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Idea debt

A while ago I was introduced to the concept of idea debt – which approximately states that any time spent on planning an idea without taking concrete efforts to realizing it will increase the mental friction to actually starting those efforts. It’s a simple concept, but it’s been occupying my brain for quite a while since.

What is important is that concrete planning is distinct from abstract planning – contacting a potential collaborator is concrete, while thinking I wish this person would join my team is not.

It’s far from a perfect metaphor, but think of ideas as unstoppable architects and your execution as little construction workers. Depending on how complex the idea is, and how important the idea feels, the architect is allotted a larger part of your mental city plan. Any time you spend any mental time on the plan, your architect starts drawing ideas, plotting the ground, and moving from there. At first, it’s a single pillar, but as things evolve, the plans get more complex. Walls emerge, then rooms and floors and – if your construction workers haven’t started doing some work – the task suddenly starts seeming unsurmountable. And the architect is unstoppable, so they add new floors and helipads and in-building airports and a slide from the 249th floor to the 3rd floor. Sure, every building is built with a first stone, but if the drawing tells you to build a tower into space because the architect just couldn’t stop drawing, no construction worker will take on that job.

And I guess, looking at my life, I’ve got a lot of construction workers that saw the drawings and walked away. I have ideas that have been building this incredible tower of expectations and hopes, in impossible fidelity and flawless execution, and it’s time to admit that I’ve let those ideas construct that tower for too long. They’re outdated, irrelevant purely by the passage of time, or simply have reached an almost mythological status in my imagination.

It’s time to let those ideas float away, clear the allotted terrain in my mental space for new ideas, and maybe start work on building those a bit sooner.