What if you found a briefcase filled with one million dollars sitting by the side of the road? Would you pick it up? Of course you would!
But there’s a challenge (you didn’t think it would be easy, did you?): You can’t figure out how to open the briefcase. You can’t open it with brute force, because it’s indestructible. You can’t guess the combination (it could be one of 25 million numbers). Or you could simply give up on it.
This perplexing scenario is presented by Karl Warren in an 8-page report called The Million Dollar Briefcase. The name of this booklet is actually a metaphor for the creative potential we all have latent within us. Each of us has multiple opportunities within our reach that could each be worth a million dollars or more – if only we would recognize them.
Opportunities are everywhere
Warren says that opportunities are all around us. We just need the proper perspective in order to see them – the correct combination to open the briefcase, if you will. You see, million dollar ideas aren’t just lying around waiting to be picked up. They come disguised in work clothes. You have to be able to recognize them in the rough, and then work on improving them, to refine them and realize their million dollar potential.
Get off of “auto-pilot”
The author further points out how easy it is to fall into “auto-pilot” mode. Our lives are filled with routines – getting up, brushing our teeth, taking a shower, going to work, and so on. It’s the mental equivalent of going through your day with blinders on. Therefore, we miss opportunities because they lie outside of what lies directly in front of us. Nonetheless, opportunities do present themselves to use nearly every day. They will begin to reveal themselves to you if you train your mind to recognize them and expect them to be there.
So how do you find YOUR million dollar briefcase?
So how can you find your million dollar briefcase, your big opportunity? Not by inventing something completely new. Warren doesn’t advocate pure invention. He points out that the world is full of new products and services that aren’t very successful, because they didn’t solve an actual problem. Forcing yourself to think usually doesn’t work all that well, either. Your brain just doesn’t respond very well to “brute force” thinking.
Change your perspective
Warren says your best bet is to change your perspective, from trying to invent something to trying to find an unmet customer need or problem that you CAN solve. So first ask yourself questions like these:
- What problem can I solve for my best customers, for which they would be willing to pay money?
- What do my customers struggle with on a daily basis?
- Where are their “pain points?
Immerse yourself in everything you can find about this problem or challenge. This is the first step of changing your brain’s focus, priming it to be aware of potential solutions when they present themselves.
Take time for think time
The next step is the most important one of all: You must take time daily for think time – for gathering information, conducting research and immersing yourself a lot of detail about the problem you’re trying to solve. In his paper, Warren recommends several techniques for brainstorming,
which you can read about by downloading the Million Dollar Briefcase report. But the most important idea here is that you must set aside at least 30 minutes, 4 to 5 times a week, to brainstorm and generate potentially profitable ideas. Creative thinking needs to become a habit for you. Like any other skill, you’ll get better the more you do it. Don’t give in to the part of your brain that shouts, “But I’m not creative.” Your brain is wired the same way as the greatest thinkers and inventors of history, including Leondardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. You can DO this!
Pay attention to hunches
Remember a few minutes ago, we talked about immersing yourself in a customer problem or challenge? What you’ll discover, by doing this and taking regular “think time,” is that ideas will start to bubble up from your unconscious mind, usually as hunches. Learn to respect them, and write them down as they occur to you. Capturing ideas on paper or screen is a powerful catalyst. It gets your brain moving and helps it to generate associations and connections that can lead to additional ideas. Record those ideas in your medium of choice, too. I’ve used small notepads and notebooks, digital audio recorders and, most recently, my iPhone.
By capturing your ideas when they occur to you, you will already be ahead of the game. You see, ideas are fleeting things. They bubble up from the subconscious mind when you least expect them, and disappear just as quickly. Most people have good ideas, but don’t bother to capture them or act on them.
In closing, Warren points out that there are literally hundreds of ways to brainstorm. With a primed mind and the right perspective, you will be able to find opportunities wherever you go.
With a pen and pencil or computer and some brainstorming techniques by your side, you’ll have a distinct advantage over most people – you will be able to jump-start your brain at will to come up with great ideas. One of them is likely to be a million dollar briefcase.