Back when CDs were a thing, I remember a random trip to the mall in December 2002 and walking through the aisles of the now-defunct FYE (picture a record store like Sam Goodie, but not as cool). Given the season, the place was hopping with people participating in the usual holiday rush. The only reason this day still sticks out is because I saw an album with a bizarre title at the front of the store: “Steal this Album!” by System of a Down.
As an 11 year old, I wasn’t yet a fan of the band (and much less aware of it’s disdain for consumerism, corporate greed, the military industrial complex, school, vegetables, etc.) I was just struck by the title of the album. Asking people to steal something you put a lot of effort into seemed like a radical (and ridiculous) suggestion. Why would you do that?
In retrospect, after earning my Spotify PhD, I can now assume the album name was probably part ironic, part middle finger to Napster, and part tip of the hat to a counterculture book of a similar name (“Steal this Book” by Abby Hoffman).
And approximately twenty years after trading my drumsticks in the 5th grade snare drum line for excel tabs and pitch decks, I’ve observed a few things related to innovation and creation.
People have a scarcity complex when it comes to ideas; they keep them cooped up in their heads rather than letting them fuck around out in the world. If you let them run, they might come back as something better.
No one has a monopoly on good ideas.
No one has a monopoly on shitty ideas.
Ideas aren’t worth much if you don’t go do the work (record the album, build the business, invent the invention).
The way most people talk about business ideas has become too formulaic, too rote; it’s allowed to be fun; it’s allowed to sound like it sounded at 3AM with your buddies.
Generating business ideas is a muscle that you need to exercise.
So welcome to my “idea dojo”. I’m not saying all the workouts will look pretty, but it’s better than not getting in the ring at all.
Behind the Keyboard
If by some stroke of the imagination you made it this far down the page, or are just trying to confirm if I’m blogging from my mother’s basement (psych: I’m in the attic), here’s a bit about myself. I work in finance, helping to scale fast growing software companies. I’ve worked in management consulting and private equity, but the most I’ve learned about producing quality work is from being a mason’s hand for seven summers in my late teens and early twenties. Me and his wife own a last minute tours and activities marketplace called Bubba Booking. This is the idea that consumes most of my free time. You cannot steal this one. However, if you’re looking to swim with sharks or want to learn how to surf, I can hook you up.
Stuff I frequently read and listen to include James Altucher (The James Altucher Show), Shaan Puri and Sam Parr (My First Million), Jim McKelvey (The Innovation Stack), Guy Raz (How I Built This), Tomasz Tunguz (VC at Redpoint), Alex Clayton (VC at Meritech Capital), and Tim Ferriss (The Tim Ferriss Show). I’ve never met any of these people, but I imagine they’d look taller in person.
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