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Following the Rules

Why You Need to Take Notes on Life

Note: This is the final post in a multipart series on getting permission and why now is the best time to start a business (especially if you’re still in college). You can start from the beginning here.

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, G...

What, Hitler can’t just having a relaxing ride? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone has the same brain. The only thing separating you from Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi or Adolf Hitler is nurture, not nature. All humans are born with the exact same hardware and software. All of us have the same capability to come up with great ideas. Do not trust your memory, it will lie to you and make you forget, you need to start trusting your hands: write things down. You might have ten revolutionary ideas per day, but the human mind is only capable of remembering seven things at a time, so unless you are committing your ideas to long-term memory immediately, you are throwing away your chance to change the world.

Carry a notebook and a pen around, you can buy them at Staples or Office Depot for six bucks. Just trust me on this: you are a genius, even if you have no past accomplishments to show for it. The IQ system is a lie: if you test the same person four or five times, his IQ raises not because he is getting smarter, but because he is learning the test. You are not inherently smart or dumb. Some people are born with certain advantages, but you can blow past them by just following the advice in this book: read more, write down your ideas, and take action.

If you are at a loss for a great idea at the moment, this is what you do. After buying the notebook, open it up to the first blank page and write “I will have a revolutionary business idea in the next three months.” Go to Google Alerts, or set a reminder on your phone to remind you to take action in three months. Now is the time to think. Set your timer for fifteen minutes immediately after writing the above sentence, pick up your notebook and pen, move away from your computer, and think.

Albert Einstein Français : portrait d'Albert E...

Albert Einstein styled his own hair until the day he died. He also got shit done. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, think about all of the environment factors like climate change, hurricanes, and floods. What is happening in the environment? How is it affecting people? What kind of problems are they facing because of environmental factors? Write down what you come up with. Next, think about economic factors: people are losing their jobs, there is a housing crisis, and people are worried about inflation. Write down how those things are affecting people on a macro scale, and how they affect you every day. Then, think about political factors: tax laws, healthcare, elections. Think about how those are changing people’s lives for the better or worse, and think about better ways to do them. Now, think about technology: where is the world headed? What are big companies doing right now behind closed doors, and how is that going to change the landscape in the next couple years? Write all of your insights down as you have them.

When your timer goes off, stop writing. Put the notebook and pen in your pocket, and go take a walk. Observe nature, say hi to people, and try not to think about what you were doing. This time away from direct thought is called the incubation period. You have just spent fifteen minutes deeply thinking about things most people never think about, and your mind needs time to digest, it needs time to come up with new ideas.

Go to a party, go to a bookstore, go watch a comedy, do anything to keep your mind off of the thought stream you just had, just make sure you have a pen ready to write down your big idea.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison, the smartest product stealer there ever was (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the next three months, as the deadline on your revolutionary idea gets closer and closer, you will start to feel smarter. You will wake up in the middle of the night with great, world changing ideas. It is imperative that you write these down instead of lying in your bed hoping that you will remember. Make sure you put the notebook somewhere you can grab it in the middle of the night. I’ve lost fantastic ideas forever because my notebook was across the room and I forgot them on the way over to it. That’s the ironic thing about the brain at night: it is smarter than it ever is, but it is also its most forgetful. Thomas Edison knew this. He used to sit in a chair holding some metal balls in one hand and his pad and paper in the other. He would sit in this chair, getting more and more lost in thought, and eventually he would drift off to sleep. As soon as he nodded off he would drop the metal balls to the floor, and the noise would wake him up. He wrote down what on his mind each time.

Now, I don’t recommend going balls to the wall like Edison, but we all think of things as we are dozing off. You think about our day, your worries, your fears, and your ideas. That last thing is what you want to write down, so get a notebook and start sleeping next to it.

During this idea creation period, make sure to keep reading. Not just fantasy or sci-fi novels, although those definitely work as creative catalysts. It is also important to build your knowledge of business, at least to a point where taking action is not stepping into a dark cloud.

At the end of this work you will find fourteen books that have influenced my way of thinking, and I implore you to at least browse through each one. They will give you more insight into the world of business, and make it simpler to act on the ideas you have.

Getting into business has never been easier, and it’s never been cheaper. Go out and change the world, it’s waiting for you.

If these guys could be successful, why can’t you?