In his book, Choose Yourself, James Altucher turned me on to the concept of “idea sex.” Mash two things together. Get your ideas mingling with other people’s ideas. Little column A, little column B. That kind of thing. You get it, right? Just whatever you think it means, that’s what it means. But I think you’re already there. Idea sex is a good way to mash things for a better output.
Collaboration and sharing and getting better ideas comes from trying something new, something that doesn’t always go together, or not for necessarily for everyone. Kool-Aid pickles, for instance. That’s a thing (google it). I love China Poblano, Chinese and Mexican food mashed. Old and new. Whatever it is. Mix it all up.
Adam Sandler did this quite successfully when he collaborated with Dan Bulla on his 100% Fresh special on Netflix. (If you’re not a fan of Sandler’s other work, watch this. It’s really really really good. If you’re a fan, you don’t need me to tell you.)
Smash Your Ideas Together
Today (like today today), I realized my next book has to be two books mashed into one. Dented is about how we can be a bit dented and still show up at work and in life. The Picnic is about how companies can create better spaces for the people they want to serve. The ideas are mashed. They have to be. Take your dented self and bring it to the picnic. It totally has to go like that.
And the thing is, with ideas that don’t immediately make sense to you (like Kool-Aid pickles), it needs explaining. Over and over. This is where people muck it up. If you share your crazy idea and it goes over like a fart in church, you’ll be inclined to shelve that thought and move on to something else. Don’t do that right away. Give it a try. A lot of tries. Give more than a few people a taste and see if you can get the recipe just right.
On the Conan Needs a Friend podcast, Lin-Manuel Miranda talked about how he was working on this rap-musical multicultural adaptation of Ron Chernow’s book about Alexander Hamilton. People literally laughed in his face and thought he was joking. Jon Stewart poked fun at him on the daily show the day after Miranda debuted it (at the White House for the Obamas, by the way). Well, his joke has earned him almost half a billion dollars in gross receipts, an Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and Pulitzer Prize and plenty more accolades.
I’ve said for decades that the big difference between me and a lot of other people is that I’ll make 100 attempts at something, and if two of them succeed then I’ve got two more wins than someone who hasn’t taken one shot. Swing for your idea. Mash it with something else.
There are so many derivative and copycat ideas in the world. But give an idea just a little twist and it works. When Ridley Scott pitched Alien, he said it was “Jaws in space.” People got the idea right away (Julien Smith used this reference in Trust Agents). Years ago, Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield founded (the widely popular and innovative at the time) Flickr when they were really trying to make a chat app for video gamers. It was a shift from the original idea (the kids called this a “pivot” for a while).
Swing. Take more swings. Try new things. It’s all good. Find your groove by trying a lot of things.
Fear of failure? That’s so 1994. Stop it. Give it up. Fail. Shake it off (Thanks, Taylor), and then get back to it.