The story arc of ideas

Depending on who you ask, ideas tend to range in value of being worth zilch to being worth billions. Some would say WhatsApp is a billion dollar idea. Bic Underwear, not so much.

Ideas are like seeds. A seed’s value is in proportion to what it can produce. An idea’s value is based on what it can produce in the world. Therefore, work on idea creation everyday, knowing some are going to produce nothing, others a little, and a few will produce a lot.

The hardest question to answer is, which ideas are the good ones that deserve your time and energy?

I’ve found ideas worth pursuing follow a three-act story arc.

Act One: Wish

A wish is the tease of a fantasy that will never come true.

Any new idea that comes to me, and sticks, starts out as a wish. Wishes are easy to spot because we love to talk about them but don’t follow-up with action. This is because they’re fed by feelings. Which means, if you don’t feel like working to make the idea a reality, it won’t happen.

This is the stage FanPack (r.i.p.) was in back in 2010. I had the idea flying back from NYC to build a subscription site where fans could get cool gifts from their favorite celebrities. I thought, “Man, this would be a cool thing to build. I wish something like that existed.” The idea stayed a wish for 2010, 2011, 2012 and most of 2013. I didn’t feel like doing it, so it didn’t get done.

Act Two: Want

A want is hope that starts to take the shape of a dream.

Some ideas take root and grow. Fewer make it out of the fantasy land of wishes and become actual wants. You’ll know this has happened because signs of discipline begin to form. I once heard discipline described as “remembering what you want most, versus what you want now.”

During the want stage is when you build momentum and overcome inertia. The consistent and persistent effort moves your idea forward and you’re on your way.

Thanks in no small part by a nudging from a good friend, the irreplaceable Braden Douglas, FanPack became a want for me in December of last year. I started working on it. And not just when I felt like it. I allocated time in my calendar to give it creative thought and attention. By this time, I also assembled a team who caught the vision of what this idea could be and together we went to work.

Act Three: Need

A need is the desire that makes a dream come alive.

The desire for an idea to manifest at the need level is like a drowning person’s need for oxygen. In fact, it’s essential to your well-being, and the well-being of the idea, that it ships.

At this stage the idea is nothing short of an obsession. You’ll start making sacrifices and delay reward to see it through to completion. This is a good place to be for launching your idea into the world. Only then can your dream become a reality.

In February 2014, FanPack became a need. I no longer wanted it to be done. It had to be done, and without dropping the ball of being a son, husband, dad and day-jobber. It hasn’t been the easiest road but that’s the beauty of an idea becoming a need. You figure it out.

Epilogue: Shipping is the start

Having launched is better than launching.

As is the case for any native digital product, launching is just the beginning. Once the idea lives, you have to stretch it to realize its potential.

We pushed the green light on FanPack in March (2014) and I couldn’t be prouder of the FanPack team. And thanks to the best wife and kids in the world for their grace and patience.

Author’s Note: After two years and some success, we closed the doors on FanPack to pursue other projects. Despite its outcome, the Story Arc of Ideas still holds true. Give it a try! 

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