James Altucher’s Ideas About Coming up With Ideas, Gave Me an Idea to Develop a Card Game for Creating Ideas
And Why I Nearly Burned it to the Ground
Dear Mr. Altucher,
You magnificent bastard, I read your book. Then I read it again. Then I had an idea, and then another.
You showed me that ideation is a skill you can learn. Now I want to ask you something. I know you’re a pro at saying no, so first let me tell you a story.
Last year I made a card game with two friends.
If you’re wondering what that must be like, fill your spare bedroom closet full of shrink wrapped card decks and tear up hundred dollar bills while you and your partners compare who is ripping faster in a group text.
It all started one day when I was hanging out with few entrepreneurial minded buddies. We started reading our lists of business ideas we had collected over time.
This turned out to be one of the most imaginative afternoons I’ve ever had. Each idea was pitched, laughed at, masterminded, improved upon, laughed at some more, then shelved into our collective consciousness.
I doubt that Pet Plant will ever see production, but that wasn’t the point. We just loved to talk ideas.
After that, I started spouting out so many ideas that I began to believe that coming up with ideas for their own sake was turning me into a useless dreamer. Just another “idea guy” who was all talk and no execution.
Then I read Choose Yourself.
You put into words what I felt about the power of ideas. “This guy really gets it,” I said out loud to my wife (she was asleep).
My perspective expanded. I could see clearly that all along I had the right idea about ideas. Things were different now. The Internet has opened up opportunities to create new value in ways I can’t even fully comprehend.
The possibilities are endless if you have ideas.
GENERATING, DEVELOPING, AND COMMUNICATING IDEAS
I started reading and thinking more about ideation. I learned what the word ideation means, then I started 10-listing, using constraints, identifying new relationships between facts, forming new neural pathways, understanding visual cues, utilizing endorphins for optimal flow, manufacturing a-ha moments, and even having unprotected idea sex.
Meanwhile, I attempted to fill my spare bedroom wall with my ideas written on post-it-notes.
I rediscovered a post-it that said, “The Next Big Thing - a card game for entrepreneurs.”
I brought it up with my brother on a sunny afternoon in front of a coffee house. We started coming up with lists of words you could combine to prompt new business ideas.
My financial adviser friend walked by and asked what we were doing. Two months later he told another mutual friend over cigars. They called me and said, “Let’s make this.” And so we did.
THE GAME WASN’T A GAME
Fast forward 700 group texts, 2500 manufactured units, and one year later.
I was in Seattle crashing an Amazon conference where I met some nice ladies from Exploding Kittens ($90 million Kickstarter). We sat in a fancy cocktail lounge and I showed them the game.
While I contemplated an $80 celebratory glass of scotch, they agreed to take the game and play it with their staff in LA.
Two weeks later she emailed me and asked if I’m sure it is supposed to be a game.
Not a good sign.
She suggested that perhaps it’s more of a brainstorming tool. Turns out she wasn’t the only one either.
One of my best idea friends from Silicon Valley called. He wanted to know how to win the game. I asked if he read the rules. He had.
Then the Amazon reviews started to trickle in.
The Consensus: This thing might have potential for a marketing team, but it missed the mark as a game.
I had made a “tool” for coming up with ideas and put it in a box with a guy’s head exploding on the front.
My only solace was that I had stamped BETA on the box.
Turns out this was one of the better ideas I had because somewhere between China and the Amazon warehouse, over 2/3 of the boxes were damaged and unsellable.
I didn’t know this until later of course when the pallet of rejects sat in my father-in-law’s garage.
I stacked the salvageable card decks in my spare bedroom closet and put the whole thing out of my mind.
A few months later I sat down and wrote out everything I did wrong on a legal pad. Here are the highlights:
- No clear leadership role among partners - too many decisions made by committee.
- Not enough play testing.
- Not enough attention to detail. Too many corners cut to save on cost and time.
- Rushed development out of fear of never completing.
- Saving too many good ideas. I started hoarding ideas for upgrades instead of releasing the best possible version of the game.
It was at this point I considered having a very expensive bonfire.
But sitting down and writing what I had done wrong, liberated me in some small way.
So I asked myself: What makes this game work?
I knew this concept of generating and pitching ideas had potential as a game. Just maybe not in it’s current, confused, unwinnable, and crushed form.
Its original purpose was to capture that glow I get, when I’m gripped by an idea, and I share it with someone, who then turns it on its head and imagines something better.
I started carrying the two decks of cards with me and played it with friends, played it with family, played it with strangers. I gave copies away and told them to play it with people they know.
A new version of the game was born out of play. It became faster, funnier, and more intuitive to play.
Unexpected truths were revealed like introverts actually have great ideas and not losing is more motivating than winning.
All this reignited my belief that coming up with ideas is just plain fun and when you make it a game, humor and competition become an incredible creative driver.
SHARK TANK MEETS APPLES TO APPLES
Spark inspiration for your next big idea by combining the venture capitalist’s (VC) market card with a constraint card from your own hand.
Use our simple ideation technique to outsell the other players and win over the VC in an epic elevator pitch!
Repeat until rich.
James, bringing an idea into reality is like trekking through the mountains. The pursuit of every peak requires climbing out of a deep valley.
You’re an inspiration for this game, and your brutally honest tales of failure and redemption brought me through.
Could I use one of your quotes on the front of the new rule book?
It’s the one that started it all. Rule no. 1: