The Search For The Aha! Moment: How To Turn Your Own Thoughts Into Genius Ideas

by Kyle Eschenroeder

This is a call to action.

My name is Kyle, and I have a problem: I'm addicted to information. 

I love digging into one book and then another and another. There is so much fascinating information out there. Books are basically brilliant people, pouring out their brilliant ideas within a couple hundred pages. How can one resist?

It's even worse when I log in to Google Reader or my inbox and I see the headlines of a million bloggers with life-changing opinions and advice to share. They seem to have the answer to everything.

I click, I read and I learn, but my head is so full of their ideas that my own are drowning. It's time to reboot and remember that the most important ideas are the ones you act on.

I'm challenging myself and all you readers to do an information reset. Below are the rules to follow for one week:

No reading books. No reading blogs. No reading newspapers. No going on Facebook (even just to post). No watching TV (shows, sports, news, anything). No watching movies. No listening to talk radio. No going on Reddit. No going on Twitter. No information input, only output!

This is proven to work. Every person who takes on the challenge has been amazed at the results.

Keep in mind that I'm not hating on learning by reading. Reading holds a sacred place in my life. The idea here is to reset our relationship with content consumption.

My argument in favor of input deprivation week is as follows:

You'll take more action.

It's easier to start on the next item on your action list when you can't distract yourself with whatever people are deciding to yell about on their Facebook walls. It's easy to be productive because you're not thinking of that book you want to be reading or going on Reddit to mindlessly view absurd photos.

Increased mindfulness.

While writing this post, I have hit CMND+"T"+"FAC" about five times; that's my keyboard shortcut to get to Facebook. It's a habit of mine every time there's a pause in work. I do the same thing if a page is taking a while to load, or I take my phone out when there's a break in conversation. It's like crack.

You have more ideas.

We get our best ideas in the shower, walking or while doing anything we find relaxing. Albert Einstein said that he found solutions to the most difficult problems while playing the violin.

By taking away your reflexive consumption of information, you open yourself up to more opportunities to have those genius idea moments. When you're not busy looking at other people's ideas, it's easier to pay mind to your own.

It makes you more social.

The first thing I do when I get in line at a coffee shop is pull my phone out; God forbid somebody make eye contact with me. When you can't check social media, you can wean yourself off of using your phone as a crutch. You'll realize that most situations aren't that awkward or uncomfortable after all.

You realize what news is important and what's not.

You will always hear about any news that impacts you from a friend. People talk about the things that matter. I haven't read a newspaper in years, but I'm always informed of the most important current events via conversation.

You gain respect for your own ideas.

When you spend too much time reading other authors, it's easy to get lost in all the things you should be doing. You begin to see all the things you're not doing and all the things that others are doing better than you. You miss all the things you're doing right. Surprisingly, you're probably doing a lot more right than wrong.

You gain perspective on information intake.

You'll catch yourself when you run to Reddit to procrastinate. You'll realize that you're not actually on Facebook for anything productive. You'll take action on the information you read because of the new self-discipline you've developed.

You're forced to be original.

When you can't look up another person's opinion, you're forced to come up with something yourself. When you can't go looking online for inspiration, you have to find it around (and inside) of yourself.

"The one quality which sets one man apart from another -- the key which lifts one to every aspiration while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity -- is not talent, formal education nor intellectual brightness -- it is self-discipline. With self-discipline, all things are possible. Without it, even the simplest goal can seem like the impossible dream." - Teddy Roosevelt

How To Stay Strong

It takes a sh*t ton of willpower to stop yourself from so many habits at once. Most of us can barely fix one bad habit at a time. The secret is to set up your environment so it's more annoying to fall back into your bad habits than it is to maintain input deprivation.

Take 15 minutes now to guarantee that you won't be tempted to give up on day one:

Install StayFocusd or its equivalent, and put all your time-sucking websites on there. All of them: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Chive -- EVERYTHING!

Delete your consumption apps. I deleted Facebook, Pulse and Twitter off my phone. Delete whatever apps you instinctively go to when you have a minute of free time.

Move your books and magazines. They will just taunt you if they're sitting on your nightstand or at your desk. Make a stack and put it out of sight.

Carry a notebook with you. You're going to start having ideas pop up in your head, so make note of them. I like notepads more than phones because we associate them with creating instead of consuming. It's risky to take notes on a smartphone if you're trying to avoid inputs.

Take the batteries out of your remote. When you have the urge to flick on the TV, you'll have to go get batteries for the remote. This is a barrier that will save your willpower pool from draining as you stare at the remote thinking of all the "Jersey Shore" and "Mad Men" episodes you're missing.

If you do these five things, you're good to go.

Let's Do This!

This is going to be tough, but it will be easier if we do it together. If you're game, comment below. Let us know you're doing it with us and check in throughout the week.

If you have a question about the challenge (or a challenge for the challenge), let me know in the comments!

As always, feel free to email me at kyle [at] startupbros [dot] com.