1. Let a stroke of genius strike you. Remember what you were doing at the precise moment it does, because you will get to tell a hyper-eccentric version of that very moment in interviews once you’re famous. “You know, Jon Stewart, it’s a funny story…”
2. Immediately Google your idea and only look at the first page of results. Scan the page frantically, holding your breath, eyes darting between search results and ads, for any major red flags. Nothing? Tight. Shop your idea around to a few close friends – saying you just want to do your research, but really just wanting to plant seeds of envy in their heads that you will water faithfully in later stages. When they all deny knowledge of similar ventures and affirm your brilliance, get butterflies. This is it.
3. Draft a mission statement. Use words like “disruptive” and “innovative” and “relevancy.” Improve the articulation of your idea in Gchat conversations with friends, siblings, ex-coworkers, and anyone who will listen. Find an expert in your field who displays too much contact info on her Tumblr and schedule a Skype date. Stress out about how you will pitch her the idea and when a friend doesn’t understand your anxiety, erupt into a panicked declaration: “The Skype pitch is the new elevator pitch!!!” When this expert tells you about a startup with a similar concept and business model, ignore her. Dismiss them on the basis of scale, creativity, or one obscure functionality.
4. Let the delusional grandeur of your idea wash over you. Then let it escalate uncontrollably. This will be the longest and most productive of all ten stages. It all starts modestly enough – when will I have to quit my job to commit to this idea full-time? Which friends will I appoint to my board? What will I promise people in exchange for a donation on Kickstarter?
5. At some point, a tipping point will arrive that inflates your ambition and leads to a round of rhetorical self-questioning that completely overstates the potential success of your idea. Which coworkers will I poach to help me develop it? Will I bankrupt the biggest competitor in the market, or will they bid to buy me out? Will Obama still be president by the time this takes off? Will he cite my startup in the next State of the Union when he talks about innovation, like he did this year with Google and Facebook? When Peter Thiel invites me to dinner, how long will I have to wait before asking him about Sean Parker’s sex life? What will I wear to my Fast Company cover story photoshoot? Who will write my Harvard Business School case?
6. Reserve a clever twitter handle and be its only follower.
7. Discover even more similar ideas as you research, and realize this space is more crowded than you thought. Continue living in denial. There are a few that are conceptually similar, but they aren’t as DISRUPTIVE as your idea. In a moment of weakness, wonder if you are actually stealing someone’s idea. Start scripting your real life Zuckerberg – Winklevoss – Saverin plot of betrayal and deception in your head, but know that your idea will be so successful you can easily pay them off. If they were going to invent your idea, then they would’ve invented it!
8. Act psycho about secrecy. When you solicit advice from friends and coworkers by email, start with paranoid caveats like this idea is still rough and confidential, and you only want to discuss it because you TRUST them. When in person, lower your voice when you explain your idea, almost to the level of an inaudible whisper. When a friend you don’t remember telling asks how your idea is coming, develop conspiracy theories about how your idea was leaked, even after they remind you that you were drunkenly evangelizing it to strangers in a bar last weekend.
9. At the moment your paranoia is about to climax, receive an email from your friend with the subject: “hey, have you seen this?” Click on it. Fuck. It’s your idea. Actually it’s smarter than your idea, with a more cleverly written mission statement and a more beautifully designed website. Be devastated in how quickly and casually your entrepreneurial career has met its decline.
10. Feel grateful for the job you imaginarily quit not too long ago, and get back to work.