Lessons of a Lipstick Queen : Finding and Developing the Great Idea that Can Change Your Life

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-05-06
  • Publisher: Atria Books

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In this conversational, informative girlfriend's guide, Poppy offers up the practical and time-tested secrets of her success. From the very beginning stages of transforming ideas into realities, to the necessary research and marketing tools all the way through navigating successes, Poppy's unwavering expertise and appealing voice will inspire all types of budding business women. With examples from both her personal and professional life, Poppy is the perfect spokesperson for the successful and driven contemporary woman.

Table of Contents

You Already Have Ideasp. 1
From Ideas to Decisionsp. 30
Research Is Simpler Than It Soundsp. 62
Looking Closerp. 94
The Road Mapp. 117
On the Money Trailp. 143
Marketing: Anyone Can Do Itp. 177
Putting Yourself on the Linep. 204
The Greatest Show on Earthp. 237
Now You're Movingp. 270
To Err Is Humanp. 304
Keep the Flame Alivep. 331
Epilogue: The Last Word on the Very Beginningp. 355
Acknowledgmentsp. 357
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.



You Already Have Ideas

Have you ever daydreamed?

Have you ever thought about doing something different?

Have you ever thought "If only..." or "I wish..."?

I am sure you have. We all have. Most of us just aren't conscious that we're doing it. Nor are we aware that some genuinely good ideas are lurking within these throwaway thoughts.

Anyone who has seen an idea through to a reality has started right where you are -- just by thinking about it. That is exactly how I began my lipstick business. Who would have imagined that a multimillion-dollar company could spring from what seemed like the small and insignificant thoughts of a schoolgirl?

Lesson 1: Everyone has ideas

In cartoons, when characters have ideas, lightbulbs appear above their heads. Eureka! This is how we think ideas should come to us. Like bolts of lightning -- sudden...clear...visible.

In real life, most ideas are much hazier. They ebb and flow like flotsam and jetsam, bobbing around on our stream of consciousness. And just like the junk floating around on the water, some of it floats away and some floats back. We often treat these thoughts like garbage, but they aren't.

Many people will swear up and down that they are not good at coming up with ideas, when what they're really lacking is confidence: the confidence to believe that their own ideas could be real.

Very few of us experience what we've been taught to think of as the "big ideas" that arrive as an epiphany and call us to immediate action. Yet all of us, every single one of us, experience the other variety: the slow, steadier, repetitive thoughts that seem insignificant. We may be reluctant to call them ideas. We may think of them more as background noise. Even at this moment, you may still be thinking, I don't have any real ideas. But if you remove some of the mystique and realize that ideas don't have to be grand to be bona fide, you'll quickly see that you have just as many ideas as the next person.

There is one simple understanding that allows many people to become successful: Instead of raising the bar as to what constitutes a good idea, they lower it. They realize that ideas are not one in a million, but a dime a dozen. Everyone is forming ideas every day. That means you, too. In fact, you probably already had and acted out at least five in the last few hours:

  • What to have for breakfast
  • What to wear
  • How to get to work
  • What to do first once you get there
  • What to have for lunch

It may not sound like much, yet the very same process that got you through these basics can help you achieve so much more. But first you need to realize that all the greatest ideas -- even those that have changed the world as we know it, the ones that are admired and revered for centuries -- were developed using the same neurons we use to decide what to have for breakfast.

Everything Counts

Like I keep saying, we all have ideas, all the time. That means you, too! Still don't believe me? Get your confidence boost right here by writing down all the ideas you've had in the last three hours.

Don't worry if you haven't come up with an alternative fuel to solve the world's energy crisis. Every little idea counts -- from choosing to buy one thing over another and why to taking the bus instead of driving to work. So go ahead and jot them down in a notebook.

I promise you, you do have ideas. Perhaps nine out of ten of them are not worth pursuing. But perhaps, just perhaps, one is.

That one could change your life...One changed mine.

My Story

The idea to create my own brand of lipsticks didn't come to me in a flash. My process was much, much slower and nowhere near as clear.

It all started when I was about fifteen, when every Saturday night my best friend Sarah and I would get dressed up to go out (usually to some place that involved fake ID). As you can imagine, the process always involved makeup -- and lots of it. It was the mideighties, after all. We're talking electric colors, shoulder pads, stirrup pants, and very big hair. With her tan skin, corkscrew curls, athletic physique, and cute little cherub nose, Sarah pulled off the look without a hitch.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for me.

At the time I was five foot nothing, flat as a tack, pale, and bushy-haired with a European Jewish profile. I have never looked modern and have always looked more like something out of a black-and-white movie. Of course, I felt perfectly awful every Saturday night as I frantically attempted to shoehorn myself into the fashion of the day. Despite my best efforts, I could see that the whole look wasn't working. Particularly the makeup. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what was wrong, but I could see that Sarah looked good and I didn't.

Believe it or not, this murky pond of teenage insecurity was the beginning of what would become the idea to start my own lipstick brand. As you can see for yourself, it did not come in a white flash but was hidden within a tangle of yearning, frustration, wishful thinking, and daydreaming.

It may be strange to consider such thoughts ideas because they don't look as glossy, glamorous, and exciting as you would expect. But then again, would you expect a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly if you hadn't been told it would? Everything starts out somewhere, and I suggest you start out by knowing that your own squiggly, wriggly little thoughts are the basis of what can transform into real, life-changing, destiny-making ideas.

Thought Collector

Even the greatest idea can usually be traced back to meager beginnings. One person's passing thought or dismissed observation is another person's windfall. The difference lies in whether or not you pay enough attention to yourself to understand that even your most boring, everyday thoughts can be regular gold mines when it comes to ideas.

The best way to start paying attention to your thoughts is to keep a journal. You don't have to make a lifelong commitment. Do it for a week. Keep a log of all the activities you do, products you bought or didn't buy, people you liked or didn't like, places you went to, experiences you had, and observations you made. While you're writing, make sure to pay special attention to the experiences and events that make you feel:

  • Excited
  • Inspired
  • Frustrated
  • Disappointed
  • Any emotion out of the ordinary

As you're about to see, any emotional reaction can provoke a thought that begins with "I wish" -- and that can be the start of something truly big.

Lesson 2: Take very seriously any sentence starting with "I wish"

As we grow up, wishing becomes less acceptable. While we are still offered the token gesture when we blow out our birthday candles, we are no longer encouraged to spend much time on wishing. But while many of us may see wishful thinking as silly or even childish, this mind-set is actually the best place to look for ideas.

To start plundering your wishes for treasure, put aside everything you may have heard about wishing being a waste of time, and go back to the days when you took sentences starting with "I wish" very seriously. If you resist the urge to judge your wishes before they've even had time to formulate, you'll probably find that one of them is the beginning of an idea.

Despite what you may be thinking, wishing is serious business. Some of the biggest, most successful companies in the world have been founded on a wish. At one point, a young Bill Gates may have wished for a better way to access information. Of course, Microsoft couldn't have become what it is today by wishing alone -- but the starting point would have had to come in wish form.

Just look at the Microsoft mission statement as it is written on their Web site: "Our mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential." This is the mission statement that drives a huge company. Replace the words "our mission is" with "I wish" and you can see that even the biggest ideas can come after these two little words. "I wish to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential." Sounds pretty unsophisticated, but the company that runs on it is very sophisticated. And if that doesn't convince you, then remember something I once heard. It is the people crazy enough to believe they can change the world who actually do.

Finding Your Wishbone

To look for ideas, just plunge into your wishful thinking with no outside interference. Let your mind go completely. And, while you're at it, don't forget the cardinal rule of wishful thinking: There are no rules.

Begin by thinking of every possible ending for the sentence "I wish..." It doesn't have to be positive things or noble things like "I wish for world peace." It can be anything at all -- from starting a business to impressing your boss to changing careers to improving your artwork. Your wishful thinking can even start out in the negative by looking at things you hate. For example: "I hate cleaning the toilet. I wish there was a different way to..." Bingo. The end of that sentence could be your next idea.

Don't worry if some of your wishes are embarrassing or about what your friends and colleagues would think. Remove your inhibitions entirely. After all, no one needs to know where your idea began. In my case, my lipstick business started because I wished I could look as pretty as my friend Sarah. Hardly a Nobel Prize pursuit in the making!

Keeping all this in mind, go ahead and start jotting down ideas for how to end the sentence that starts with "I wish..."

Or, if you'd rather, try ending the sentence that starts with "I hate when..."

Take some time and think further about things that you might wish for. They could be a service, a skill, a product, an event, a book, a new dance, or just a new outlook. It doesn't matter what you wish for; it only matters that you take these thoughts seriously enough to examine them.

My Story

In my teens, one of my favorite time-wasting habits was watching TV. I lovedM*A*S*H, Family Ties, 21 Jump Street, MTV, and old Hollywood movies. One of the reasons I loved these movies was the women -- Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich. Now theirs was a glamour I could relate to. The pale skin, the old-fashioned finger waves, the smoky eyes, and the deep, deep matte lipstick all seemed so much more up my alley than the Debbie Gibson fuchsia lip gloss specials that worked for my best friend.

It took a couple of years and countless makeup offenses, but by the time I was in my last year of high school, I had finally become conscious of my desire to emulate this old Hollywood look. While I could get the smoky eyeliners, mascara, and rouge readily enough, those matte lipsticks were nowhere to be found.

My "wish consciousness" started out in the same way it does for any Joe Blow on the other side of an industry. I had all the same doubts as any other civilian who wishes for something that they can't find. You assume it must exist. You couldn't be the only one who wants it. The big companies have everything covered, right? Who are you to notice something new? Surely people trained in this area are on to it.

So I just kept looking in department stores, drugstores, even at theatrical makeup suppliers. I don't know whether it was boredom, vanity, or inspiration, but by the time I had actually completed high school, I was taking my "wish" pretty seriously. It had stopped being just about me and had become a general question: Do matte lipsticks even exist anymore?

This is where my curiosity really kicked in and took my wish to the next level. I started going out of my way to ask about matte lipsticks, seeking out any stores that sold personal care products, asking other women if they had found any lipsticks that were less glossy than the standard variety, getting tips and tricks to make my lipstick look matte, and looking up every makeup outlet in the phone book. I was still quite some distance from deciding to start my own brand. I was just at the very beginning, at the point where I was conscious that my "wish" thought was interesting and I was curious enough to explore it further and nothing more than that.

"I wish" thoughts aren't always about a particular type of product like mine was. They are about anything you can think of:

  • I wish there was a bookstore in my neighborhood.
  • I wish there was a home hairdressing service.
  • I wish I could bake muffins.
  • I wish there was an espresso machine in my car.
  • I wish I had different types of textbooks at school.
  • I wish my boss gave me more responsibility.

It's wishes like these that are at the core of ideas -- ideas that are pathways to a different life.

Lesson 3: You make the difference

Edison, Newton . . . both famous inventors who changed the world for good. But guess what? You can relax. Your ideas don't have to be groundbreaking, don't even have to be new, and certainly don't have to come in an instant. In fact, many of the greatest ideas came about over long and arduous periods of trial, error, and the layering of new ideas onto those that came before. Even Sir Isaac Newton had to give credit to his predecessors, saying, "If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

For an idea to be yours, you don't have to invent something new. You just have to think about it in a new way, your way. After all, while I may not have invented lipsticks, there's no denying that I added something to the existing crop. As long as you are adding something that fulfills your own wishes, it becomes your idea. Don't worry too much about how different your idea may be. When it comes to ideas, even a small detail can make a world of difference.

I was flipping throughTimemagazine's article on the most amazing inventions of 2005 and many of them supported what I am telling you -- that good ideas are not necessarily groundbreaking. One of my favorites was a new design for prescription drug bottles called ClearRx. Designed by a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, the bottle takes the ordinary, round, plastic container and turns it on its head so that it rests on its cap, and also flattens out the bottle (the side profile looks a little like a Popsicle), so that it is no longer cylindrical but flat and wide. This mean the label sits flat and you no longer need to rotate the bottle to read the instructions. Nothing fancy or high tech, just practical, sensible, and user-friendly. From one student's feelings and thoughts came an idea that is now selling throughout Target pharmacies and is considered byTimemagazine one of the best inventions of 2005. Not bad, eh?

Sounds amazing, but in truth that's exactly what you're likely to find at the base of many a well-established institution -- a personal observation that led to an idea.

My Story

Back when I was scouring department stores and makeup counters all over Australia for any sign of matte lipstick, there were hundreds of lipsticks to choose from. The year was 1989 and we already had all the major brands of the day -- Clinique, Lancôme, Estée Lauder, Revlon, Shiseido, and Dior, as well as some homegrown discount cosmetics brands. MAC and a small handful of other indie brands had just started in the United States, but I wasn't aware of them yet.

What I was aware of was that although there were a large number of lipsticks on the market, I couldn't find the kind I wanted. It wasn't just the matte element, either, but other things as well. Why couldn't I get lipsticks to really grip? They felt so slimy! Like they were going to slide right off your mouth the second you put them on. Surely those ones that were around in old Hollywood would have had more of a crayonlike feel.And another thing. Why did every red I tried go pink? What would happen if you put a touch of brown in a red? Would that stop it going pink? And speaking of browns, you couldn't seem to get one. The choices available fell mainly into pinks, reds, berries, and corals. Where was a strong brown or a true aubergine? And don't even get me started on the smell! Many had such heavy fragrance that it gave me a headache to wear them.

Ever since I was a little girl, I thought lipstick was the most glamorous thing in the whole world. And now here I was, eighteen and ready to wear proper lipstick but unable to find one I was really happy with. I didn't set out to reinvent the lipstick. All I really wanted was a particular type of lipstick -- and it just so happened to be slightly different than the others.

Of course, this was all "in my opinion." Then again, that is all an idea needs to be at the beginning. Your opinion. Many of us belittle our own ideas because we believe that only the real revolutionary stuff deserves to be filed under the heading of "idea." But if you are passionate about something, your passion alone could make the idea unique. We're all inspired when we meet someone with a genuine passion for something, whether it be their recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies or their babysitting service. Your approach and delivery can make anything special, unique, new, interesting, and, yes, even revolutionary.

Lesson 4: Allow for an incubation period

Once you've found your inner wellspring of ideas, then what?

Well, you sit on them, like a chicken with an egg. This is what I call the incubation period. If you've ever seen chicks hatch, you know about the incubation chamber. The red glow from the heating lamp is so warm and inviting -- I suggest you bathe your hatchling idea in this same warm glow. Protect it from harsh or extreme reactions, like deciding it is the best idea in the world or the worst. Just sit on it. Think about it. Bond with it.

Incubation periods also protect your ideas from other people's opinions. Believe me, you will get plenty of those, both solicited and unsolicited, down the line. For now, keep your idea to yourself. Like an egg, an idea is both one of the strongest structures out there and one of the most fragile -- they can be tough enough to change the world, but they can also be very vulnerable to outside forces. So, before you go letting any outside forces in, take some time to incubate.

Some of your ideas will survive the incubation, and others won't. Sometimes, you'll find that what seemed right at the start gradually loses its appeal. Other times, you will develop more and more of a bond as the incubation progresses. Remember, you are not figuring out how, when, or why your idea will work. All you're doing now is taking the time to get attached and feel comfortable in the belief that, at the very least, you personally think your idea is a good one.

My Story

My first incubation period lasted about two months.

It was my first year out of school and I was doing a part-time bachelor of arts program, studying subjects like philosophy, psychology, sociology, and astronomy. All very interesting subjects but not leading in any one direction. I was really just biding time until I could figure out what I wanted to do. It was during this period that I started to take the lipstick idea more seriously. Up until now I had just wished for matte lipsticks, thinking it would be a good idea for one of the major brands to put out a line, but I still hadn't made the decision to do it myself.

At this stage, I was just incubating the idea. I thought about it a lot, but I wasn't ready to discuss it with anyone or formalize my exploration. I just wanted to mull it over. As a reaction, I started looking at other girls' lipstick choices, watching anyone who pulled one out of her bag. I would look at women walking down the street and wonder whether they would pick a matte lipstick if given the choice. I started having conversations in my head with some of them. I would ask them if they knew that matte lipstick actually stayed on longer and had more pigment than standard lipsticks. Sounds crazy, but it helped me to really bond with the idea.

Also during this time, some ideas came and went that I didn't bond with. I would get thoughts like, Maybe instead of just matte lipstick, there should be a whole line of forties-style makeup. For a while I would think this was a great idea, but then I would notice that too many concerns got in the way of my getting attached. I didn't want to look like I was going to a costume party dressed as a forties movie star; I wanted to look modern but with just matte lipstick instead. A whole cosmetics line would turn me off because I would see it as too retro. That egg cracked, but I kept sitting on other eggs, and after a while the idea became a part of me.

I still use this method with everything I do. I have given myself a minimum of three days' incubation for anything that I acknowledge as a bona fide idea. Nine times out of ten, those ideas that I think are perfect don't survive my incubation period. But if at the end of the three days I still feel excited about the idea and my excitement outweighs my concerns, then the idea is a keeper.

Speaking of concerns, keep in mind that they will always be there. In fact, the better the idea, the more likely you are to have concerns. But the balance needs to be such that you can still bond with the idea despite your reservations. That is the beauty of this quiet time you spend with your idea -- what you end up taking with you is only that which you truly believe.

Lesson 5: Fantasizing is essential

To make a change or get something started, a healthy dose of fantasy is essential. While it may be easy to fantasize about that cute guy you just met, fantasizing about your career is a bit more challenging. And when I say fantasy, I mean fantasy with a capital F. This is no time to let reality come butting in on your dreams. Trust me, there will be plenty of opportunity for that later on.

As you try to fantasize about an idea, don't be surprised if barriers keep popping up just like in those car-racing video games where you have to anticipate and avoid any obstacles that may come your way. Except when you're fantasizing about your idea, the speed bumps will look and sound something like this:

  • I don't have the expertise.
  • Where would I get the financing?
  • What about all my other responsibilities?
  • Do I really have the ability?
  • Who would I contact?

These are all perfectly valid questions -- just not for now. Now is about fantasy. So override all your concerns, pretend all your questions are answered, and imagine there is nothing to stop you from achieving your wildest dreams.

These fantasies will help you tap into the passion and strength you will need to forge your own path and overcome your doubts. As you go further, your rational mind will pull up all sorts of worries, and you will need to use backup fantasies to get past these. Picture yourself getting awards, running meetings, doing interviews, having a really hip-looking office -- whatever it takes to get you feeling passionate and excited about turning your ideas into reality. Store up these fantasies and keep them in a special place in your heart and mind -- they are going to come in very handy.

My Story

My entire entry into cosmetics was one big fantasy. Without all that fantasy at the beginning, it would never have happened.

I had one particular fantasy that I would pull up whenever the idea of starting a matte lipstick brand would begin to seem utterly ridiculous. Let's call it the launch party. I would picture the launch party for my lipsticks at a trendy restaurant that I was particularly fond of at the time. In my fantasy, there were throngs of media people congratulating me and lots of women wiping off their own lipstick to try mine. I would imagine red velvet decorations and delicious food, all-red gourmet treats. I even had the music all figured out. For some reason, the song playing in the background was always "That's the Way (I Like It)" by KC and the Sunshine Band. Questionable musical taste or not, seeing all this in my head really helped.

To this day, I still remember how this fantasy helped get me through some real emotional low points. One instance in particular comes to mind. I was sitting at a tram stop after getting some quotes on letterheads and business cards from a stationery shop. Most of my friends at the time were in college with very clear ideas as to what they wanted from the next few years. And here I was, in the middle of the day, on my own, at a tram stop in the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden, I felt overcome with doubt and loneliness. I felt really stupid sitting there chasing some rainbow of starting a lipstick brand. What a waste of time. I was just some foolish kid who didn't even have a driver's license and had to take public transportation everywhere. How could I pull off something like this?

But then I started thinking about the press launch and how good it would feel. I got right back into thinking about all the little details that excited me at the launch and how amazing it would be to get to that point. By the time the tram came, I was motivated and back on track. Once again I started feeling that it might be possible.

Fantasies helped me to overcome doubts many, many times and still do. They can do the same for you. Keep that in mind as you work on the next exercise.

La La Land

You've heard about my fantasy; now it's your turn. Forget how, when, even why; just imagine taking your idea all the way to the pinnacle of success. These fantasies are what will allow you to take ownership and become intimate with your idea. It needs to start mingling with your hopes and dreams and intertwining itself into the areas that motivate you. Take your fantasy to the limit. Imagine yourself in the most improbable, incredible,Ripley's Believe It or Not!moments. Don't stop yourself in any way. Remember that this idea or any idea could change your entire future. You need your fantasies to set the stage.

Get out a piece of paper and write out your fantasy in as much detail as possible.

Lesson 6: Ideas are commodities

Ideas are solid entities in and of themselves. As such, they can be traded, sold, shared, reworked, researched, and so forth. Make no mistake, an idea is a commodity -- meaning that when you have one, you have something of value, a value that can be realized in any number of ways.

Once you have recognized, bonded with, and taken ownership of your idea, all sorts of possibilities may pre­sent themselves. The one you choose will depend a lot on the nature of your idea. You can develop the idea yourself. You can sell it to someone else. You can partner with a large company. The options go on and on. For example, if your idea is to start a procrastination-busting coaching service for creative professionals, chances are that's something you'll have to develop yourself. Then again, if your idea is for a new flavor of coffee, you could look into doing it yourself or you could approach a company such as Starbucks. Whatever your idea, one thing is for certain: you will have many choices as to the best way to proceed.

Like I said before, your decisions will depend a lot on the nature of your idea, but they will also depend on you and the nature of your dreams. In other words, what do you want out of this?

If you can't answer this question just yet, let your fantasies be your guides. In your fantasies:

  • What type of situations did you see yourself in?
  • Did your fantasies revolve mainly around people, places, or things?
  • Did you keep returning to a fantasy that saw you being the boss and running a staff meeting?
  • Did your fantasies involve driving a beautiful car or buying amazing clothes?
  • Did your fantasies involve communicating information, like speaking in front of a big crowd that had come to see you?

There is no such thing as a right or wrong fantasy, so feel free to be as self-indulgent as you like. Once you are in touch with your dreams, you will understand what motivates and drives you. And once you understand that, you'll know how to make the best use of your idea.

My Story

I have been "entrepreneurial" ever since I can remember. I put it in quotation marks because at times it was just an excuse to be naughty. For the purposes of this scenario, let's define being entrepreneurial as having a questioning nature that doesn't always accept the status quo and has ideas about how things could change. Sometimes I didn't know when to quit being entrepreneurial. In fact, I actually got expelled from my first school for being "too different and not fitting in" -- or at least that's what the headmistress told my mom, word for word. Fortunately, it all worked out for the best when I ended up at a school that was much more encouraging of individuality and creativity.

This early experience gave me as many clues as my fantasies for how to proceed with my lipstick idea. When I first thought about my idea for matte lipsticks, I could have gone in a number of directions. I could have tried to get a job with one of the big brands or tried to sell them my idea. But while the nature of my idea would have allowed for either option, my own nature was pointing me in a different direction -- the direction of the launch party.

My launch party fantasy was proof that working with a big brand would not be the best way to motivate me. Seeing women trying on the lipsticks was a major part of my fantasy. This was a great clue about how motivated I was by the experience of seeing the customers enjoying the lipsticks. Another key element of this fantasy was the part that saw me getting congratulated by the press. As arrogant as it may sound, that part showed me that I didn't want to be anonymous; I wanted to be recognized as the person who had made all this happen. Lastly, my fascination with what music would be played at the party, what food would be served, and where it would be told me that creative control of details was very important to me.

Stack up these clues and what does it tell you? I'll tell you what it told me. It told me that I would be most motivated by going it alone because that would cater to my drive for recognition, creative control, and interacting with customers. Had I been repeatedly fantasizing about being part of something big, powerful, and structured, then I may have pursued a different direction with my idea.

As you can see, fantasies do much more than just stimulate the imagination. They also offer insight into who you are and what motivates you -- which is precisely what you need to know when figuring out what to do with a good idea.

Like I said at the start, ideas are commodities. You can do with them what you will. But before you make-up your mind, take a look inside and have a good, hard think about your motivations. Sometimes what you'll find may seem selfish and vain. You may be scared to admit that what motivates you is not something that will win a popularity contest -- but it doesn't matter. Good or bad, all that matters is that you are honest with yourself about what you want from your idea. Once you've figured out what you want, you'll be motivated to go after it. It's that simple.


I promise you I wasn't an extraordinary eighteen-year-old. I had very little direction and not a great deal of ambition. In fact, I was pretty lost. I had nothing tangible like money or a family business to give me a head start. I did, however, have one huge advantage: I allowed myself to wish for something, identified it as an idea, and took it seriously enough to think more about it. And that's something that any of us can do.

Here's how:

  • Recognize that you have ideas.When you figure out that your everyday thoughts are often just ideas in disguise, you're much more likely to pay attention to what's going on in your own head.
  • Take very seriously any sentence starting with "I wish."Every enterprise begins with a wish, the wish to make some sort of change. Giving yourself permission to wish will help you tap into your ideas.
  • Understand that you make the difference.Your idea doesn't have to be a major breakthrough. Even if the only thing separating you from the competition is the fact that you are more passionate about your product or service than they are, that alone can be the secret ingredient.
  • Allow for an incubation period.Before you get all excited about your idea and start telling the world, or decide that your idea is too problematic and put it in the discard pile, take a few days to contemplate. Remember, just because the idea seemed great at first doesn't mean that it's the right idea for you. Neither do concerns automatically mean that you should quit. See how you feel after you spend a few days or weeks just mulling it over.
  • Fantasize often.In the early stages of your idea, it's all too easy to get discouraged and scrap the whole thing altogether. Who needs all this trouble? It's probably not going to work anyway! Sound familiar? Well, this is where your fantasies come into play. They are like a hit of caffeine when you are tired. They give you energy.
  • Treat ideas like the commodities they are.Ideas are valuable if you know what to do with them. With so many options at your disposal, deciding how to proceed with an idea will depend on what you want. Look at your personality and at the nature of your fantasies to figure out the steps that are right for you.

Even if you don't feel you have any dreams or ideas yet, you can make a start by taking your thoughts more seriously and being more respectful of them. Inside you are the greatest ideas and the greatest barriers. By dismissing our wishes as silly or impossible, we stop ourselves from striving for success before we've even heard a word of criticism. So try not to limit yourself in any way. Give yourself permission to be a wishful thinker and a daydreamer. Let go of the notion that only big, radical ideas are worthwhile -- they don't have to be anything of the sort. And remember, you don't ever have to do anything with your ideas if you don't want to.

We'll talk in the next chapter all about crossing the line between the idea and the decision to do something about it. For now, just know that you do have ideas of your own. And yours and everybody else's are what make this world go round.

Copyright © 2008 by Poppy King

Excerpted from Lessons of a Lipstick Queen: Finding and Developing the Great Idea that Can Change Your Life by Poppy King
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