Big Ideas

If you have noticed my newsletter NOT being in your inbox lately, it’s me, not you. Sometimes life takes some pretty heavy-handed swings at you and you’re just not fast enough to duck. Fortunately, the damage is mostly contained and managed, so we’re back in the game. I have really missed writing this newsletter and my blog, so I hope you enjoy this edition. I loved putting it together as the material is both timely and timeless.

Craig Case, The AHA Guy

Let me introduce you to someone I’m a new real fan of: Craig Case. This guy is the real deal. If you don’t want to take my word for it, hop over to LinkedIn and check out his resume. His new book, Big Ideas, is on my soon-to-read list.

This newsletter is inspired by a recent interview.  I’m doing my own riff on key points from the recording, but I think you will find the interview particularly insightful, so check it out. I’m happy that it is my first offering to you after my recent hiatus.

Do You Want Big Ideas? Then Slow Down.

This has become something of a mantra with me lately. I find myself repeatedly taking my foot off the gas in my own life. Clients and colleagues might be getting a bit tired of hearing me say over and over that “slow is fast and makes things easy.” Now I can point people to the science. It’s all in how we run our brain.

The path between our creative brain and our conscious mind is filled with obstacles. If we don’t allow the right things to happen in our brain – in our life, actually – we miss out on a cornucopia of brilliance that is sitting there atop our neck. It’s filled with voices that will not talk to one another unless you clear the path between them. Of course, I’m talking about conscious mind, sub-conscious mind, and unconscious mind. (Those other voices, well, I really don’t know what to say about them.)

AHA’s Have a Very Short Life Span.

My friend Loren Norris was the first person to point out to me that ideas are actually proteins. If you could do a brain scan of someone in an AHA moment, you actually would see little pink clouds in the brain. Those are the “big ideas.” The problem is that, if they are not captured and ACTED on, they will disappear in like 7 seconds. Most people will recall the experience of having a killer idea and then a few seconds later, poof, it’s gone. Well, it literally is gone: you didn’t use it, so the brain just took it back and used those chemicals for something else. That is why training our brain to slow down enough to pay attention and ACT is so critical. The old adage about not being able to solve problems on the same level as that on which they are created totally applies here. The AHA, the BIG SOLUTION, does not show up in the same way the problem does.

It’s About Your Brain Waves.

Our brain has a Greek alphabet of wave patterns: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. The healthy brain is continuously shifting between each of these “speeds” with Delta being the slowest – most of us know it as “deep sleep” – and Gamma being the fastest. More on Gamma in a bit. We need all of them in the right proportion; otherwise, we end up with problems and certainly do NOT get any AHA’s.

Beta state is what you find in someone doing active stuff like meetings, kids’ lunches, presentations, screen time, etc. This is where most people, particularly Americans, spend the majority of their time. 75% of your oxygen intake goes to your brain when you are in Beta; it is that energy intensive. That explains why you can get so tired when just doing ‘thought’ work.

Interestingly, the AHA’s NEVER come when you are in Beta.

The AHA’s start in Alpha and then come with a blast of Gamma waves, the fastest in the group.

How many times have you had a great idea when driving or when in the shower? You probably weren’t in Beta then. You were more likely in an Alpha, daydreaming state. The slower Alpha state is when big ideas manifest themselves.

The AHA’s and the accompanying Gamma state seem to spring from the much slower Alpha waves which you get when daydreaming, meditating, in mindfulness practice, journaling, etc.

The Gamma/AHA blasts encompass the whole brain and tend to be right about three times more than incremental thinking. (Michael Gerber in The E-Myth describes the ‘entrepreneurial seizure’ as that brief moment of lucidity an entrepreneur has for their business before the mundane realities of making stuff happen settles in. That description might be more literal than he imagined.)

So What to Do?

Let me repeat myself.


Your brain needs to change pace at least every 90 minutes. Every couple of hours you need to consciously shut your brain down.


All of these practices give your brain/mind an opportunity to look at itself. Without being told what to do, a brain can do some pretty dumb things. Be honest: don’t you ever find yourself wondering why the heck you are doing and thinking what you are doing and thinking? What the brain needs is clear instructions on what problem it is solving; then, it will accomplish wonders. Too much of the time we are rushing to find answers to questions and problems we haven’t even defined.

We have to tell our brains what to do. It’s really that simple. 

Do you want big solutions? Define the Big Problem. Let your brain know what you are seeking.

The clearer you can get on what you want to know, the better the brain can work on it.


Writing will program the brain for where to pay attention. The brain needs instruction/direction about what to look for, what information to gather, and on what to work. Having that, it will deliver answers to you.

Journaling is not only healthy; it is CRITICAL.


The Delta and Theta waves happen in sleep time. That is when your brain reorganizes what it knew and what you just learned and cleans out the unneeded stuff floating around in there. It is literally detox time. This is also where real learning and long-term memory happens.


When you start acting on your AHA’s – your Promptings – they tend to show up more. Action clears the path between the unconscious mind (where the Big Ideas originate) and the conscious mind (where action takes place). Acting on your Big Ideas can become a brain habit that generates even more Big Ideas.

The Really Big Payoff.

Modern humans’ greatest health issues are loneliness and anxiety. These issues are exacerbated by what we have learned to do with social media. The phone, the TV, Social Media…these all keep you in Beta. After two hours of high Beta, you have depleted the potassium and sodium in the brain and can’t think well any more. All the brain can do at that point is make you tired and anxious.

People who have a lot of AHA’s and Gamma levels in their life tend to be more creative, happier, kinder, and more compassionate.

So please. Slow down.

  1. Sleep more. (Delta & Theta)
  2. Take more time to daydream, journal, and meditate. (Alpha)
  3. And act (Beta) on the AHA’s/Promptings (Gamma) you are given as a result.

We will all be better for it.

Michael Stammer is a Sales | Life | Performance coach available for individual and group coaching and speaking to organizations. For more visit

Header photo by John Hain from Pixabay used under Creative Commons License.
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