Derek Tillotson

Ideas and Execution

When you spend a lot of time writing, ideas for what to write start to come easily. That's true for most creative endeavors, I suppose. I first noticed that when I was doing freelance writing for a handful of video game websites. I'd spend a lot of my free time pitching feature articles to various publications, and after a certain point, ideas starting hitting me out of nowhere.

The problem is that very few ideas are good.

Some people will insist that ideas are a dime a dozen. I think that undervalues raw ideas a little bit. That's less than a penny each. In reality they're probably worth double that, on average. But the real question is: How much are good ideas worth?

Some people will argue that an idea is worthless and execution is everything. I don't fully agree with that (but I don't fully disagree). Execution is completely necessary to give life to ideas, but to consider ideas worthless implies that quality ideas are easy. They rarely are.

Sit down right now and make a list of ten ways you personally can make a million dollar over the next twelve months. You probably aren't think of anything, at least nothing practical. And if you are thinking of something good, stop reading this right now and take action, because I've got nothing but wish I did.

In reality, you probably came up with nothing, too. But now, think of ten ways a multibillionaire (a specific one or in general) can earn an extra million dollars in the next twelve months. Right off the top of my head, I think Jeff Bezos could earn an extra million if Amazon partnered with major book publishers to create subscription services for their respective books. Like Kindle Unlimited, except separate subs for Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, etc. Make it exclusive to the Kindle ecosystem, let the publishers set whatever pricing they want, and cut Amazon in for ten percent.

Is this a good idea? I don't know, but it's an idea I thought of on the spot, and Bezos has the influence where just pitching the idea would probably make him a million bucks.

When it comes to the idea-execution relationship, it's all relative. Ideas can be tough, but the more you know about the topic and the more you practice thinking of ideas, the easier it becomes to not only generate them, but generate good ones. Execution can also be tough, but if you continuously think of ideas for yourself and ask "What is the first step I need to take to make this happen?" the process becomes infinitely easier.

Good ideas are invaluable. Not always to the person thinking of them, but a genuinely good idea will be able to benefit someone. Likewise, the ability to execute on an idea is necessary to produce real value. Neither is inherently more important than the other, and both are needed to make either worth anything.

Written April 16, 2020

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