Week 2 - Build a Thinking Gym and Idea Factory ⚙
People say 'ideas aren't worth 20 cents'. They're wrong🤦♀️. This is part two in the series for young change-makers, and we are about to turn the intangible into the tangible.
💡You have the wrong idea about ideas 💡
I want to clarify the idea of an idea. When people say that ‘ideas aren’t worth 20 cents’, they mean ideas about things to do. If you don’t do them, you’ve helped no one.
What if Nelson Mandela only thought about fighting Apartheid?
But then there are self-contained ideas✔. For example, the idea that people of different ethnic backgrounds and appearances do not have uneven self-worth. In this case, the way you think WILL impact your actions… massively.
Ideas need to lead to actions, but we still need ideas. Most people do not think deliberately about ideas, or how to build better ones. 🔨
Books are not enough📚
In fact, books are just one part of an ‘idea factory’:
An idea factory is a powerful system to regularly give you better and better ideas
This means you will do better and better work, and compound over time (in life, work, learning, income and any worthwhile metric). That is what the white curve below represents. Reminder:
How to build your idea factory
Step 1: Understand the factory mold.
Below is the mold of an idea factory, a production line that takes new information, stimulus and feedback from your environment and turns it into your own powerful ideas.
This gets passed along the production line. I’ll give you an example from my own idea factory (learning system) below. For now understand:
Books represent one source of information from your environment — substitute in academic papers, podcasts, blogs, documentaries and other material
Culture is continually sending signals to your idea factory. As my co-author of 18 & Lost? So Were We Tylah McConnell wrote, if she’d been born in Sweden instead of Australia, she probably would have grown up loving communism and nudity.
Wise people — most people are poor at judging what a truly wise person is. Learn to trust your instincts over time… bad sources of advice pollute your idea factory. (Tip, find people who listen more than they speak).
Projects — do things. There is no more dynamic way to learn.
Experience — the richest source of feedback. Modern education is to reality as pornography is to sex. Projects and experiments are the ways to get feedback in this day and age.
Step 2: Understand the filters and multipliers
The filters and multipliers in the diagram are in blue text.
This works twofold. Firstly, experience brings you new information and stimulus. Secondly, your experience is a powerful filter for how you process information — think about extreme examples like PTSD sufferers and triggers.
Leonardo Da Vinci refused to rely on books alone as he didn’t have a formal education. That’s why he ran elaborate, ingenious experiments.
In fact, Walter Isaacson argues that the one time Da Vinci was dead wrong (about blood circulation 🩸) was when he relied on books more than experience. My full reading notes on Da Vinci’s biography are here, available for Constant Student members.
Writing — a riff 🔊
Writing ✍— Note, writing does not have to be published. You can write something without sharing it.
Writing is to thinking what dead-lifts are to muscles — they work out everything at once. Dead-lifts work out parts of your legs, abdominals, back and more… with one exercise. 🧨This is what writing does to thinking.
There exists no more powerful exercise to refine and develop ideas, than having to articulate them on a flat surface.
Amazon brought in a policy that if you wanted to present an idea to the organisation, that you couldn’t create a power point, but rather, you had to write a six-page narrative (They found power points too misleading). They found that the best thinkers turned out to be the best writers, even if they were engineers and non-traditional writers.
How do you start writing?
Get inspired by some of history’s greats. Ernest Hemingway wrote first thing every morning, before the distractions set in.
Write in an empty word document, Google doc or Notion page, or on paper.
Deep Conversations 🗣
They say reading books is like having conversations with the masters of history. That’s a pretty one-way conversation 😆. A deep conversation with an everyday person is another powerful step on the production line. I call this conversation sex.
When you’re reading, you have no one challenging your interpretation of what you’re reading.
A conversation is the opportunity for someone to pull you up before you begin building an echo chamber around a potentially stupid idea.
For example, my friend thought that the light on top of taxis was for illumination (more light). Of course, he’s horribly wrong — this light is meant to indicate that the taxi is looking for a customer. He’d never had a conversation to correct this interpretation, and thus carried it for twenty years…
Imagine how many ideas about things from money, wealth, brand, insecurity, strategy, political beliefs, habits, and so on we carry around, that need to be challenged or corrected. Where is the feedback on our ideas?
You will notice how your thinking, with the right idea factory, becomes more powerful over time, compared to your contemporaries.
How will you tell? You’ll notice more angles or more depth to the way you think when in conversation, and how often you enlighten them.
For the factory to operate, you need to work out in the ‘Thinking Gym’
This is how I operate on a weekly basis — I maximise the time I get to spend reading, writing and having deep conversations with my routine and ‘career’ choices, using something called convergence.
📚 I read two books a week (anything that calls to me. I also have only three-four people who I accept recommendations from).
👩💻 I learn more about technology from being invested in the ThisApp journey, and a ton from all the different people and projects in The Constant Student Community. These experiences, combined with what I read, write, and speak about, multiply to create incredible learnings.
📰 I don’t listen to mainstream news or podcasts. I don’t read papers or magazines. They have not been, for the most part, thought about or refined enough. I consume long-term useful media for long-term thinking, not short-term sound bites. I filter out cultural noise, to think independently.
☕ I have a Sunday ‘coffee shop university’ with a couple of wise friends where we have open-ended conversations, and in the Constant Student, we have sessions and workshops like this twice a week.
🧓 I am surrounded by deep and stimulating conversations constantly
✍ I write every morning, from as little as 30 minutes to 2 hours. I have seen an incredible impact from this activity in tying all these things together.
You will too. Try writing for 30 minutes a day for one week. Liam Hounsell noticed it already…
Over five years, what will the impact be of this time in the ‘Thinking Gym’?
Imagine the comparison if I only read six books a year, and wrote for one hour a week?
Let’s extrapolate that over five years…
Ideas this has spit out
The Constant Student Community
150+ blog posts in the last year, including ideas like the Minimum Viable Lifestyle and the Thousand Doors.
More long-term thinking and broader thinking — being able to look further ahead
Becoming a more understanding person
Other business ideas I can’t tell you about yet ;) 👍😀
How could this impact you?
In your work? 👷♂️
In your family life? 👨👩👦👦
In your relationships? 💑
In your investments? 💹
In your opportunities and career progression? ↗
In your impact on the world? 🌍
In what you could do for others? 😮
I’m busy 😭 where can I get a ‘Thinking Gym Membership’ to do all this for me?
The Constant Student Community is built to automate all this and more. Here’s the free level.
There’s nine weeks to go in this series still…
What I’m reading this week 📔
Why Nations Fail by James A. Robinson and Daron Acemoglu — why indeed? I’m into history at the moment.
Excited to welcome a new batch of members to the Constant Student Community this week!
Launch date for 18 & Lost? So Were We will be announced very soon. I promise 🙈. You can now download the introduction on our website!
Published a few pieces on the website this week, for example the very simple Two Year Rule.
I’m looking 🔎 for young people looking to make change in the world, who want to work on something bigger than themselves. If you know them, please share this with them.