"What if there was a little koala figure that's made of thermal fleece. It clips onto your nose and keeps it warm," I said.
I pulled out a notebook and pen from my pocket, wrote it down and did a little sketch. My girlfriend's nose was ice cold now that winter had arrived. This was my solution.
It's a stupid idea. I knew that the nano second my brain sent the signal to my mouth to form the words. I would never make it. But that wasn't really the point. (If you think this is a good idea, it's all yours.)
I received an e-mail last week from a 19 year old New Yorker who was studying to be a Pharmacist. He had no interest in it and was looking for advice on how to find his passion.
I told him to buy a notepad and pen. Keep it with you at all times. Write down every idea comes into your head. All the what if, it would be cool if and I'd want to thoughts. A lot of it will seem outrageous or out of reach. A lot of it will be stupid. The important part is nothing is off limits.
I find that I come up with good ideas when I consistently come up with "bad" ones and edit ruthlessly. Filmmakers shoot hundreds of hours of footage and edit them into 2 hour films. Photographers take 36 shots to get that 1 great photo. I constantly throw out stupid ideas until there's one that I cannot avoid working on. When I decided to relaunch The Essential Man, the idea of writing again gave me anxiety. My personal blog had transformed into a series of quick thoughts and photographic inspiration reposts. There was rarely any serious writing. But I dove in, writing The Essential Man 5 hours a day. I found, paradoxically, the more I wrote the easier it was to write.
So get yourself a notepad (I like the Moleskin soft cover reporters), keep it with you at all times. No, you can't use a notepad app. Or e-mail. Paper doesn't run out of batteries. There's no room for error. The process of hand writing it down is as vital as keeping the list itself. Record everything. Nothing is off limits.
Here are the last 10 ideas I wrote down in my idea notepad:
- Wide glasses for people with big heads (like me).
- A Yoko Ono faux-parody Twitter account called Yoko's Onos that just retweets strange things she says and does. You can follow it here.
- Documentary about watches, watch makers and watch collectors.
- A store with items I make and collaborate with designers to make.
- Gluten free french pastry shop.
- My own coffee shop attached to a leather studio. (An excuse to smell like coffee and leather jackets all the time.)
- Car bumper savers that aren't ugly padded mats and blend into your car.
- A real pho restaurant in NYC, using my mom's recipe.
- Print shirts with hand written text of cities around the world.
- Koala nose warmer.
Whether or not any of these ideas are good for me to pursue has yet to be seen (aside from No. 2. Let's see how long that lasts.) But at least I can't lie to myself and say I don't have any ideas. The proof is always in my pocket.