Dr. Jim Bailey
Guiding You to Work that FIts

Work-Life Blog

About Your Work-Life

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Where do you get your ideas? And, once you get them, what do you do with them?


This week has been full of times when I was gathering ideas. I met with my friend and author, Jim Branch, to gather ideas about how to approach writing a book about our work and our identity. I read a book about Inbound Marketing to get ideas about new ways to let people who are struggling with career and work questions know what I can do to help. And, I watched a couple of StoryBrand videos to help me make my website easier to use and find. It’s almost like I have to look outside myself to find ideas.


I came to peace with this a long time ago. In fact, I frequently tell my clients that my gift is learning great ideas and then sharing them with people who need them. I guess I’m like Robin Hood in that way – I steal other people’s great ideas and I give them out to people who really need them. Yeah, I’m thief, but I’m a generous thief.


Ironically, about half the people I help are like me, except the ideas they need are about how to make their work fit them better. They are the proverbial person who gets lost in the woods and can’t find the path because all they see are the tree trunks they already know. What they really need is someone who has a different perspective – has the ideas they need but also understands how to make those ideas fit them.


Yesterday I met with a prospective client who is probably more like me. We met to talk about how she feels stuck because she’s tired of doing work that doesn’t fit her. Her problem is that she doesn’t know what other kind of work to pursue or how to pursue it. She feels stuck because the ideas she needs and desperately wants don’t come to her. She’s tried asking friends for ideas but the ones they offer her sound over-used or don’t feel comfortable. Her frustration and sense of futility were easy to pick up.


As we talked about her situation I listened for clues about why her current job doesn’t fit and why she found other alternatives attractive. The company she worked for sells a great product that is very useful for the people who buy it. In fact, it’s often a lifesaver to someone in a crisis. Her challenge was that the sales culture of her employer was centered on continuously increasing sales volume without a regard for the people who’d already bought their product. She wanted to do both. She also wanted to be part of a company that valued their employees and this one doesn’t.


Because she was a prospective client, and not someone who’d already hired me, you’d think that I would have spent most of our time talking about how I could help her if she was a client. In fact, I was taught early in my life that I should never do something for free when I have a chance to get paid for doing it. But, like I said before, I love sharing ideas that will help people have a better life, so as we talked about what I could do to help her I also offered some ideas that could make a difference, whether she hires me or not.


We talked about companies that are similar to her employer, with the exception that they had the client-focus and employee culture she wants. We also talked about the natural connections she has with some of these companies; connections from friendships and interactions with people in those companies that might provide her access to a job. Then we talked about the strategies she could use to make the most of those connections – all in ways that would fit who she is and would be the most natural for her. And the whole time I shared how what I was doing to help her was just a small part of what I would be doing if she was to become my client.


Ironically, I work with a lot of people who are nothing like me. Maybe half of my clients don’t need to steal other people’s ideas because they have scads of ideas themselves. Their biggest challenge is to figure out which of their ideas they want to, or should, pursue in the present moment. They usually come to me when they’ve gotten sort of paralyzed by the task of choosing which idea to go after. In those situations my job is not to help them find ideas but to listen to their ideas and help them prioritize what to go after and develop and use a strategy for making their ideas happen.

Where do you get your ideas? And, once you get them, what do you do with them?


Half of what I do is help people find the ideas that will fit who they are and what they need and want in their work; the other half is to help them figure out what they should go after and how to do that in the way that best fits them. My experience tells me that failing to address both of these challenges almost always assures a poor outcome for a client, so I make sure to do both. Besides, it’s fun being Robin Hood.

James Bailey