire and achieve. Think instead about throwing parties and inviting people with fun, interesting, and stimulating offers. Direct your ambition towards creating nice social flow.

Think about the people and businesses that you love to patronize. Think about the best companies or fields you’d love to work in. Can you see how their perceived invitations and offers are more interesting than just, Come help us achieve our goals? We wants moolah!


You want more abundance flowing to you? It flows from other people. And if they don’t care much about helping you, you’ll find it 10X more difficult to get that flow going, maybe 100X. Everything you try to achieve will be self-powered, and self power is weak.


What I’d really love for you to grasp is the mindset of moving beyond framing your goals as strictly personal and opening yourself up to the world of social flow. Most of the good stuff you want in life will come from this social flow, so it’s wise to stop trying to achieve your goals by acting like you’re on an island bouncing ideas off a shredded volleyball. If you honor this social flow and learn to appreciate it, you’ll achieve your goals more easily, and you’ll have a lot more fun in life as well.

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