Background Processing

My wife and I have two young kids -Parker (2 1/2) and Josephine (5 months) – so our sleep windows are always randomized by night feedings (Josephine), bad dreams (Parker), coughing fits (both) and the occasional bout of projectile vomiting (both again). With all that going on, we’re both pretty tired most of the time, and it’s usually not a problem to fall asleep at night, or to get back to sleep after one or another of the aforementioned interruptions.

So last night I was up a little later than usual, getting this blog up and running for the first time, IMing with a cousin who lives in Colorado and checking email, and just as I was getting ready for bed a new product idea popped into my head. The idea was definitely triggered by the random mix of activities that night, but it also pulled in threads from Judy’s Book plus a few other startups I’ve been following, plus conversations with friends going back several years.

Now, from long experience I can tell you that most of ideas that pop into my head aren’t all that good, so it’s not like I got all excited about this one at first. But when I lay down to sleep, I had the hardest time letting it go. I kept turning it over, looking for the obvious holes (also from experience, I know where to look for the soft spots in the kinds of ideas that I come up with), but it kept standing up, and even took a slightly better-defined shape for all the prodding. By this time it was pretty late, and I really was eager to get to sleep, so I got out of bed, wrote three words on a sticky note to remind me of the idea in the morning, and then got back in bed. But when Josephine woke up for her midnight feeding, I was still lying there, eyes closed but brain definitely on, trying to shut down for the night and get some (much needed) rest.

I finally dropped off around 1:00, and was able to get settled again after additional kid-related wakeups at 3:00, and again around 5:30. But when I got up and headed into the office, the idea was still there, right where I’d left it. So as soon as I got in I wrote a quick summary to my friend and business partner Andy Sack, who’s pretty quick to spot the holes in my ideas. The subject line was “Late night product idea – may not hold up to daylight scrutiny.” He grabbed me about five minutes later and we walked into a conference room for a quick chat. “I love it” were the first words out of his mouth.

It’s a long and treacherous path from a dream in the night to working code, and then on to a functioning business, but I love the way the brain is always processing, processing, and occasionally spits out a synthesis that you weren’t even aware you were working on.