Hard work, perseverance and diligently practicing the right daily habits are key in getting ahead in business and life. But finding a big idea helps, as well. Take it from Joel Holland, founder of VideoBlocks, a subscription-based platform for downloading stock footage, video, and looping motion backgrounds. While still in high school he started a TV show and interviewed more than 150 career professionals so as to help kids figure out what to do with their lives. But, without a budget the production value of the show was lacking. Holland had even interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger but couldn't make the footage look professional because it was cost-prohibitive to purchase b-roll, music, professional graphics or other stock media. His frustration was the seed for a goal to make stock video affordable to everyone, regardless of budget. After high school he pooled his savings, purchased some professional video equipment and hit the road for one year, traveling to over 30 U.S. cities shooting video, editing in hotel rooms, and selling clips.
Today VideoBlocks clears more than $25 million in sales, has 85 employees and claims to be the largest distributor of stock video with over 32 million downloads. Clients include professional production studios like NBC, Discovery and MTV as well as colleges, churches and video editing hobbyists. Holland has been named one of the "Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25" by BusinessWeek Magazine, "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" by the United States Small Business Administration, "Entrepreneur of the Year" by Ernst and Young for the Greater Washington D.C. region, and made Inc. Magazine's "30 Under 30" list in 2013. Here are his words on how to find your next big idea.
1. Act like a child.
Do you remember how energizing life was a kid? Everything was exciting and possible. Build a fort? Give me some pillows. Design a spacesuit from scratch? Find mom's scissors and a bed sheet. Never once did you stop to overthink your ideas. You simply imagined, then created. So the first thing I want you to do is find a way to forget everything you accept about the world and how it works. Peel back the stinky onion layers that have been wrapped around the simplicity of childhood. I want you to tap back into that childlike mentality where creativity roams free and fantasy very gently blends with reality. I was fortunate to start my first business when I was 12, because kids lack the self-doubt and fear that plagues us as adults. Succeeding early on gave me a confidence that has helped me succeed through adulthood, and I'm very thankful for that. But even today when I want to find new ideas, I struggle. So the first thing I do when I want to brainstorm is try to reach back to my inner child.
One way I do this is to start the day by reading Calvin and Hobbes, and slipping into Calvin's fantastic world of imagination. Your approach might be different, but do whatever it takes to tap back into your inner child when every whim you had was a great idea, and had to be done immediately.
2. Take a road trip.
You've stepped back into your child-like world of wonder. Now you need to fully disconnect from everyday normal. While all travel is amazing and good for the soul, there is something particularly magical and therapeutic about a road trip. Maybe it is the complete flexibility it gives you in exploring on your schedule. Or maybe it is the hours of alone time behind the wheel with nothing to do but stare off into space and think about life and business. I use these precious hours to take inventory of what is great in my life, and what I think could be better. This leads to "what tools or technology could I employ to make it better?" With 7 billion people in the world, your needs are business opportunities that could help many others.
Three years ago I rented an RV, and it changed my life. I was feeling burned out and overwhelmed by the constant distractions of office life, and needed a way to find creative stimulation. On my first trip, I fell in love with the truly unbridled freedom I experienced. I could literally feel my passion and drive re-awakening. I ended up buying an RV, and have now traveled through all of the lower 48 United States, seeing incredible sights along the way, while coming up with some of the best business ideas I've had in my entire life.
3. Keep an ideas journal for 30 days.
Now that you've put yourself into an elevated state of mind above the noise of the real world, it is time to start brain dumping. Every day, force yourself to write down one business idea that solves a personal problem and could be monetized. At the end of 30 days, you might not have your next big idea in the journal, but you will have programmed your mind to start actively seeking a great idea. The subconscious is powerful tool, and priming it can lead to impressive results. Have you ever noticed how you start noticing cars that you're thinking about buying, or shoes you've been eying? It is automatic, your mind notices without you telling it to. Put your subconscious to productive use actively searching for business ideas.
4. Make like Nike and just do it.
The most successful people you know stopped overthinking and started acting on their ideas a long time ago. They didn't delay building their fort or sewing their spacesuit. As they say, the only way to guarantee failure is by failing to try. The one thing I can guarantee is that there is never a better time than right now to try something new.
To summarize: Pick a month where you are willing to dedicate some time to jump starting your creative mind. Start each day by doing an activity that reminds you of childhood. Then find a way to escape from the doldrums of everyday life, whether through a road trip or simply finding a quiet place to meditate. Once your mind is as ease, whip out a journal and do a brain dump of ideas--it doesn't matter if they are good or not, it is the exercise that primes the subconscious. Finally, if one day you hit upon gold, take action. Baby steps are fine, just ask yourself "what is one thing I could do in the next 30 days to put this idea into motion?"