The magic of Ideas


Take an old idea. One that is big and popular. Maybe million of people love it. Believe it. It’s like a religion. Add something to it.
Here’s the addition: Paleo people didn’t eat at regular intervals. They didn’t eat three meals a day.

New idea: (today’s paleo + how people really ate 200,000 years ago): “The Multiphasic Paleo Diet: eat at random intervals and vary up the diet considerably (e.g. sometimes eat 1 meal a day. Sometimes 4. Mix nuts, legumes, meats, plants into every meal so nothing can be considered a “breakfast” or “dinner”).


Take an idea that seems impossible. Take the execution. Subtract the reason you can’t.
We were pitching a very wealthy guy.
He said, “Don’t count on me for a single dime of money.”
We did Idea Subtraction. “Take money off the table,” he said. “We don’t want any money from you. That’s covered… Assuming we do not need a single dime from you, would you be interested in doing a collaboration with us where we work with your team to see if this is a viable product.”
Then the ceo said: “of course”. Why wouldn’t he?”

Another example: “I wrote a book but CAN’T find a publisher”.
That’s ok. Self-publish.

Or, “I have an idea for an app but CAN’T program.”
That’s ok. Go to and for about $600 you can outsource to a good programmer.


Today I wrote down ten ideas that could be the outline for a book.
Tomorrow I’ll write down ten ideas for each one of those ideas.
The next day I’ll write down ten ideas for each of the ten above.
Then I fill in the blanks between all the ideas.
Then I have a book. If you are lazy, you can even outsource to the last part of this.
Idea Exponentials can leads to a book being written in five days.


I wrote an article that was very popular called “10 Reasons to Quit Your Job”.
So then I wrote “10 Reasons to KEEP Your Job”.
I was an intrapreneur before I was an entrepreneur. Negative ideas are more realistic.
Idea negatives challenge me to be open-minded. Challenge me to carve out new space in the world.
Challenges me to break rules. Challenges me to see multiple sides of something that is beautiful.


Taking one idea and replicating it. Scaling.
Example: let’s say I write successful advertising for a local dentist. The ads double his business. Now I have a track record.
I can go to every dentist (maybe not in the same town) and say, “here’s what I did for this dentist. For $X I can do it for you now.”


This is critical for business.
Peter Thiel is an excellent example with PayPal.
PayPal was initially a way for people to pay for anything they wanted by using their Palm Pilots.
So he divided and divided again until PayPal became THE way to pay for any items bought on Ebay, a tiny tiny company at the time.
Their entire focus was Ebay, they became a monopoly (even beating Ebay’s internal competition) and then expanded from there.
First divide so much that you are a monopoly, then build.


When the Fugees, an already popular rap group, combined rap with the BeeGees song, Stayin’ Alive, it was only a mediocre song. Go listen to it. It’s ok. Not great.
But because it was one big thing combined with another huge thing, it became a huge hit.
Idea sex is hard to fail. When you take two good ideas and merge them into one.


People say it becomes “10,000 hours to be world class”.It takes 10,000 hours to be world class at any ONE thing. It takes 1000 hours to be world-class at an intersection. It takes 100 hours to become world-class at the intersection of 3 or more things.

Gotan Project. A great band. They took an electronic beat, combined it with tango music. Created hit after hit. Are they Argentinian? No. They are French.


People say “Execution is everything”. I can tell you it isn’t. If you can’t come up with ideas, then you’ll never be able to come up with execution ideas.
When I had an idea for a website once (2006) the next thing I did was come up with “10 ideas for pages on the website”. Then “10 things on each page”. Then “10 ways I can execute on this”.
All of these were subsets of the initial idea.
Eight months after that list I sold the company.

Source: James Altucher

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