How to Brainstorm for Success: Part 1 – An Introduction to Brainstorming

This is the first article in a 3-part (or more, YTBD) series about learning to brainstorm.

When I was a kid, my siblings and I would frequently ride our bikes to the local store to buy penny candy (hooray for penny candy!). The store wasn’t too far from us, maybe an 8-minute ride one way. We’d hop on our bikes and tear down the country streets. We lived in a small town, and I loved it.

On a rather sunny afternoon the moisture hung in the air, signaling that a storm was on its way. My siblings and I rode to the store anyway, thinking we’d have plenty of time. As we purchased our penny candy, the rain drops began to fall, lightly at first. A few waves of thunder sounded over the falling rain, and we decided to ride home before the real downpour struck.

As we pedaled like mad toward the second street corner–and the last home-stretch before arriving safely home–the rain poured down endlessly, splatting on the pavement, kicking up more water. As we pedaled like maniacs, our bike tires spit streams of water behind us and onto our backs. Our bags full of penny candy were drenched.

Just moments before reaching the second street corner, we were met with a giant “kablam!” as lightning struck a nearby tree, blowing bark off the tree’s trunk and nearly knocking us off our bikes.

At nearly the same time, my parents pulled up in the pickup truck, literally threw our bikes in the back and us in the cab. We all shook and looked at each other with wide eyes, knowing that we were feet from being struck with lightning.

It was a scene fit for the movies (or at least YouTube), and a storm we will all remember.

The storm that sizzles and jumps around in your head while brainstorming isn’t much different than those few insane moments of ours playing “dodge the lightening.”

Let’s look at a few similarities.

The Safe Zone

Had we of been sensible (when are kids sensible?) we would have stayed at the store and waited for the storm to pass, but no, we decided we’d risk getting ourselves soaked, our candy wet, and getting struck by lightning.

It was a good experience. I have a few grey hairs from it, but it was worth it. If we would have stayed in the store, I wouldn’t have the story to tell.

The key to powerful brainstorming is stepping out into the rain. It’s not a big deal if your clothes get soaked or your candy gets wet. You’ll survive. Trust me. When you brainstorm, if you don’t take a risk and step out into the rain, chances are you won’t find a story to tell, or an idea to build.

The Bike Ride

The moment we hopped onto our bikes and started pedaling, we knew it was a race against time. It was us versus nature—and we pedaled like there was no tomorrow. We had one goal in mind: make it home.

You must do the same. Once you start brainstorming, you’ve got to pedal like there’s no tomorrow. Write the ideas down as fast you as can. Don’t question your motives, just write.

When I brainstorm, I write down everything. If I don’t, the thought gets stuck in my head and swirls around like the popcorn seed that never pops. Write it down and get it out of your head. One idea leads to another, and if you’re holding back, you’ll be left with a bowl full of old maids.

The Lightning Strike

When the lighting struck, we were nearly blown off our bikes. The force of the bolt was powerful and inspiring. When I close my eyes and think about it, I can still feel the force and hear the splintering tree as the lighting made contact with its trunk.

You may be on a 10-minute ride or even a three-week ride before the lightning strikes and your big idea hits. When it does, the ride will have been worth it.

The lightning symbolizes the big idea. It’s that idea out of 20, 50, 100, 300, or 1000 that makes you sit up, pay attention, and realize that what you have is electric and powerful. When brainstorming you may have 1 electric idea, or you may have 10 or 20. But if you’re not writing all your ideas down, it will never strike.

The Truck Ride

As we rode home in the truck, our eyes were wide and our lips were buzzing with the heat of the moment. We knew we’d been a part of something unique and borderline chaotic, and the best part is the entire family was now in for the ride.

Once you have your idea, you run with it. Talk about it, learn what you can with it, and take it home. Write about it, figure it out. Finding the idea that you love is only the beginning. The next step is seeing it to fruition.

Brainstorming for success is all about unchaining your thoughts. It’s about testing the boundaries, defying the status quo and not being scared of getting your candy wet.

In future posts in this series, we’ll flesh out some of these ideas out in a little more detail, but for now…

It’s your turn.

What are your thoughts on brainstorming and how to make it effective?

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  1. Nate @ Practical Manliness vivaciously announces:

    I have to say, your introduction here was stunning. Quite possibly the best post intro I’ve seen ever (and I’ve seen thousands). You got me interested enough that I actually clicked over to read the rest of your article!

    As to my tips for effective brainstorming, I would recommend “sleeping on it”. I know this is cliched advice, but I really have found that my best brainstorming time is just as I am falling asleep.

    Thanks again for the terrific article (stumbled and tweeted)!

  2. Skinny Zhinni courageously discloses:

    the narrative is a great hook. it makes a solid, unifying thread too.

    nicely. done.

    keep writing, bro. :-)

  3. Chris Mower helpfully chimes:

    @Nate
    Thanks for the compliment. :) Some of my best ideas also come as I’m somewhere between sleep and awake at nights. I keep a pen and notebook on my bed stand for those moments. If I don’t write them down, I end up losing them.

    @Skinny Zhinni
    Thanks for reading.

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