“What’s On Your Mind, Dear?”

what's on your mind?
It turns out I can be a little spacey.

My wife often asks “what’s on your mind?” as I’m staring blankly at the ceiling. (I’ve gotten so bad lately that I can be in mid-sentence and just trail off. She’s learned to love accept the fact that I will never be normal this way.)

But the hardest part…

But the hardest part about ideas is articulating them.

When my wife asks me what I’m thinking, the hardest part is being able to explain what just popped into my head. I’ll try and explain to her in blubbery fragments the idea I’ve just had, and most times it just confuses her. (This is clearly my weakness.)

Yet she knows that me trying to articulate the idea is important. She knows it’s her job to ask so that I can try and explain the idea, which ultimately helps me define it. (She’s a catch, I tell you.)

James Dyson created his revolutionary Dual Cyclone vacuum after becoming increasingly frustrated with how often his Hoover vacuum became clogged and lost suction. It wasn’t until Dyson visited his Ballbarrow factory, (the Ballbarrow is one of his lesser-known inventions), that he had the idea for the cyclonic vacuum.

Imagine Dyson staring up at the cyclonic air filters in his Ballbarrow factory, and his wife asking him “what’s on your mind, dear?”. I’m guessing it took James a few passes to articulate how he wanted to put a couple tornadoes in a vacuum cleaner.

No matter what you’re thinking, the key is to be able to explain the idea to other people. 99% of an idea’s success is based on whether or not you can clearly articulate what your idea actually does. If nobody understands, nobody gets excited.

Caution: It takes a long time to perfect the skill of putting down ideas so that other people can understand them.

Formatting, finding your personal style, learning how to articulate thoughts, finding other examples, and relating to different types of people are all needed skills. Man, is it tough. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. But in the end, it’s worth it.

The world paves a way for people who can write down exactly what they’re thinking.

Photo by Thomas Shahan

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Simon Mayeski September 20, 2010, 1:05 pm

    The best way I’ve found to explain a difficult concept (and a concept that may be simple to you might start out being difficult for me to grasp) is by using an analogy. This allows someone to find a “link” in their mind with something they already know how to use or conceptualize with this new concept I am trying to teach, demonstrate or explain. Works most times…only requires a mind that is open.

    Doesn’t usually work in political arguments ;)

    • glen September 20, 2010, 1:41 pm

      Good point. I’ve heard that when giving an elevator pitch for web startups, it’s almost mandatory to give an analogy to an already existing product. IE “It’s like delicious, but for photos.”

      Making that connection is important for understanding the abstract. Still, that doesn’t mean that my wife will ever understand ;)