A few years back, I read a book called “Choose Yourself” from James Altucher. In this book, he explained the concept of “Becoming an Idea Machine”.
He states that the ability to generate ideas is like a muscle. It needs to be trained everyday or else it loses its shape. If you practice it enough times, you will end up generating more ideas than you would ever want.
I thought this concept was interesting, but not worth the effort. The homework assignment was to jot down 5 ideas everyday. These ideas were anything from things to improve your life, or someone elses. That was around 2013 when I read about it.
In my previous post, story of my life, I talked about my outlier upbringing. How I would struggle in school, live another life in MMOs, and struggle with psychological issues my entire life. One of the pivotal moments in my life was 2016, when I wanted to write a software book.
This book was a compilation of everything I learned in 3 years of notetaking. I treat notes as an extension of my mind, so I vested hundreds of hours dedicated in finding the “best” workflows. This research would include things like popular organizational methods, applied psychology, and my own A/B test insights.
I went to reddit to get feedback. My post asked what users wanted to see in this book. I would get dozens of comments of things I had not thought of, and would answer with actual research I had done.
I found myself going on this post often to answer questions. Enough times that it started to add friction in the writing process. So I decided to write my entire draft on reddit, and do q/a with other users in the same post.
As I progressed, I started to bounce ideas off of my own writing. My own comments looked so similar to every other comment except that it didn’t have their pseudonym attached to it. I realized something interesting.
That it’s actually possible to have a legitimate conversation with yourself this way.
As these ideas were formulated in writing, I started to question myself. Why did I really want to write this book? What did I hope to gain from it? In the recesses of my mind, I went really deep into a rabbit hole. What I really wanted was someone to understand my perspective in life.
I ended up writing a very long word journal entry post instead of a software book. I found my priorities changed, I wanted to know more about myself. And I did.
The Idea Machine. I finally appreciated the implications of what James Altucher stated in “Choose Yourself!”.
500,000 words in 2 months. I had never written so much in my life before. I completely lost the sensation in my ring finger and pinky from Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome temporarily. Due to writing for extend periods of time (5 to 10 hours a day, everyday). I didn’t sleep that much.
I felt the urge to just layout everything about anything I ever wanted to know. Things about my life. Psychology. Studies of the human brain, and case studies of human evolution. My own writing style. My regrets in life. Topics I wanted to write about in the software manual, etc. I learned a lot.
The “Idea Machine” became something I embodied. I would wake up, generating upwards of up to 10-20 unique ideas a day. My idea generation rate was so high that I could not write fast enough to capture every idea across my brain. Some of these ideas were incredibly stupid, but all the same I wrote it down anyways.
I actually had to develop a solution for quickly capturing ideas. I call it my postit-note command station. It uses 2 popsockets, a standard mini clipboard, tape, a booklight, and pen tape holders.
and my graveyard postit door wall
I ended up deleting the reddit post, but I still have a cached copy. I decided after all I really didn’t care about writing a software manual.
After 2 months, I started noticing some psychological changes about myself. This happened as my idea generation rate slowed down to a crawl. I couldn’t generate any ideas, at all, for at least a week. In those 2 months, I would have many lucid dreams, but afterwards, nothing. It was just pure emptiness. I dumped everything down, I pretty much left myself on a clean slate.
Stephen King wrote a good article about this phenonem. He stated he never writes all his ideas down, and lets it “boil over” in his mind, letting ideas fight against each other to see who wins out. This pheononem is how I would describe what I experienced, except I wrote all the ideas down instead.
My idea-generation rate has stablized. I noticed a permenant improvement in how many more ideas I could generate and validate.
My friend Jevin tells me of this notetaking app called Dynalist / Workflowy. Its essentially an endless slew of bulletpoints nested within each other. The number of permutations of setting this up is in the millions.
I open pandoras box again. I spent 6 months obsessing over what the best workflow is. On the forum, I would spam all my stupid ideas. Long story short, I ended up developing my own philosophical methods of organizing myself. I post this on my blog here.
I started to realize something.
It isn’t just the “idea machine” as James Altucher puts it. Its something else. Things happen in cycles.
What I experience every year is what I call an “idea explosion”. Like stephen king stated, ideas fight for each other until the best one surfaces. You can keep that pot consistently going or just dump it all out in one go. I choose to dump it out everytime.
Its happening again now. This is the 3rd time I am getting an “idea explosion”. It happens once a year around Fall or Spring season for me generally. Normally something triggers it, 2017 was dynalist, this year is the first time I’ve ever used a macbook.
This explosion is different. I finally am connecting the dots together. There is something that I’ve always wanted for the longest time to build. And now I have the means, resources, networks and knowledge in executing it properly.
This tool will great enhance my ability to learn and pick up new concepts. Because I’ve tried well over 1000+ software apps & libraries over the course of 4 years, I’m starting to see trends. I’ve trusted my gut instinct everytime, and it has never let me down.
Its been a month already, and 30 pages of drafts on paper. I’m building it for myself first and foremost, but I intend on monetizing it in the end.