Entrepreneurs brim with ideas. At times it’s more like an explosion, flinging ideas into every corner of the room.
We can imagine the possibilities. We can picture our success with the latest brainstorm, certain of its universal appeal.
The ability to see potential is the very nature of an entrepreneur.
Unfortunately this incredible strength also brings incredible weakness. Like a chicken running around after its head is cut off, we can be enthusiastically engaged while our business is dying.
As someone who simply can’t shut off the ideas in her head, I needed a solution to this problem. It involves a chicken,a Twitter chat, and a T-Shirt. Ready to try my solution? (Don’t worry the chicken will be provided).
How to Turn Your Idea Storm Into a Profit Generator
This post is part of the awesome Word Carnival. Read more posts on this month’s theme: Vanquish Your Nemesis: A Guide to Conquering Small Biz Evils
Villains and the Stephen King Effect
Our primary sense to experience the world is sight. We have all sorts of devices to communicate and share visually (from paintings to Pinterest). I’ve never heard of a book of smells. You don’t taste business plans (although there’s an idea… ahem focus Nicole).
Once we have a visual of something it becomes less intimidating, more manageable. I call this the Stephen King Movie Effect.
Stephen King is the undisputed champion of horror books. I’ve read a few and I’m not ashamed to admit they scared me. His books work so well at scaring the masses because he taps into the fear of the unknown, unnamed, and unseen.
Stephen King movies never live up to the book because they give a face to the fear. Even with the scariest special effects, seeing a monster is less scary than imagining one.
Once we can see something, no matter how awful, we can begin to deal with it. We can categorize it, research its origins, and develop ways to stop it.
Struggling to tackle a business problem? Personify it! Create a villain that embodies your problem. It removes the fear and creates focus, enabling you to think about solutions.
Why a Chicken?
Years ago I was introduced to a T-Shirt with this slogan:
Before you get upset and say it’s disrespectful, the person who showed it to me had been diagnosed with A.D.D. I was tutoring him in math, and he used this as a way to illustrate how his brain worked. We began to use “chicken” as a reminder when his attention wandered.
To this day when someone’s attention wanders I have the urge to say, “Look there’s a chicken.” I don’t (usually), but chickens are forever linked to easily distracted in my mind.
I bet you’re thinking, “Nicole a chicken for a villain? Really?!”
Don’t underestimate this chicken. In fact that’s part of her message. Who’s scared of chicken? They’re harmless, right?
How could ideas be harmful? As entrepreneurs we should celebrate ideas. The more the better!
Wrong. Too many ideas all vying for attention is a prime example of BSOS – Bright Shiny Object Syndrome – a real profit killer.
What the heck IS Steampunk?
Once I decided to add a chicken to my lineup of Mascots and Villains I solicited input from my target market before engaging illustrator Jennifer “Scraps” Walker to draw a new character.
Twitter is the perfect tool for instant, succinct (140 characters!) feedback on an idea. Tori Deaux of The Circus Serene hosts a #QuirkyBiz chat for right brained entrepreneurs. I asked them for feedback on my chicken villain.
Given the tie-in with BSOS, the suggestion was to make the chicken shiny. First the idea of a robot was thrown out. Then someone suggested “steampunk” to appear up to date (Hey I’m hip and cool, right?).
Sounded good, my target market had spoken. The only problem -I wasn’t really sure what steampunk was.
According to Wikipedia, “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.”
And Debbie the Distractor, Steampunk Chicken was born.
How to Stop Watching the Chicken
I don’t expect you to stop dreaming up ideas. I don’t expect the Earth to stop rotating or for me to stop liking chocolate either.
The solution is to harness the ideas, control them without losing their vitality.
When I get an idea I want to share it. I’m excited – this is great! Of course after 20 calls to the same colleague in a week about 20 different ideas my welcome would be worn out.
I needed to share my ideas. I was worried if I didn’t capture it right now the idea would float off into the mists never to be heard of again. (Yes I know that sounds silly, if it’s such a great idea how could I forget? Fear is NOT rational).
I bought some clear plastic envelopes (see picture) and labeled them; Product Ideas, Online Content Ideas, Random Thoughts… When I had a brainstorm I wrote down the idea and put it in one of my envelopes. I chose envelopes not folders because I often write on random objects of different shapes and sizes. This way I could be sure nothing would be lost.
Whew, ideas are captured. Now what?
Given my rate of ideas and the limits of space / time, I couldn’t possible pursue them all. I only allow myself a certain number of projects and activities at any given time. If I want to start something new I need to be either finishing something else or abandoning as not viable.
For this to work you must:
- Be honest with yourself on the realistic workload you can handle.
- Before you begin, set the minimum amount of time to test an idea before abandoning it.
If you fail to follow these two rules you will simply be taking better notes while watching the steampunk chicken.
Share Your Villain
Do you have a steampunk chicken villain in your business? How do you deal with it?
What is your biggest business villain? If you have an image (even stick figures on a napkin), I’d love for you to share it in my Business Villain Gallery. Check out others, read their challenges. Let’s put these villains in their place!
Need help taming your business villains? I can help! Schedule a zero cost, no obligation consultation now. Fill in the form below, and my amazing assistant Denisse will contact you to make it happen.
Great minds, Nicole. I used a chicken too, though yours is way cooler! 🙂 My strategy is to use tools to capture ideas on the fly, whether that’s on a piece of paper, a voice recorder, Google Keep or another online note program – anything as long as it keeps the inspiration. I do just enough to make sure I won’t forget it, then get back to focusing on the business in hand. Take that, Debbie!
Great minds think alike Sharon. And the headless chicken running around is a wonderful visual. I’ve been known to rip random stuff out of magazines, write on those annoying sales mailers, I even used a Lego! Debbie has definitely been put in her place.
Villains and archenemies surround us at every turn, Nicole! Yes indeedy. Love the Steampunk Chicken. For me it’s probably more like a Steampunk Squirrel (thanks to Disney) but the solution is the same. Great advice to use envelopes! I’ve got a few I can put into immediate use (thanks for the…um, IDEA).
A squirrel would also work quite well – not sure about the Disney reference. Perhaps it’s a movie my daughter has not yet discovered? I won’t apologize for giving you another idea (LOL) because I believe it will help tame the larger masses crowding for attention.
“Seeing a monster is less scary than imagining one” – So true Nicole! Sometimes I don’t work through a process or idea because it feels enormous in my brain and I’m not sure I have all the steps to do it, but honestly, if I just start the villanous idea begins to shrink in size. The biggest problem is to actually work through all the way to completion. In fact, I have a couple of those right now! Better get on it. Bagawk!
I can appreciate the whole huge idea fear. While the idea is great it can seem overwhelming. Doing one little thing, or asking for help from peers or a mastermind group will definitely help cut it down to size. Try thinking of car mirrors ,”Images appear larger than they are.”
PS What is Bagawk?
LOL!!!!!!!!!!! Nicole that t-shirt cracked me up and turning it into a steampunk chicken is hilarious. Me and my husband do something similar but it’s with a monkey. Of course, you know how when someone tells you “Do NOT think about an elephant!” suddenly all you can think about is an elephant.
The idea of turning a problem into a persona is great. I know exactly what you mean about the Stephen King movies. They are so lame and it’s totally because you’re like dude, that’s just makeup and bad acting. naming your fears is a good trick.
As for focus…. look, a cupcake!
Cupcakes? Did someone mention CUPCAKES?
Monkey is another good one! The T-shirt just cracks me up. That’s why it’s stuck almost 10 years later.
So you raise a good question, why DO Stephen King movies usually have bad actors? There are a few exceptions, but those end up being dramas (Carrie or the one with Kathy Bates) versus scary (Pet Semetary, Christine).
It is really a wonder we are able to work together and get stuff done! I think we both have developed extremely good self control and I’m proud of us dammit!
Great article and obviously I agree on all points made!
For all that entrepreneurs can knock corporate life, it forced me to develop that self-control. Plus all the studying to become an actuary (400 hours an exam – I sooo do not miss that).
We also believe in accountability and seeing results. Call a Biz Hero Powers ACTIVATE!
Hey Debbie — quit your cackling and lay that egg already! LOL!!
LOVE the envelopes idea, Nicole. I’m a “tactile” kind of person who loves real paper, real 3-ring binders, real journals … uh … you get the idea. 🙂
Oh Melanie I hadn’t thought about the cackling. The sound effect is perfect!
I’m a tactile person as well Melanie. I tried, really tried, to go completely digital and always felt a bit off. Once I let some paper back into my life things felt so much better. Now I think hard before going for hardcopy, but when it’s right, it’s right.
Yep…that’s me. But that’s probably every entrepreneur. We’re all a bit ADD aren’t we.
I definitely need to get better with my focus and NOT working on 1341456 projects at once while thinking about the next one to start.
But the starting and launching is the exciting part isn’t it.
But there’s so many more..
…oh look…a chicken!
Well Eugene I almost wonder if those ADD tendencies are why we become entrepreneurs. But 1341456 projects? That’s a bit steep even for me!
I’m on hiatus of starting any new projects for the time being. The good news is that there’s lots of great stuff in the pipeline right now.
HeHe! I can just hear your laugh Nicole! And thanks for explaining what Steampuck is. That was a new one on me. Loved your two rules for testing the validity of the idea. To those I would add the following: Write down three things this idea will do for people and three ways it will benefit your clients, customers AND your business. If you can think of all six go forward. If you can only think of four keep it and perculate on it. If you can only think of one or fewer in features/benefits, file or pitch it.
Well if you forget how my laugh sounds there’s on a button on the right to help you 🙂
Now that we both know about Steampunk we can be cool and hip, right? Love the additional suggestions and am adding them in.
I love the envelopes…definitely going to use that as I have ideas and thoughts on all sizes too! I don’t have a villain as cool as the chicken and now I want one….I definitely need it…love that idea too! This is great thanks Nicole
The envelopes were inspired by Kirsten Simmons of Rethink Productivity (www.rethinkproductivity.com). She encouraged me to embrace my own way of being productive rather than trying to fit into some system I hated. Great stuff if you need more tips.
I love that you laid out your process behind Debbie’s creation! Also: that whole “chicken” thing? Is universal. My bestie and her son are both ADD, and “Oh look a chicken!” has always been their internal, just between us cue that one or the other was getting distracted. Worked like a charm, until the day my godson said, on the way to school in the car while his Mom was rattling off a list of chores he had to do that afternoon, “Oh Mom, look, a chicken.” “Ha ha, very funny.” “No, Mom, really. A CHICKEN.” There was a chicken on the side of the road strutting down the curb.
Too funny about the chicken with your best friend and her son. I’ve had wild turkeys show up before, but never a chicken on the side of the road. Like really IS an adventure isn’t it?
Nicole, you always make me laugh. Must be something about you, eh! Loved your practical ideas about how to handle an ongoing abundance of ideas, particularly the plastic pockets, saving those paper napkins, post its and torn bit of envelopes, is so messy otherwise!
Oh and being realistic about what we can achieve. How many of us draw up lists that would need a month to achieve and then feel disappointed at the end of the week when it is not done. Talk about self sabotage. Such a waste of energy. Thanks for reminding us NOT to do that.
Glad to hear I’m making good on my laughter guarantee Sandy.
The envelopes have really helped me to clear up the clutter in my office, and that adds a whole new layer of calm. I’m still working on the overloaded list of goals and to do’s. Baby steps.
Hi Nicole. I was literally going to type “Procrastination” and publish it, but when the fingers started moving I found that I could at least make SOME good out of it.
I took your advise and made folders. I also designated a small notebook on my desk for ideas. Those scraps were getting useless! I have no ideas for villains and am afraid to give it too much thought!
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