To bring your ideas to life – write them down


sagmeister-Lou Reed

Stefan Sagmeister’s classic 1996 poster for Warner Bros Music Inc.
Art direction & design: Stefan Sagmeister.
Photography: Timothy Greenfield Sanders


When you have an inkling that you want to change something: your career, your business, whatever – of course let things swirl around in your head for a while – but then start putting the ideas on paper (or screen, or tablecloth, or shirt cuff).

Write what you want to achieve. Write a plan for getting there: being specific about the first steps needed. Make it into a narrative, and not just bullets. Things become clearer when you do this, and you can start to sort out whether you have the ideas quite right, what makes sense and what needs some help. This writing doesn’t need to be for anyone but yourself, so have no fear – you can trash it, revise it, file it away to come back to another day – but writing it down, making it a narrative, forces you to clarify your thinking.  The gaps and challenges will raise their heads, then the way forward will reveal itself.

Maybe you use your own personal whiteboard – although there is a danger that whiteboard thinking doesn’t always get out of the bullet stage and the bullets don’t always connect with each other. A narrative with a logical flow might be clearer for you.

Use this technique for your career planning; it can help you figure out your options and how things can be moved along. It also works for your thinking about advances in the way you work, in the way your business will grow.

They can be for your own consumption and provocation, or they can evolve into shareable thought leadership articles: think pieces in which you connect dots to create something new.
So after your ideas have been roaming free for a while in your brain, get them down, force them into a shape, and you’ll have taken the first critical step to bringing them to life.

Here’s an artifact from my past: the business card that Stefan Sagmeister created for me. Yes it is written on my very own hand.