Success Begins With An Idea

At the most basic level, success stories begin with one key ingredient: an idea.
In 2012 at the age of 41, Sara Blakely became the then youngest self-made female billionaire. Blakely is the founder of Spanx, which is now a global clothing brand, but at its infancy centered around a piece of female shapewear resembling a pair of pantyhose with the legs cut off. Holding up Spanx’s first product offering, it’s understandable that few would see it and immediately think, “This is a billion dollar idea!”
But that’s what sets Blakely—and other successful people—apart: they see a big picture in little ideas.
Blakely is an entrepreneur (and human) I greatly admire, so whenever there is a chance to learn from her, I take it. Recently, I watched her self-made entrepreneurship series on Masterclass, which provided a big “aha” moment. That “aha” moment was the realization that what makes Blakely unique is her ability to continuously imagine new ideas.
How strong is this ability? In the Masterclass, Blakely casually remarked that she has a NINETY-NINE PAGE list of ideas.
This got me thinking: In my life, have I even imagined 99 ideas?
If the answer to that question was “no,” then why not?
To answer that, I dug into where ideas come from. Most foundationally, ideas come from the brain. While the brain itself is an organ, it controls everything your body does. To control the output of the body, one must control the input into the brain. So, if I wanted to improve the output of my ideation, I needed to first improve what I was inputting into my brain.
What does improving the inputs into your brain involve?
It involves a number of factors: Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and exercising are just some of them.
But at a deeper level, it involves retraining the brain to give it permission to ideate.
We live in a paradoxical world where our mind fights a constant battle of distraction and over-programming. Distraction primarily comes from digital devices—our smartphones, the television, the computer. Over-programming comes from living lives filled to the brim with “to-dos.”
The result of this paradox is that our mind is forced to constantly jump from mindless smartphone scrolling to checking boxes off of the proverbial “to-do” list.
When we regulate our brain to this paradoxical manner and provide it no freedom to wander, unsurprisingly over time, the idea spout slows down to a trickle before it finally turns off.
If the foundational ingredient to success is an idea, we must examine how the lives we live are stifling ideation. We must consciously evaluate how our daily engagements and interactions either foster or foreclose our ability to imagine the next great novel, product or place.  
Before you judge your brain for not pouring out enough ideas, consider this: In 1919, Walt Disney was fired from an animation job. The reason? His editor reportedly said he, “lacked imagination and had no ideas.”
Just because your ideas today are few or not celebrated by others doesn’t mean that your brain doesn’t hold a world changing idea or that your imagination won’t be celebrated tomorrow.
What idea has shaped your life the most? What practices do you need to adopt or grow to give your brain permission to ideate? Head to Facebook and Instagram and join the conversation!

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