How to Capture Your Ideas Before They Disappear - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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How to Capture Your Ideas Before They Disappear

Sep 12, 2014


Have you heard of Samuel Langley? Probably not. That's because he almost invented the airplane.

Samuel Langley was a renowned professor of mathematics and astronomy in the early 1900s. The US government gave him $50,000 to create the airplane. After two experimental flights went wrong, he was ridiculed and criticised in the media and the government, until he became dejected and gave up.

Have you heard of Orville and Wilbur Wight? Of course you have. Because less than two months after Langley's failed flight, the uneducated and unfunded Wright brothers flew the first successful powered airplane, and the world will never forget them.

In You Have a Brilliant Idea! Don't Let it Pass You By I presented the theory that we all have access to great ideas. We don't need an MBA degree or a high IQ or vast amounts of funding to have a good idea, we get them all the time.

But unless we have conviction in the idea, unless we grab and hold on to the idea, and push past the challenges of our daily lives to act on it, our ideas will fade away into nothing, and life will remain the same.

A Crazy Idea or Brilliant Idea?
Source: Photo: Mopic/

Today I will talk about how to capture those ideas and act on them, so that they take you and your life to a whole new level.

Record Each Idea as It Comes

In whatever way you feel comfortable, get your idea down before it disappears. Whether on paper, or on your electronic device, write it down or leave yourself a voice note, before you get on with your life and let the idea drift away.

The best ideas come when you least expect them, in the shower, while you're asleep, on the train... J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter phenomenon had the idea for Harry Potter while on a crowded train. It just 'fell into my head,' she said. She didn't have a pen to write it down and was too shy to ask for one. So she just let the idea develop in her head until she got to a pen. She started writing the book that very day.

If you get an idea at an inconvenient time or place, let it marinate in your head. If you move on to another train of thought before you record it, chances are it will never come back to you.

I have often woken up in the middle of the night with a thought in my head and gone back to sleep thinking, 'great idea, will work on it tomorrow.'

The next day I'd search every corner of my mind to discover to my deep disappointment that my brilliant idea was nowhere to be found. Sleep is a double-edged sword - on the one hand your mind is free from daily worries and relaxed enough to churn out wonderful thoughts. On the other hand you're too sleepy to do anything about it.

Now I often sit up like a ghost in the middle of the night and scribble on a pad I keep by my bedside titled "Possibilities."

Cull Your Ideas and Keep the Good Ones

When I wake up I check to see if I wrote any thoughts down in my possibilities journal. Most of the time I find gibberish, nonsense, or nothing. Sometimes I find average ideas. Every once in a while I find a possibility - a diamond in the rough - an idea I can work with.

You don't need hundreds of brilliant ideas - you just need a few good ones to keep things interesting, and one or two supergood ones to take life to the next level.

Study them critically, but fairly. If it's a bad idea, let it go. Conversely, don't discard ideas just because they seem too insane, or impossible. As Winston Churchill said, 'No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered with a searching but at the same time a steady eye.'

Outlandish means different things to different people. It depends on your perspective of risk, or what people sometimes refer to as 'risk appetite'.

For me, spending a year working on peacebuilding efforts in a post-conflict country was not a risk. For me, the greater risk was missing out on that opportunity and living with the regret.

Some of my friends thought 'it's crazy'. So be it. Risk perception is a very personal, subjective thing. Nobody really needs to understand why we take the risks we take.

So when you assess an idea, think about the risk of taking it on - time, money, security. But also remember the risk of not taking it on - would it cause you to live with regret? A blow to your self-esteem? The feeling of being trapped? Or simply not being able to work on something you love.

And the day will come 'when the risk to remain tight in a bud (becomes) more painful than the risk it took to blossom' - Anais Nin

Try Out the Idea ASAP

Don't wait for that one brilliant idea to pursue. Just start working on your good idea now. Polish it, and you might just find a diamond within.

When Mark Zuckerberg created a platform where his classmates could connect, he had not set out to change the world. He just happened to have an idea. It was not the first idea he ever had. He was not the first person to have that same idea. He simply had an idea, tried it out, and the idea expanded into the phenomenon that is Facebook.

When you have an idea just follow the thread unraveling as you go to see where it leads. If it doesn't work, pick another thread and start again.

Believe in Your Idea and Yourself

We often let great ideas pass us by for lack of courage or confidence, we don't feel up to taking the idea to fruition.

When I go scuba diving I have to carry with me a little log book - where all my dives are recorded. Not only is it a real pain to carry this book every time I travel, but after going through the vagaries of my scuba trips it got wet so many times all you can see in it is smeared blue ink, and the pages are falling apart.

I thought often about how much easier it would be if there was a scuba diving app for divers around the world to log their dives easily. I should have created such an app.

Sadly, I didn't. I thought, 'I don't know anything about apps' and 'Why hasn't the scuba association made their own app maybe it is a bad idea?'

I got intimidated by my own idea! I second-guessed it, ripped it to shreds, decided it would be a waste of time, and all the while it kept niggling me from the back of my head saying, 'Remember me, I'm the scuba app idea. I know I'm still good. Please try me!'

Now there is such an app and it's quite a success in the diving community. If I had believed in the strength of my idea, and my own ability to get it done, the success would have been mine.

So when you have a good idea, believe in it, and believe in yourself. In the maze of life you have to go down several paths before you find the right one.

Try. Fail. Rinse and Repeat.

Forever, if that's as long as it takes. Because somewhere in there, lies your super idea, your life changer. And if you're not looking it might just pass you by.

If you missed You Have a Brilliant Idea! Don't Let it Pass You By, you can read it here. And if you have any stories about ideas that have made your life special, please share them with us.


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4 Responses to "How to Capture Your Ideas Before They Disappear"


29 Sep, 2014

****** The first Aeroplane was created and flown in Mumbai Chowpati by an Indian !!!!!! The Aeroplane was invented , created and flown in Mumbai for the first time by an Indian from the sanskrit texts of a yogi. The sanskrit text is Vimana Shastra which gives the exact way to create different kinds of aeroplanes. That idea was sold to a western company for cheap and the Wright Brothers copied it and constructed the aeroplane using the copied idea. Even a small child has been brainwashed that Wright brothers first made the aeroplane, but that is not true. An Indian first made the aeroplane , similarly with zero and maths, Divya Narendra is the brilliant chap among the facebook idea creators and he is also indian . Our indians should know all these above and the fact that FRCS also was setup abroad by learning surgery here in India !!!!!! We indians have great potential to do great things. After all , America is a Stolen country by the White Man, The Ancient Residents , Native Americans were Indians !!!!!!


28 Sep, 2014

Great Idea - Rinse and write own the idea before it disappears! More often than not, it does. I have see many students who come with raw but brilliant ideas - but allow these to die or fade away. I think more awareness should be created about 'Ideation' as I call it. Pl keep posting such relevant articles. Regards


13 Sep, 2014

Though this is not about me but about my uncle. Sometime 48 yrs ago ,( I was 10 yrs old then) , when we were staying in a village in Maharashtra , my uncle ,had " invented " a TIMER .With which he had connected lights in his house .So that every day at 7 pm the lights will be ON automatically.At that time only he had developed a Gas stove ,but which could use KEROSENE as a fuel.BUT NO ONE IN OUR SMALL PLACE COULD UNDERSTAND ,THE IMPORTANCE OF THOSE GADGETS ,AND HE GOT FRUSTRATED . Anisa, your articles are always too good .Keep it up.

Akshay Maini

12 Sep, 2014

Anisa, I must say it was a great article to read. The 'Possibilities Pad' is a nice idea - though I would never be able to get to it at night! Diving App -would have been great! Hopefully we all can learn something from this. Cheers.


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