5 Questions to Ask When You Encounter a New Idea

I love new ideas.

They are like catnip for my soul. As a movie producer I have no shortage of people pitching me story ideas. Some of them are quite interesting.

I needed to create some sort of system to help me determine when a new idea is worth investing my time and resources. From that came these five questions I ask myself almost everyday.

1. Is this new idea consistent with my life mission?

The older I get, the clearer my purpose becomes. I want to partner with others to tell stories that spark hope and action in the world – that’s what matters most to me. Some new ideas sound fun or profitable, but they don’t help me get to my goal. I may still indulge in a new idea that is “off mission,” but with the realization that it probably won’t last when more integrated ideas come around. If you take inventory of the commitments in your life that you wish you could un-do, odds are that they are not consistent with your life mission.

2. Can this new idea be absorbed into a current idea?

Some new ideas fit perfectly into something I am already doing or dreaming about. If a new idea fits into a current idea it jumps way up the list of possibilities for me. At that point it is less of a new idea and more of an answer to a question I didn’t even know to be asking.

3. Will I be frustrated if this idea is wildly successful?

I have learned to say no to new ideas that only seem interesting if they aren’t successful. For instance, I recently turned down an audition for a major role in a film. (I’m a recovering professional actor.) I would have gladly read for a smaller role in this movie, but if I had actually landed a starring role it would have disrupted everything good in my life now. It would have been a massive distraction. Ten years ago, when I was pounding the pavement in Hollywood, it would have been my dream job. I had to remind myself that it’s not the main thing I want to do anymore. The longer you lead well, the more opportunities will emerge. The best leaders say no to the right things. The hardest opportunities to pass by are those things we used to deeply want but no longer actually need.

4. Who do I know who could better serve this idea than me?

I used to think, “Who do I know who can help me do this idea?”

Now I think more about gifting the idea to someone who can bring it to life with or without my help. Usually both of us end up a lot happier this way.

5. Will I regret not following this idea?

The projection of a future state of regret is a defining factor in how I make decisions. It is a problem if I look into my future and know that I will constantly be asking, “Why didn’t I pursue that idea?” When it comes to my creative and professional life, I’d pick regretting doing something over regretting doing nothing every single time.

Ultimately, leadership involves risk. That means good leaders are always trying new things and engaging new ideas. The best leaders just learn which ideas are the most worthy of the time and resources needed to see them become a reality.

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