I'm out of ideas

Once upon a time, one guy put a stick on a candy and became millionaire. What a great idea! We love great ideas. They are sparks of brilliance that are at the core of every successful story. We obsess over ideas. How many times have you said/heard something like: “I would, but honestly I don’t have any idea.”

I stumbled upon the following scheme in the excellent Getting Real by 37 Signals:

  • Awful idea = -1
  • Weak idea = 1
  • So-so idea = 5
  • Good idea = 10
  • Great idea = 15
  • Brilliant idea = 20


  • No execution = $1
  • Weak execution = $1,000
  • So-so execution = $10,000
  • Good execution = $100,000
  • Great execution = $1,000,000
  • Brilliant execution = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

Derek Sivers

I totally endorse the concept that execution is several orders of magnitude more relevant than ideas. In fact, most of what we believe are brilliant ideas are just evolutionary steps combined with someone working his ass off to execute perfectly.

Execution makes the difference. Take angel investors, a tribe that is more used to discuss business ideas than you and me. If you ask an angel investor what they look for when they bet their money on a venture, you hardly ever hear anything related with the idea. It’s all about the entrepreneur, which is essentially related to his ability and determination to execute.

A lot of people talk to me about starting up a business. Some of them are really secretive about their ideas. I find that kind of cute. We tend to overrate ideas, probably as a result of the constructed picture of good idea = success that media has promoted for decades now.

I’ve been approached with proposals like: “I have an idea for an app, why don’t we partner, I do the thinking and you do the coding?” There’s nothing wrong with that, but honestly, if all you are bringing is your thinking, do you know how much is that worth? Well, look up in the page to get an idea…

If you are on that group of people that say: “Yes, I would totally do something else but, man, I have no ideas.” Cut the bullshit. Don’t lie to yourself. You don’t do it for another reason (probably fear, or sloth.) You don’t need ideas to start.

If you really want to do something (and you should), start with the second factor, and think about what can you execute brilliantly. What set of specialised knowledge, skills, experience, connections you have that put you in a position to do something better than anyone else. Sometimes this is not easy (and will probably trigger difficult thoughts on what have you done with your life), but in the end, you will find it. Obviously, nobody else has the same experience + interests + abilities + friends… somewhere in the intersection of those things you will find it and, when you do, just execute the most obvious of the ideas. Whether it is cooking cakes for your friends’ birthday parties, or sewing dresses for little girls, or training cadets football. Whatever it is, try to do it brilliantly, better than it has ever been done before. Only then will ideas spark.

Have a great weekend. Cheers.