Unsplash By Sergei ZolkinThe motivation to brainstorm ideas comes easy. You grab a black Sharpie marker, a dozen Post-it Notes, and scribble until there is no more room on the whiteboard. You step back in amazement at the rainbow of Post-it Notes on the board as a sense of accomplishment moves through your body, like a wave.

Good for you – you are an idea generating machine! We now need to take one of these award-winning ideas and make it happen. But the motivation you had at the idea generation stage disappears when you realize that you now need to take action.

Taking action is the struggle for many creative entrepreneurs you are dreamer-centric which is more often the greatest inhibitor to making ideas happen.

Your Approach To Making Ideas Happen Is All Wrong

My approach to every project was always the same:

  • Brainstorm
  • Execute
  • (re)Think

While I rarely struggled with motivation during the brainstorming stage. As I moved the project to the execution stage, my energy began to gradually fail me. As the action steps grew in number and complexity, the project became more burdensome.

Eventually, I would begin to question why was I working on this project. The project I gave birth to is taking twice as long to complete, is demanding for a skillset that I do not have and worse yet my community of supporters is lukewarm about my idea.

And then the unspeakable happens — I begin to doubt myself, “Should I just shelve this project and pick another from the whiteboard?” And I do. And this is the dilemma that many creative professionals encounter.

But Seth Godin, author of the Purple Cow, explains that you are going about your project all wrong. Godin explains that many projects start off with one list that normally lists action items. Seth explains that you need three lists:

  1. A list of everything a project needs to be considered a good project
  2. A list of all the skill you don’t have that are important to the project’s success
  3. A list of everything you are afraid of and out of your control

I thought that this was overkill. I asked myself, “Why do you need three lists when one will do just fine?” But I decided to run an experiment and try Godin’s three list system.

Implementing the 3 List System

My current idea is a New York City Black and White photography project. As I mentioned earlier for each of my projects I would:

  • Brainstorm
  • Execute
  • (re)Think

“An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.”
― Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality

Now I am using Godin’s approach:

1. List of everything a project needs to be considered a good project

  • Images need to be unique in perspective
  • Images need to be posted daily on my website and 500px
  • Images need a supportive community so they can share the images with their communities
  • Images need to be noticed by travel boards and public relations companies
  • Project will run for 365 days
  • Images need to get news coverage – online
  • Images need to be placed in an art show or gallery show
  • I will need to make a shot list
  • I will need to dedicate time to travel throughout NYC
  • There are five boroughs in NYC should shoot in all of them
  • Create a Blurb book and sell it

2. A list of all the skill you don’t have that are important to the project’s success

  • Mastery of Adobe Lightroom
  • Mastery of Adobe Photoshop
  • Mastery of High Dynamic Range (HDR)
  • Mastery of my Nikon D700
  • Mastery of selective black and white
  • Mastery of long exposure

3. Everything you are afraid of and out of your control

  • Being harshly critiqued
  • No one likes any of the images
  • Travel boards and public relations companies don’t care about the project
  • People think the images suck
  • My wife complains I spend all my time on this project
  • My kids tell me I spend all my time on this project

As I reviewed the lists, I got an intimate understanding of the amount of energy the project required. My motivation was rejuvenated because I now have a blueprint for my project and how I need to manage my energy to accomplish it.

You need a mechanism that slows you down between the brainstorming stage and the execution stage. This period, if taken serious, will give you a good grasp on how your idea will develop. And allow you to intelligently plan out your action items and milestones so you can complete your project successfully.

Question: There is no right strategy on how to execute an idea. But in your experience what strategies have helped you make your ideas happen?