Be Your Best

The 24 Hour Rule for Preserving the Genius in Ideas and the Ironic Effect of setting a Goal Way Too High

by on May.22, 2015, under Blog Posts

You are riding in the car and have a brainstorm great idea.  You find a scrap piece of paper, hopefully, and write it down.  You are in a meeting and someone in the group identifies an excellent concept or idea, and you make note of it.  While taking a shower, an excellent strategic idea comes to mind.  Well, somehow you retain it to get it written down before it is gone.

All this is about capturing the ideas as they are created, and is critically important.  However, the more important aspect of the ideas is what is done with them after they are identified.  How many great ideas lose steam after a week or a month, and when you look at them, they just do not have the sizzle that they had when they were hatched?  The impact is just not there like it was, and it is difficult to retain the same energy and enthusiasm behind the idea after this time goes by.  It happens a lot.  If fact, it happens most of the time with good ideas.  There is some science behind why this happens.

When an idea is conceived and then subsequently written down, there is a whole lot more about the idea that is critical to the essence of the idea that does not get captured in the written description or note of the idea.  These are details that make the idea great or unique.  Many times the ‘broad’ idea is nothing new, but the details of the idea as developed make it special or powerful.

The ‘24 Hour Rule for Preserving the Genius in Ideas,’ that I picked up from Michael Masterson, best selling author and multiple large business’ entrepreneur, says that if you do not act upon your new idea within 24 hours (and preferably less than 6 hours), you quickly begin to lose those critical details and the essence of why the idea is great and unique.  Ideas that are left in limbo, for even a few days, lose details, obstacles start getting in the way, and energy begins to fade.  Yes, you still have it written down, but it starts getting harder and harder to implement.  Those little details that were not written down, or potentially even difficult to put into words at the time of the idea, start floating away and getting lost.  I find that my brain tends to want to oversimplify or summarize things over time, so some of those crucial details get condensed or ‘smoothed’ over to simplify the concept.  There are a few courses of action to prevent this situation from happening to you.

First and foremost, we need to begin to take action literally at the moment of inception of the idea, before any of the essence is lost or forgotten.  That could be a quick phone call to move it forward, or an email communication to the person where next action is required, or quickly drawing a flowchart or image, etc… Instead of having the feeling of ‘I feel great that I captured that great idea’ (as I personally have had many times in the past — feeling like if I captured the idea, I was half way home on moving it ahead), the approach should be: a) capture the idea, but then immediately…. b) what 2-3 things can I do right now to move this idea ahead before it starts to lose its essence and power.  Perfect is the evil of Good.  At this point, you want to be focused on actions that are ‘good enough’, not perfect.  Things can be tweaked down the line.

Another strategy that you can employ to better capture and retain the details and essence of new ideas is to record the idea creation process, so you can go back and replay it to pick up those little details.  This can be as simple as recording your own ideas in the car or wherever, or recording brainstorming meetings, etc…  With a $35 micro digital recorder, you can capture the details and then delete them when the idea is off the ground and running.

Yet another key strategy is to convey this concept to your team and teammates that the space of time that stands between the generation of an idea and it execution is filled with the potential for failure.

Everyone knows that setting Goals is critical to success.  However, the Goal itself that is crafted can have as much or more to do with the outcome as the goal setting process.  What I have found in my own experiences, as well as reading about and talking to other highly successful people in business/sport, is that selecting a goal that is way higher/bigger than desired, or nearly unachievable, actually makes it easier to attain your true goals.  It’s an irony that I often forget, but keep reminding myself through real life examples.  And it works very effectively at many different levels.  Let me give you some examples.

Take my personal dream goal of ultimately finishing the Iron Man Triathlon event at some point….a nearly unachievable goal for me.  However, by setting that as my big Goal, even though it is nearly unachievable , it has made achieving some lesser important, but still big milestones for me possible.  Why?

When the brain is acclimated to a new big goal, everything along the way to that goal seems easier than it did prior to the uncomfortable goal being set.  It works at a more tactical level as well.  Within the ‘Triathlon Goal’ example for me, the training process itself is filled with many new goals.  Some of those are way outside my previous comfort zone, like the distances of swimming, running, and cycling.  Take the running — although I am a routine runner/jogger, I have never run over 4 miles at a time (and I usually only go about 2.5-3 miles at a time — and I am ‘done’).  Within the training plan in week #4, there is a 60 minute run (about 6.5 miles).  When I put that goal into my head, it was interesting how I ‘adjusted’ to the point where on that run, the 4-mile mark did not seem that big of a deal any longer.  In other words, my brain said “I am going for 60 minutes”, and it began to disregard any previous thoughts like “30 minutes is my limit and I am done.”

It’s an irony that has some pretty powerful possibilities for achieving results in any field of endeavor.

Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford


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