I’ve written 10 ideas every day for 50 consecutive days. Here are my impressions of the Becoming an Idea Machine challenge, including three unexpected benefits.

Yesterday morning marked the 50th day of my Becoming an Idea Machine challenge.

The genesis of the challenge was this post by James Altucher, where he explained how coming up with 10 ideas every day has supercharged his brain and completely transformed his life every 180 days. Sounds pretty exciting, right?

The rules of my challenge were simple: write 10 ideas on one particular topic every day. As James points out, the first 5 or so are usually quite easy, but as you struggle to come up with the final 5 ideas, you are strengthening your idea muscle. The principle is identical to the way you would exercise a physical muscle – by pushing it, because that’s how you force it to grow and adapt.

This challenge will run for 180 days, but here are my thoughts after 50 days.

By The Numbers

So far, I have not missed a single day. Actually, that’s not entirely true. On the day of my daughter’s birth, I didn’t manage to write 10 ideas, but I caught up a few days later by doing two sets of 10 ideas. Close enough.

In addition to writing down 10 ideas each day, I also write down the very first steps one would have to take to turn those ideas into reality. Nothing fancy or complicated, just the one action necessary to get started. This ensures that my brain not only comes up with ideas, but also spends a little bit of time on the practical aspects of each idea.

Many have been curious what kind of topics I’ve tackled in this challenge so far. Here is a breakdown of the types of lists I have made over the first 50 days:

14 idea lists for self help & psychology topics, such as:

  • 10 ideas to overcome limiting beliefs
  • 10 ideas to improve focus

8 idea lists for article topics such as:

  • 10 ideas for future articles on mental toughness
  • 10 ideas for new challenges

7 idea lists on how to improve Devil in a Good Man, such as:

  • 10 ideas to help my readers and customers
  • 10 ideas to improve my website

8 idea lists on what different businesses could do differently to get better results, such as:

  • 10 ideas to make banking more consumer friendly
  • 10 ideas to grow and improve the Bundesliga

5 idea lists on how to improve life at home, such as:

  • 10 ideas to have fun outside with our dog
  • 10 ideas to improve the summer cottage

8 idea lists for the infamous “other” category, such as:

  • 10 ideas for giving someone negative feedback
  • 10 ideas for being productive on hangover days

In total that’s over 500 ideas over the past 50 days (on some days the ideas have kept on coming and I’ve ended up with more than 10 ideas for my list). Yesterday, I wrote down 12 ideas. Today it was 10. Tomorrow, who knows.

Reading back over my lists I realize that many of my ideas are obvious or stupid. Maybe most of them. That’s part of the exercise. But some aren’t. Hopefully I’m getting a little better at it. All I know is that the good ideas will somehow continue to find their way back to the surface. Already, one list of 10 ideas turned into an article which I am posting this week, and several others have given me further ideas on what to do and create next.

My Experience So Far

It’s hard to know how much you are going to enjoy a challenge until after you’ve really sunk your teeth into it. Fortunately, I’m really enjoying challenging myself to come up with 10 ideas each morning. My morning routine is taking the dog out immediately after getting up, getting a bowl of cereal and sitting down at the computer to write down my 10 ideas. The act of writing down 10 ideas feels like I’m doing gymnastics for my brain on a topic that interests or concerns me. What a fantastic and motivating way to start the day!

I usually decide my topic as I sit down to brainstorm the ideas on the spot, although sometimes I come up with the idea the evening before. And I always pick a topic that sounds interesting and useful to me – otherwise, what’s the point?

Over the past 50 days, I’ve come to notice three benefits of doing this exercise:

1. The Brain Gets Better at Finding Good Ideas

I find it noticeably easier to come up with 10 ideas with each passing day. It’s as if my brain is becoming better at attacking problems from multiple angles in its search for answers. This allows me to get past the obvious answers and onto the less obvious ones more quickly.

2. You Spend More Time on Relevant Topics and Problems

Writing 10 ideas every day is a great way to force my brain to spend a little bit of extra time on topics and problems that are important to me. Most of our normal thinking goes round in circles like a planet orbiting the sun. We tread the same ground over and over and don’t often come up with new insights or discoveries, because we don’t spend enough time looking at a problem with enough structure. This exercise ensures that I spend an extra 10 or 15 minutes per day on topics that are important to me. It’s time very well spent.

3. The Brain Starts to Seek Out Solutions Everywhere

The simple act of coming up with 10 ideas is powerful, because it shifts our perspective from problems to solutions. You start to see opportunities everywhere without even trying, and you begin to wonder why everyone else just wants to keep talking about the problems. The best part about beginning to see opportunities and solutions everywhere is that it makes you want to take action toward them. A brain that focuses on opportunities instead of problems is a brain that is moving forward in life.

Where the Challenge Goes From Here

Over the next 50 days, I plan to shift my focus even more to helping others. So far, I have spent a little bit of time doing that directly (the “what businesses could do differently” category) and a bit more indirectly (the “psychology and self help” category). But now I want to crank this up.

It is my belief that the more I share these ideas with the people who could most benefit from them, the more value I can create for the world around me. And the more people I help, the more I will be able to grow my own life. Now that’s the definition of a win-win!

My plan is to post another update at the 100 day mark.

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