I woke up at about 3:30am. This was not unusual, since it was Ramadan. I had an idea. It felt like an inspiration, almost.
You see, I was becoming obsessed with Hacker News. I’d check it throughout the day – at work, at home, and even in bed. The issue with my Hacker News addition wasn’t the quick glance once in a while but rather the cost of that mental interruption and the mind constantly wondering. “Ping! What’s making the front page?! Oh, I better check.” I think this fear and anxiety of missing something came about because I’ve gotten great value from Hacker News.
That night, though, I had an inspiration — a very unique idea. Were it any other night, I would have gone back to bed to catch up on my sleep – that night sleep waited and I immediately went to work.
Speaking of HN value, a few days earlier, through HN I had discovered a tool called WebFlow. This was great timing because with my new idea, I had an excuse to try WebFlow. I jumped on WebFlow and quickly figured out how to use it and by morning time, HNdigest.com was born. I had an MVP for my inspiration to build a Hacker News digest that would ensure I don’t miss any of the day’s top news.
People go through different phases in life. A few years ago, I recall sitting with my friends and generating ideas — “amazing” ideas. “Yo bro, I’ve got an idea for a checkout system… the best part is that a POS system isn’t necessary at all!” Yeah, your mind is blown, I know!
It seems that people go through four phases. First, you have people who are doing their daily chores and are not concerned about anything beyond that. They’ve got no business idea or product idea. They’re just chilling.
Then in the second phase, which is where I was until recently, you’ve got people that come up with ideas. Good ones, bad ones, crazy ones. Ideas of all shapes and sizes. In this group, people are idea mills. They talk about these ideas with whoever will listen. The problem is that these ideas leave their head just as quickly as they enter it. Then people graduate from this phase to the doer phase.
In this phase people start with an idea. They talk to people, but this time, they have the single goal of actually trying this idea on for size. So they might do a survey and gauge interest in the product idea. Or they might go to meetups and discuss implementation details and very soon, they’ll start actually doing the idea. (I feel that there’s a fourth phase out there. If you’re there, let me know what it’s all about.)
Going from Phase Two to Three
If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re not in the first phase. That group would find this concept quite boring. However, if you’re in the second phase, move on. Do this by taking one of the ideas from your idea hat. Be sure to pick low hanging fruit, though. You want something you can build in a few weeks or months, not years. You want something you believe you can build. It’s no problem if the idea isn’t terribly sexy or has been done before. One of the first ideas that I executed was a peer-to-peer textbook exchange website. It wasn’t sexy and it made me less than $100 from revenue. However, I learned about the industry. I learned a lot about the textbook market. I learned about bookstores. I won 2 business plan competitions and got $4000 in cash. And it helped me get a job.
Imagine the idea you’re executing as a flashlight. You’re entering a dark cave — an unknown market. The more you execute, the brighter the cave will get. You never know, maybe, just maybe, you’ll discover a tiny little hole in the cave that needs to be serviced…and because you’ve lit the cave up, you now know just what to do.
Now, going back to my inspiration. At the end of September, I posted HNdigest.com on Hacker News and it stayed on the front page for about 6 hours. As a result, I got over 1,000 sign-ups. That certainly wouldn’t have happened if I decided to go back to bed that night in Ramadan.
So, my idea mills, don’t sleep tonight until you get STARTED on your idea.