20 Ways To Create Million Dollar Ideas

How To Generate a Million Dollar Idea

Big companies like Apple, super successful websites like Facebook, and bestselling books like The 4-Hour Workweek all have one thing in common:  They begin with a million dollar idea.

The big question is:  How did their creators come up with these ideas?  Did they sit around waiting for an inspirational flash or a mystic spell of luck?

The answer is:  Spontaneity and luck had little to do with it.

In this article, we’ll take a brief look at 20 tried and true techniques that some of the brightest and most successful entrepreneurs have used to generate million dollar ideas.

You don’t need to have a 100-person company
to develop and execute a good idea.
– Larry Page (Google)

  1. Generate lots of ideas. – The more ideas you create, the more likely you are to create an idea worth a million bucks.
  2. Fail a lot. – All of the ideas that don’t work are simply stepping stones on your way to the one idea that does.  Sometimes you have to fail a thousand times to succeed.  No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.
  3. Consume information consciously. – Some of my friends think it’s wasteful that I spend so much time reading books and blogs.  It’s not.  It’s what gives me an edge.  I feel engulfed with new ideas and information.  And I’ve actually used what I’ve learned to launch a few successful websites.  When you read things and interact with people, take off your consumer cap and put on your creator cap.  There are million dollar ideas (or at least some really good ideas) all around you waiting for discovery.
  4. Focus on topics and ideas with large markets. – A million dollars is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly is if you’re trying to earn it in a small market with limited opportunities.  Even if you put Steve Jobs in the role of CEO for a new venture with a maximum market size of 100 people he wouldn’t make more than a few cents.  ‘Big bucks’ result from high demand in a substantial market.
  5. Make sure there’s money in your market. – Bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is.  Before you become emotionally attached to an idea, do a little market research.  Make sure the idea you’re pursuing is where the money is.  Who are the clients and consumers?  How much disposable income do they have?  Etc.
  6. Keep your eyes, ears and mind wide open. – Oftentimes one idea’s failure will open a door to a new idea.  Don’t get so hung up on one failed attempt that you miss the opening for many more.
  7. Test variations of the same idea. – Think about the iPhone and the iPad for a second.  One is just a variation of the other.  Both are multi-million dollar ideas.
  8. Figure out what works well in one market and tailor it to another. – Find an idea that’s already proven and think about how it could be applied in a different context.  Take a formula that works in one niche and apply it to a new niche.  Or take the best aspects of one product and combine it with another product.
  9. Put the pieces together. – YouTube’s creators didn’t invent Flash.  They didn’t invent modern digital cameras that can record computer-ready mpeg video.  And they didn’t invent broadband Internet connections, cheap web hosting, embedded website content, or one-click website uploading technologies either.  What they invented is a technology that takes all of these existing pieces and combines them into an online video sharing portal.
  10. Spin a new twist on a previous breakthrough. – A new twist on an old idea can still be a million dollar idea.  Take Facebook for instance, it wasn’t the first big social networking site, but Mark Zuckerberg and company added twists and features the others did not grasp.  How can you take an existing million dollar idea, or even a common idea, and give it a new twist, a new direction and journey?
  11. Systematize a popular service into a reproducible product. – A service is productized when its ownership can be exchanged.  Think about Alienware and Dell back in their infancy.  Both companies simply systematized the service of building IBM compatible PCs and then sold them as a packaged product.  If you can convert a high demand service into a scalable, systematized, efficient process and sell it as a packaged deal, the million appears.
  12. Play with opposites. – When something becomes extremely popular, the opposite often also becomes popular as people turn away from the mainstream.  When WordPress, Blogger and Movable Type exploded in popularity by giving anyone with an Internet connection the ability to share long, detailed blog posts with the world, Twitter and Tumblr came along and started the micro-blogging revolution – for people grasping to share extremely short content snippets.  There are hundreds of other examples.  Just remember, the opposite of a million dollar idea can paradoxically give birth to another million dollar idea.
  13. Look for problems and solve them. – There are many real problems in this world.  Like a business owner wondering why his profits are sinking.  Like a golfer worrying about his slice.  Like a young man who is growing bald at 26.  Like a mom whose child is suffering with allergies.  Like a new dog owner who’s unsure what to do about her puppy barking all night.  Solving problems like these can make millions.
  14. Design new products that support other successful products. – How much money do you think iPod, iPhone and iPad case manufacturers are making?  Millions?  Billions?  What about companies that jumped into the market of manufacturing LCD and Plasma TV mounting brackets eight years ago?  You get the idea.
  15. Keep it simple. – Don’t over complicate a good idea.  Business marketing studies have shown that the more product choices offered, the less products consumers typically buy.  After all, narrowing down the best product from a pool of three choices is certainly easier than narrowing down the best product from a pool of three hundred choices.  If the purchasing decision is tough to make, most people will just give up.  So if you’re designing a product line, keep it simple.  (Read Made to Stick.)
  16. Exploit the resources and skills you already have. – It’s not as much about having the right resources as it is about exploiting your resources right now.  Stevie Wonder couldn’t see, so he exploited his sense of hearing into a passion for music, and he now has 25 Grammy Awards to prove it.  If you pursue a new venture that involves leveraging your resources and skills, you’re ahead of the game.
  17. Surround yourself with other thinkers. – You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  If you hang with the wrong people, they will affect you negatively.  But if you hang with the right people, you will be more capable and powerful than you ever could have been alone.  Find your tribe and collaborate to make a difference in all your lives.  Bounce ideas off each other, etc.  (Read Tribes.)
  18. Be enthusiastic about what you’re doing. – Enthusiasm is the lifeblood of creativity.  Big ideas blossom when you’re passionate and enthusiastic about what you’re doing.  It’s nearly impossible to pioneer ground breaking solutions in a domain where there is not passionate intensity.  But when your mind is stimulated by a fundamental curiosity and interest in the subject matter, your creativity will run rampant and your motivation will skyrocket.
  19. Accept constructive criticism, but ignore naysayers. – When someone spews negativity about your idea or product, remember, it doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it, it matters how many do.  No matter how much progress you make there will always be the people who insist that whatever you’re trying to do is impossible.  Or they may jealously suggest that the idea or concept as a whole is utterly ridiculous because nobody really cares.  When you come across these people, don’t try to reason with them.  Instead, forget that they exist.  They will only waste your time and energy.
  20. Actually do something with your ideas! – A million dollar idea is simply a good idea given the chance to grow.  On paper, Google and Facebook sprung from fairly ordinary ideas: ‘a search engine that’s accurate’ and ‘a website where friends connect with each other.’  Remember, neither of these companies were the first ones in their market.  Their ideas weren’t groundbreaking at the time.  Many people had the same ideas even before Google and Facebook existed.  But Google’s and Facebook’s creators did something with their ideas.  They worked hard and one-upped the competition.  Their initial success was in their execution.  Remember, it’s not the ideas themselves that count, it’s what you do with them. With the right execution, a simple idea can evolve into a million dollar idea.  (Read Making Ideas Happen.)

Photo by: Noah Coffey

18 Things My Dad Was Right About

My Dad Was Right

Fifteen years ago, when I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher gave my class a homework assignment entitled, “Advice for a Younger Generation.”  The concept of the assignment was simple:  Each student had to interview a person who was over the age of 25, gather enough information to write a basic biography of their life and find out what their top tips are for a younger generation.  I chose to interview my dad.  He was 53 at the time and he gave me 18 pieces of advice.

I had completely forgotten about all this until last week when I was visiting my parents.  My mom had me clean out a few old boxes she had stored in the attic.  In one of these boxes I found the original “Advice for a Younger Generation” assignment dated April 22nd, 1996.  I read through it and was totally blown away.

Even though my dad’s advice is relevant to a person of any age, my 29-year-old self can relate to it in a way my 14-year-old self didn’t quite grasp at the time.  In fact, the first thought that went through my head was, “My dad was right.”

Here are his 18 pieces of advice for a younger generation, transcribed with his permission.

  1. Your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s won’t feel like your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. – Adults are just older children.  When you get older you won’t feel as old as you imagine you will.  For the most part, you still feel exactly the way you feel right now, just a little wiser and more confident.  You’ve had time to establish your place in the world and figure out what’s important to you.  Don’t fear growing up.  Look forward to it.  It’s awesome.
  2. Bad things will happen to you and your friends. – Part of living and growing up is experiencing unexpected troubles in life.  People lose jobs, get in car accidents and sometimes die.  When you are younger, and things are going pretty well, this harsh reality can be hard to visualize.  The smartest, and oftentimes hardest, thing we can do in these kinds of situations is to be tempered in our reactions.  To want to scream obscenities, but to wiser and more disciplined than that.  To remember that emotional rage only makes matters worse.  And to remember that tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem, and even when they are, they give us an opportunity to grow stronger.
  3. Everyone can make a huge difference. – Making one person smile can change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  So start small and start now.
  4. First impressions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  – Everyone and everything seems normal from a distance, or at a glance.  The 10th, 20th, or even the 50th impression is when you start to truly understand someone else for who they truly are.
  5. Big results come when you narrow your focus. – Concentrate your efforts on smaller and smaller areas.  When your efforts are diffused over a wide area they won’t have much of an impact.  So focus on smaller areas and your efforts will be felt more fully.  It could take time for change to happen, but keep that focus narrow.
  6. Love yourself.  Become your own priority. – Strive to be the ‘you’ you want to be.  Nourish your mind and body.  Educate yourself every day until you die.
  7. Sometimes you just have to go for it. – Put your uncertainty and fears aside for a second and ask yourself this:  “If I try and I don’t get it right the first time, what will I have lost and what will I have gained?”  The answer is:  You will have lost nothing but a little bit of your time while gaining an important lesson that will help you get it right the second or third time.  People rarely get it right the first time.  In fact, usually the only people who ever get it right are those who continue going for it even when they’ve come up short numerous times before.
  8. In order to get, you have to give. – Supporting, guiding and making contributions to other people is one of life’s greatest rewards.  Everything you do comes back around.
  9. Not much is worth fighting about. – If you can avoid it, don’t fight.  Step back from arguments with your spouse, family members or neighbors.  When you feel anger surging up and you want to yell that vulgar remark on tip of your tongue, just close your mouth and walk away.  Let yourself calm down.  You don’t have to be right or win an argument.  It just doesn’t matter.
  10. Don’t try to impress everyone. – Purposely impressing people is an act that brings nothing but a momentary ego boost.  Be real with people instead.  Connect with fewer people on a level that is deeper and more profound.
  11. Keep having fun. – Fun is way underrated.  With all of life’s responsibilities, fun will sometimes seem like an indulgence.  It shouldn’t be.  It should be a requirement.  Make time for fun.
  12. Keep it simple. – There is a world of magnificence hidden in simplicity.  Pick the five most important things in your life now and focus on those things.  Let the other stuff go.  Stop the busyness and really enjoy what’s important to you.
  13. Little things stick with you. – So pay attention to them.  Like watching your child sleep.  Preparing a meal with your family.  Sharing a great laugh with an old friend.  This is the real stuff life is made of.
  14. Less advice is often the best advice. – People don’t need lots of advice, they need to live.  I’ve seen young, rocky relationships develop into wonderful marriages and fleeting inspirations ignite a lifetime of passion and happiness.  Our life stories, like the answers we give to long essay questions, are uniquely ours.  What people want to know is already somewhere inside of them.  We all just need time to think, be and breathe, and continue to explore the undirected journeys that will eventually help us find our direction.
  15. Manage your time. – Your situation and environment is ever changing, so be careful not to confuse things that are urgent with things that are important.
  16. Manage your money. – Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.  Don’t spend more than you make.  Don’t let your money manage you.
  17. What you learn in school does matter. – While you may not use the specifics of every classroom lesson, every lesson does expand the core thought process of your mind.  Over time you will develop problem solving skills that are universally applicable.  No single classroom lesson can teach this, and no single classroom lesson is more important.
  18. Dreams will remain dreams forever if you don’t take action. – Don’t dream about it anymore.  Start doing it.  In 40 years from now what is it that you will regret not having accomplished, appreciated or attempted?  Do it, appreciate it and attempt it NOW!

Also, my dad is 68 now and I’m sure he’s learned a few new tricks in the last 15 years.  Earlier today, as I was transcribing this, I asked him if he would share a few of these new tricks with us.  He said he will in the near future, so stand by for an update.  But in the mean time, he told me to tell you to read his two favorite personal development books:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Millionaire Next Door.

Photo by: Alex Proimos

16 Harsh Truths that Make Us Stronger

Harsh Truths that Make Us Stronger

It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more manhood (or womanhood) to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex. Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind.
– Alex Karras

  1. Life is not easy. – Hard work makes people lucky – it’s the stuff that brings dreams to reality.  So start every morning ready to run farther than you did yesterday and fight harder than you ever have before.  (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
  2. You will fail sometimes.  – The faster you accept this, the faster you can get on with being brilliant.  You’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.  So get out there and do something!  Either you succeed or you learn a vital lesson.  Win – Win.
  3. Right now, there’s a lot you don’t know. – The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.  Embrace new information, think about it and use it to advance yourself.
  4. There may not be a tomorrow. – Not for everyone.  Right now, someone on Earth is planning something for tomorrow without realizing they’re going to die today.  This is sad but true.  So spend your time wisely today and pause long enough to appreciate it.
  5. There’s a lot you can’t control. – Wasting your time, talent and emotional energy on things that are beyond your control is a recipe for frustration, misery and stagnation.  Invest your energy in the things you can control.
  6. Information is not true knowledge. – Knowledge comes from experience.  You can discuss a task a hundred times, but these discussions will only give you a philosophical understanding.  You must experience a task firsthand to truly know it.
  7. You can’t be successful without providing value. – Don’t waste your time trying to be successful, spend your time creating value.  When you’re valuable to the world around you, you will be successful.  (Read Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?)
  8. Someone else will always have more than you.  – Whether it’s money, friends or magic beans that you’re collecting, there will always be someone who has more than you.  But remember, it’s not how many you have, it’s how passionate you are about collecting them.  It’s all about the journey.
  9. You can’t change the past. – As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  You can’t change what happened, but you can change how you react to it.
  10. The only person who can make you happy is you. – The root of your happiness comes from your relationship with yourself.  Sure external entities can have fleeting effects on your mood, but in the long run nothing matters more than how you feel about who you are on the inside.
  11. There will always be people who don’t like you. – You can’t be everything to everyone.  No matter what you do, there will always be someone who thinks differently.  So concentrate on doing what you know in your heart is right.  What others think and say about you isn’t all that important.  What is important is how you feel about yourself.
  12. You won’t always get what you want. – As Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.”  Look around.  Appreciate the things you have right now.  Many people aren’t so lucky.
  13. In life, you get what you put in. – If you want love, give love.  If you want friends, be friendly.  If you want money, provide value.  It really is this simple.  (Read The Four Agreements.)
  14. Good friends will come and go. – Most of your high school friends won’t be a part of your college life.  Most of your college friends won’t be a part of your 20-something professional life.  Most of your 20-something friends won’t be there when your spouse and you bring your second child into the world.  But some friends will stick.  And it’s these friends – the ones who transcend time with you – who matter.
  15. Doing the same exact thing every day hinders self growth. – If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  Growth happens when you change things – when you try new things – when you stretch beyond your comfort zone.
  16. You will never feel 100% ready for something new. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means you won’t feel totally comfortable or ready for it.

And remember, trying to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.  Strength comes from being comfortable in your own skin.

Photo by: Jhong Dizon

10 Commandments for a Good Life

The Good Life

A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often and realize how fortunate you are right now.  It’s about the simple pleasures that make you happy, the compassionate deeds you perform, the personal goals you strive to achieve, the relationships you nurture and the legacy you leave behind.

So starting today, choose to take control.  Here are ten commandments to help you live a good life.

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years.
– Abraham Lincoln

I.  I am not perfect and I will not try to be.

Think of how many things don’t get done in this world simply because people are waiting for the perfect time, place and circumstance.

The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists.  It rewards people who get things done.  And the only way to get things done is to be imperfect 99% of the time.  (Read Too Perfect.)

ll.  I cannot, and will not try, to please everyone.

No matter what you do or how you do it, there will always be people that disagree with what you’re doing.  That’s life.  So don’t try to please everyone.  Simply do what you know is right.

And remember, it doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it, it matters how many people do.

III.  I will take part in something I believe in.

This could be anything.  Some people take an active role in their city council, some find refuge in religious faith, some join social clubs supporting causes they believe in and others find passion in their careers.  In each case the psychological outcome is the same.  They engage themselves in something they strongly believe in.  This engagement brings happiness and meaning into their lives.

IV.  I will prioritize my obligations and do important things first.

Set priorities for yourself and act accordingly.  It’s the only way to get things done.

It’s the only way to turn a dream into a reality.  (Read Getting Things Done.)

V.  I will choose my friends wisely.

Your friends are family you choose.  So make sure you choose friends who are worthy of your time and attention.

Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be.  Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you – people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it.

VI.  I will help others when I am able.

In life, you get what you put in.

When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life.  The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.

VII.  I will focus on the positive.

Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story.  The mind must believe it can do something before it is capable of actually doing it.

The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful.  Listen to your self-talk and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  Regardless of how a situation seems, focus on the next positive step forward.

VIII.  I can only be me.

Judy Garland once said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of somebody else.”  Live by this statement.

There is no such thing as living in someone else’s shoes.  The only shoes you can occupy are your own.  If you aren’t being yourself, you aren’t truly living – you’re merely existing.  And ask yourself this:  If you don’t like who you really are, why should I like you?

Trying to be somebody you’re not is not sexy.  Be you.  That’s when you’re beautiful.

IX.  I will be here now.

Life is happening right now.  Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, practice being and living in the present moment.

Remember, right now is the only moment guaranteed to you.  Right now is life.  Don’t miss it.  (Read Zen and the Art of Happiness.)

X.  Life never gets any better, only my perception of it does.

The world around you changes when you change.

If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.  The opposite is also true.  The choice is yours to make.

Photo by: Eduardo Amorim