How to Find That Perfect Idea to Work On

Sunday Beam #


April 18, 2021

Good Sunday 🌞!

It was a hectic week for me because after talking to a good number of users (community members) early in the week, I was making a drastic product offering change 😡at Public Lab. I'll elaborate below.

Then what's worth celebrating this week? Shopping. I got a few new gadgets! A new standing desk 😍 Padcaster Parrot Teleprompter and Cam Link. You can tell I'm planning to do more video content!

This week I want to try a different writing style for this newsletter. I want to go deeper on one topic.

πŸ’’πŸ’’πŸ’’ Let me know what you think about it. Hit "Reply".


Last week, I shared my inner struggle that people around me don't understand what I do (creating content online) these days.

​Richard, a good friend I met on Twitter, replied and gave me some encouraging words. He also said "at the end of the day, I've learned that I don't get to pick which project works out."

This line hit me hard. It reminded me of my belief to search for that perfect idea to work on. Let me tell you more.

πŸ‘“ Finding that perfect idea to work on

I used to believe that finding the "one thing" in life to work on is key to living a fulfilled life. Having that perfect idea means I enjoy doing it and it makes me a good living. If there was a Venn diagram, then this idea would be what's overlapping in the middle part. Searching for this "one thing" became my life mission.

Finding the perfect idea

Years have passed and I realized there is no such thing as "the one thing" in life. It doesn't exist. For every new idea or project, I get super excited about it in the beginning and it becomes the "one thing". Then a few weeks or months come by, and it is no longer the "one thing" because I lose interest in it and move on.

Some people call this the shiny object syndrome, meaning we always chase the newest idea and neglect the older ones. When it is a new idea, we fantasize how this idea will make us billionaires with the perfect lifestyle. We dream of having lots of customers queuing up to try it out and money cannot stop coming into our bank account.

But when we start working on the idea, difficulties arise. With challenge, what do we do? We give up. We wave our white flag because the process gets hard.

I've done that enough times in my life to not believe in the "one thing" anymore. It is useless when we choose to work on an idea. It is only useful when the idea becomes a solution that gives customer enough value.

As Richard said, we don't get to choose what works out. No one can accurately predict the ever changing consumer behavior, you only know what sticks with customers when you try to sell it.

So what's my new way to discover an idea to work on?

I start by setting a mission and then I navigate around the topic to see what works. I try out different ideas and test if they have potentials. If they don't, I move on. If they do, I keep on collecting data points and exploring.

With this, let me share my story last week making a drastic product offering change to Public Lab.

πŸ’« Adjusting what I'm offering

When I started Public Lab a few weeks back, I was set on creating a private community dedicated to #BuildingInPublic. In other words, I'm creating a space for people who want to develop their authentic public voice to get help and learn from one another.

Public Lab community

The community is hosted on Circle, a forum-style space for people to post and engage. My vision was to group together like-minded builders who care about being authentic on the Internet while growing their businesses. Public Lab is a safe and supportive space. The community is there for members to get support whenever they want.

But after running it for 2 weeks with 20 founding members, I observed and also talked to many members via video calls, it was clear something was missing from Public Lab.

1) Members were feeling a little awkward. They didn't know each other enough and didn't know what to post.

2) Leif told me that he checked out many members' Twitter wall, and it was clear that no one had been actively building in public

3) Members didn't know how to start building in public. If they couldn't start, how could they ask questions and help each other?

The feedback told me something critical: the most important part of #BuildingInPublic (having a public voice) is not having a place to ask questions or improving writing skills. It is TO GET STARTED! People need help to take the 1st step!

I tried to justify this learning. Why do some communities work in forum-style but a community for building in public doesn't?

I found it. For communities that focus on generic topics like parenting or SEO or blog writing, people are already doing it. And they want a place to support what they're doing.

On the other hand, #BuildingInPublic is a new concept. Only a very small group of people has figured it out, the majority of people still lacks understanding. If they're not doing it already, then a community (forum-style) is not the most helpful thing.

What would be the most helpful thing? It would be a specific program to help them get started.

I began to create a new product: a 30 days challenge that puts everyone together, motivates them to take action, and uses accountability as a force to form a new habit. I'll be splitting them into teams, guiding them with email tips and prompts, and everyone will be building in public at the same time!

A community is still valuable, but it is not going to help as a 1st step. It can come after this tailored program. The program can also form relationships in a well-structured environment, then people will feel more comfortable being active in a community with lots of their friends.

When I used the feedback to change my main product offering, I didn't change my mission. I still care about helping people develop an authentic voice, but my product (solution) is different.

This shows that even though you're clear on vision and the problem, you still have to experiment on the solution to find the right fit.

Another perspective I look at is pricing. When I first worked on the community concept as my main product, I knew it would be a product with a $15/month price point. It was very unlikely I could sustain my life running a community solely.

Now the main product becomes a 30 days #BuildingInPublic challenge, it is clear that this program has to be priced at a higher rate due to its design, operations, and output values. It is at least a $150 one-off fee to participate. This means that if I'm able to run a cohort of 20 students every month, that's $3,000USD revenue. Given my goal is to achieve an online revenue equaling my previous startup CEO salary, this will be a great product for me to run to contribute to the goal.

On the other hand, I need 200 active monthly members at $15/month to achieve $3,000USD. Still achievable, but I'd hate to destroy the community culture just because I need it to grow fast and big.

πŸŽ— Avoiding the "give up" moments

I didn't think of the 30 days challenge idea myself. I was simply following people's needs to come up with it. Is it going to work? I'm super confident it will be a great product when I put in the effort to design the curriculum. But we never know, so I need to test it out and do a pilot run first.

This way of discovering an idea combines a formula that emphasizes: trying + testing + iterating.

Because I don't create ideas in my head, I don't have a strong emotional attachment to them, so it is less likely that I'll give up. I might pivot (adjusting my offering) again, but definitely not going to throw an idea away and restart somewhere else.

Also, I'm always starting small. I started the community with 20 people and I'm going to start the 30 days challenge with the same 20 people. Even if it doesn't work out, I can easily pivot again and keep going.

So this is my attitude towards "I don't get to pick which project works out". And through this approach, I can avoid shiny object syndrome because I no longer fantacize new ideas.

If you're a builder that struggles to find ideas to work on. You should start with a mission at heart. What do you care about? Find it through lots of writing which forces you to think clearly. With a mission, you can then explore and discover people's needs!


Again, how do you like this new format of Sunday Beam? Please tell me so I can improve! πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™


πŸš€ 1-Minute Quick Tip: if you're starting out on Twitter and wonder ...

You now know why I'm upgrading my video equipments! πŸ™ˆ


🀐 How to Overcome Your Social Media Fear When Building an Audience

I've talked to so many people about #BuildingInPublic in the last couple of months. The #1 thing stopping them is definitely the fear of speaking and sharing in public.

I'm breaking down the 3 types of fear you likely battle with your inner self and also sharing how you can overcome them.

πŸ‘‰πŸ‘‰ Read this short blog post

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