We’re Not Looking for Ideas


Most times, when we search and scour the web, we tell ourselves that we’re looking for ideas. I don’t think this is actually true. Instead, I think we’re looking for one of two things: permission or a plan.

We’re Not Looking for Ideas

You’ve decided that you want to use the web to try and grow your business, for instance. So you start reading Mashable and you start following smart people (or who everyone else has told you is smart). You start collecting bookmarks and downloading PDFs and buying the occasional book from Amazon.

But MOST of what you’re seeking doesn’t really have to do with an idea.


Most of us want permission. When I finally read The Alchemist, by friend Paulo Coelho, I realized that the book, as stellar and as large as it is in spirit and mind, is also simply a permission slip. Many books are this. And why? Because much of what we seem to want, over and over again, is permission. Validation. We want someone to say to us, “Yes, you ARE doing a good job. Keep doing what you’re doing.” Or “Don’t worry. You’re on the right path.”

By the way, this isn’t bad. It’s not wrong to want it. It’s just a built-in emotion we all feel.

A Plan

Many times, we get our idea figured out and we realize that we don’t exactly know how to go about accomplishing what needs doing. So we go in search of a plan. Only, a plan is about as retracing someone else’s GPS route guidance. Meaning, you’re not where they were when they realized they needed to reach the same destination. Plans, for that very reason, are always flawed.

And yet, we eat them up. Every single time I write out even the simplest of plans, it becomes one of the most shared pieces of content I can create. Why? Because they are great ways to get our own thoughts in order, if we haven’t even sat with our thoughts long enough to consider putting them in an order.

And that, at the end, is the real issue.

You Could Grant Yourself Both Gifts

With just a little time, with just a little bravery, with just a little consideration, you could find all the permission and planning you want, inside your own head. Yes, there are many instances where learning with others is a great way to go, but at the end of it all, you’ll want to grant yourself permission. You’ll want to concoct your own plan.

And if you’re not yet ready to do that, it’s okay. But be clear with yourself that you (you!) have the permission and the power to make your ideas into something more. Without anyone’s permission. Without anyone else’s plan. You.

Therein lies beauty.

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  • http://www.owenmarcus.com Owen Marcus

    You are right Chris, I look for permission.

    It’s an interesting dance between dreaming in ideas,
    researching the pieces and planning out the delivery. Then we need to launch –
    that’s when I start looking for that subtle permission.

    If I’m hesitating as Seth Godin or Steven Pressfield would
    say, I need to just do it. Yet if the project needs more time to incubate I
    need to honor the process.

    Believing plan can be a work in progress then I can start
    taking action knowing I will make adjustments.

    I see all this as a creative process. As Scott Belsky
    would also say, we don’t lack ideas – we lack action. I’m learning to take more
    action earlier. The trick is to be mindful through the entire process so I can
    sense the slightest clues. Then have the courage to act.

    See you WDS!

  • http://www.jeromeibuyan.blogspot.com/ Jerome Ibuyan

    I find permission something like your mother will be proud of. =)

  • http://desperatelyseekingwp.com/ Cathy Tibbles

    And if you really don’t have the foggiest idea where to start, taking pieces of others’ plans is a good way to be a adapter instead of a creator. And I think for most, its easier. Thanks for your plans – they obviously resonate!

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Chris,

    The neat thing about the creative process is that we have access to all we could ever need to know, right now. The ideas are there. The people through which the ideas flow are all around us. We need only reach our mental hand out and grasp the ideas…and as you note, before we reach we often feel the need to seek our own permission.

    Some of this impulse is rooted in a deserving issue. Few people feel they deserve to succeed at any venture, at least when new to something like entrepreneurship. By allowing these feelings to arise and leave your being, it becomes a bit easier to act without permission, because you soon realize that you are the permission-giver, in every moment of your life.

    Thanks Chris!


  • http://twitter.com/BetterMarketers Better Marketing

    So basically, stop reading and get to work, eh? I do need that reminder!


  • http://www.bernixiong.com/ Berni Xiong (sh-UNG)

    Therein lies the beauty, in you! I completely agree. Thanks for the post cuz!

  • http://www.quietlyfabulous.com/ Susan M Steele

    The permission part doesn’t trip me up as much as the plan part. I tend toward the logical and rational, and I figure there must be a plan out there than I can follow. Why re-invent the wheel? But I realize now that’s not the right way to look at it. There is no one like me doing what I’m trying to do. So the plan needs to be mine, one that I create.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      You can use the occasional template, but you’re right. :)

  • HalaSaleh1

    Amazing how you peel back the layers and get to the true core issue – you’re right, all the hopping around on the web is basically a way to find validation and permission – at least when starting out.

    Thanks for the reminder to take the leap and believe in our ability to make a mark on the world without needing to follow someone else’s plan! :)

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Just saving ourselves some steps. :)

  • http://twitter.com/obriennolan Nolan O’Brien

    Yep. Thanks for giving us permission to seek permission and develop our own plans.

    • http://twitter.com/obriennolan Nolan O’Brien

      You don’t happen to have a “How to make a plan” plan, do you?

      • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

        I do! Free! :)

  • http://shawnweston.com/ Shawn Weston

    Great, great post.

    We have the power to turn our ideas into great works of genius and art – without someone else’s plan, and without someone else’s permission.

    This is such a necessary daily reminder. Thanks Chris.

  • http://twitter.com/lizonomics Elizabeth Smithson

    SO true, although I have to add that I’m equally as often looking for distraction from my goals and inspiration.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Ah, distractions. Those will do it. :)

  • malkinr

    So what about how-to’s? There are plenty of things I’ve given myself permission to do (SEO for my site) and don’t have the slightest clue. We need some expert advice and a plan which is not original, no?

  • thomsinger

    Interestingly I wrote about inspiration today. We often (on the web or in person) do not go for seeking ideas with intention. We pass things that can inspire us to create, but we do not take action.

  • http://twitter.com/TammyRedmon Tammy Redmon

    Great connection point with following someone else’s GPS when your starting point is different than theirs. People I have found spend too much time on the ‘model’ and not enough time following their inspiration to action.

  • http://twitter.com/PatWooldridge Patricia Wooldridge

    Yes. Bravery to implement our own ideas, proceed with our own plans. Surprise ourselves!

  • http://www.dfwrealties.com/ Omni Chaparala – DFW Realties

    This is a good post. Most people do seek permission and plans. We have to be creative and develop our own plans and that is when we will gain true success.

  • http://kirktaylor.com Kirk Taylor

    Chris, I have been following you for quite a while now, and I might have commented once or twice? I’m not real sure. I’m commenting now, because this post speaks to my line of thought over the last couple months.

    I’ve been through many plans, looking for the parts that make sense and fit where I’m at. Like you say, none of them really fit the bill, together or separately.

    Actually, it seems few people even know how to write a plan (business plan) when it comes to online marketing and so on. What they call a plan is actually a pitch that goes on forever.

    The biggest issue I see with most plans is that they lack simplicity and detail, which is a hard combination to achieve.

    Recently, I started working on a plan that is focused on accomplishing both of them together. I believe if I can do those two things, I will be able to produce a plan that fits the needs of others and does it where they are at in the process.

    So what you write, affirms what I’m thinking… This is a problem that many people have, it’s a problem that many people will pay to solve and few people have the ability or the tenacity to produce the type of plan that I’m talking about.

    Thanks for a great post. You made my night.

    • http://twitter.com/AnnaNCStatePCOM Anna Rzewnicki

      Great post, Chris, and I appreciate your comment, Kirk. … simplicity + detail … enough detail to keep you on track, and simple enough to not get frustrated along the way.

  • http://www.turndogmillionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

    sage advice. I guess I do this too. Although I do find new ideas and try to implement them. Maybe this is where I’m going wrong ha

  • http://allmarketingsolutions.co.uk/social-media-marketing-services Ayaz

    Great post Chris!

    I like the way you have described the point and for me its more about confidence of a person which thoughts he can do anything and that gives him the power and permission to do anything on any pointing time.

    Thanks for great inspirational post!

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley


    This speaks to Testing and a willingness to fail… Testing your ideas and understanding that your first idea might not be your best idea… It’s powerful.

    Thanks for some great thoughts.

    Ryan H.

  • http://twitter.com/phillyrealty Christopher Somers

    Beauty indeed! Love this! Also loved the book “The Alchemist” : )

  • http://www.facebook.com/jimkukral Jim Kukral

    Sure, everyone wants the plan. But sometimes they need the motivation and belief. My books are a combination of both of those. But you’re right, the “plan” is usually the thing that resonates the best.

  • Juan Lucha

    We all have a lot of plans “to-be – achieved”. Shees… A bit of confidence and most of them could be done!

  • http://jackiedotson.wordpress.com/ JackieDotson

    I think because there is so much easy-to-get information out there, a lot of people nowadays look for a “sample” to copy. I have a friend who is a lawyer, and when she gave an assignment to a new associate, they asked her for a “sample” case to base her own on! My friend was aghast. I enjoyed this post because it cut right to it: we look for validation and permission. We are all guilty of doing this from time to time, and I think deep down we know we need to just cut it out.

  • http://twitter.com/ValerieDeveza Valerie Joy Deveza

    This is one of the best things I have read for a long
    time. Yes, we all do want
    validation. And yes, we need a plan to
    make those things inside our head a success.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Cheers!

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  • Lorenzo Gonzalez

    Nicely put very motivational.

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