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The Distance Between You and a Good Idea

By February 18, 2021Leadership

How close are you to your next good idea?

As a person who has spent the last thirty years generating content for sermons, classes, articles, and speeches, I’ve had times when the ideas flowed abundantly and times when they seemed to dry up altogether. Regardless if they were abundant or scarce, the need for good ideas never went away. In fact, I often needed more than one good idea on a weekly basis. For the first five years of my career, I was prepping two talks and two classes for forty-eight or forty-nine weeks out of the year.

As a young communicator, I felt like I had to crank out all these good ideas entirely on my own. This was partly due to misguided expectations compounded by an underlying pride. The pursuit of originality can quickly become an idol – and a foolish one at that. As one matures, one recognizes the wisdom in the ancient reminder that there is nothing new under the sun.

Regardless of where they come from, the need for good ideas never goes away.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: the best content generators are really good content curators. As a curator, good ideas are sought out, uncovered, nurtured, and reserved for later use. A good content generator is able to consistently produced good content because she has a well-stocked pantry of ideas.

Early in my career, I was focused primarily (almost exclusively) on being a content generator. Unfortunately, my pantry was limited to the limited life experiences of a twenty-something communicator. There wasn’t much there.

Through good coaching and a desire to improve, I gradually discovered the value of becoming a good content curator. The better you become at curating content, the shorter distance there will be between you and your next good idea.

So, how can you become a good curator of content?

READ. The best content producers I know (speakers, writers, teachers) are almost all active readers. They read books and blogs, and as a result they are constantly learning new things. New ideas spring from new material. That’s one reason I’m intentional about reading content that is outside of my “paid” responsibilities. Unless you’re a neuroscientist, every person should read at least one or two books on the brain every year (I’m thinking a neuroscientist might want to read a few more).

Active readers are constantly spring-boarding to new ideas. I have found incredible material by purchasing books that are referenced inside a book I might be reading. Think of these references as the analog version of a hyperlink.

LISTEN. Another way to curate good material is to listen to what others are talking about, reading, or referencing. When you listen to good podcast or commentary on a particular subject, dig a little deeper and Google that person. Find out what else they’ve written on the subject. Discover their network of influences, the people that they are reading.

Every good content curator has a curious mind. When you hear a fascinating podcast, it’s usually fascinating because of the preparation and experience of the presenter. By digging deeper, you benefit from their years of preparation and experience.

SIFT AND EXPAND. Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. Social media, particularly Twitter, provides the opportunity to follow thought leaders in a way never before available. Almost in real-time, we are kept abreast of what they are thinking. With a single click, we can read the full article.

But a few cautions are in order. As we all know but sometimes forget, just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean that it is valuable or true. Not all content is equal. Some of it is outright misleading.

Then there’s the echo chamber. The echo chamber is when you surround yourself with voices that all say the same things. The echo chamber predated social media (think cable news) but social media has added a new layer of sound-proofing to the chamber walls. To be a good content curator, you must be good at two things. First, you must actively sift the content you allow to influence your thinking. Second, and it seems contradictory but it’s not, you must simultaneously expand the range of content you are exposed to.

Good leaders are good content generators because they’ve learned to be good content curators. As you become better at curating content, you’ll find the distance between you and your next good idea has shrunk dramatically.

Experience and Background

  • 25+ years of senior leadership experience
  • masters in management and leadership
  • presenter at the WFX National Conference
  • former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
  • helped start 2 for-profit tech companies

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