A Creator’s Toolbox: 6 Ways To Find Your Next Big Idea

YouTube creator Chris Hau creates a frame with his fingers

Chris Hau has always been creative. As a toddler, he memorized the dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and performed it for his family in their living room. In high school, he joined a band with his English teacher, called the Detention Crew. Growing up, it was less a question and more a fact that he’d carve some kind of career from his creations. 

Chris lived to entertain, once playing his guitar on a surfboard as his friend drove a boat and recorded it. After he uploaded the stunt to YouTube, the clip landed him on Good Morning America, kickstarting what’s now a lucrative and fulfilling life as a videographer, creative director, and creator. Chris produces content for more than a million fans across YouTube and Instagram, and for clients including Mercedes-Benz, Adobe, and Google. 

To run his channels, Chris has become an idea machine, generating 30 to 40 bankable ideas in a given week and then prioritizing the best ones from there. All in, his videos take about a week to produce, which means 30 hours of his life dictated by a single decision—so it had better be a good one. 

After years of creating, Chris had amassed not just a deep bank of ideas, but a wealth of knowledge about ideas themselves. He whittled 400 pieces of advice down to 50, turning them into a deck of cards called Unblock and selling them to his fans.

A preview of Chris Hau's Unblock deck, featuring a piece of advice on a playing card

Here, Chris shares his favorite pieces of advice for entrepreneurs and creators looking for their next great idea. 

1. Find your flow state

“Steven Spielberg has talked about how he kept a tape recorder in his car, and when he was driving, that’s when he’d come up with some of his best ideas,” Chris says. “The best ideas for me come when I’m in a flow state or passive state. It’s driving, it’s cooking, it’s taking a shower. It’s the places I’m feeling relaxed, already on autopilot.”

Keep a notebook or your phone’s voice recorder handy so you can capture your best ideas whenever (and wherever) they appear.

2. Tell someone your worst idea

There’s always some small part of you that thinks, “No, that would never work,” which stops you from saying it out loud or workshopping it with someone else. What if you freed yourself from thinking it had to be your best idea by embracing how bad you think it is?

Giving yourself permission by just telling someone else about it is a powerful way to break through a creative block, Chris says. Chances are the brainstorm will lead to something you really, really love. And no sweat if it doesn’t—there will always be another worst idea.

3. Use the same concept but a different tool

Our brains thrive on novelty, and sometimes breaking through a creative impasse means shaking it up. For a musician, that could mean writing a song on a guitar instead of the usual piano. A writer could take to a typewriter instead of a computer for a day. For Chris, it means filming on a phone instead of a standalone camera.

Creator Chris Hau works at his computer

“There’s a real beauty and humility in deciding to create something in a medium that’s new or with a skill that isn’t your best,” Chris says. Think of it as an opportunity to build a new strength—it’s about changing up the normal tools you use in your work every day.

4. Trust your gut

Consider this the idea equivalent of rock paper scissors, except that everybody wins. Chris points to the episode of television show The Office where one character is pressuring another to express how he feels, straight from the gut: “Say it now. 3, 2, 1. Say it now. How do you feel? Say it now.” We all struggle to trust our gut, but it’s the strongest indicator we have of who we are and when we know we have something really, really good. So count it down and spit out what you’re thinking. The great idea is probably already there—you’re just holding yourself back. 

5. Act on the truly authentic ideas

In the creator economy, so much content is sponsored, and it’s critical for creators to appeal to brands they want to build relationships with. But, deep down, there’s probably a message you really want to share.

“When people ask me, what’s your favorite video? I always tell them it’s the one where I wrote a poetry piece that meant so much to me and performed it. And it’s because it had so much emotion behind it. I cared about everything that I said,” Chris says. “When I’ve had the confidence to do something different or an idea that I truly wanted to do but was scared, it has really shown in the audience, it really speaks volumes in the results.” 

6. Unlock your creativity from within

When friends come to Chris for advice, he asks them to share their goals. “A lot of people are trying to emulate things they’ve seen or ideas that aren’t theirs, because we want to live in the land of feeling successful,” he says. “I try to act like a therapist and just ask questions that will exercise their own confidence. Because you are the key—you know it, deep down, and you need to find a way to unlock your creativity.”