Having ideas is fucking easy. People love to say shit like "I had the idea for Facebook two years before it came out, I could be rich!". Big fucking whoop, I'm sure tons of people had that idea (obviously Myspace had that idea, as did ConnectU, etc.). Ideas are fucking easy, I have a million ideas a day. The hard thing is identifying the ideas that are the really good ones, and then making the decision to go for them. Anyone who's smart and creative has ideas, but we're afraid to go for it, or we don't believe in it enough to take a risk, or whatever. I see lots of people who sit on the sidelines and make retarded comments like this ("I had that idea! I'm so smart!"), but there are also plenty of businesses that have made their fortune and falsely think it was because of their "great ideas" (in general the ability of businesses to be un-self-aware and not understand why they are successful is astonishing).
Working on software tools that enhance my own computing experience is incredibly satisfying. The things that I've done in the last few years that please me most are my NiftyPerforce replacement, my window manager, autoprintf, my google chart maker, my bitmap library, etc. things that I use in my coding life to write more code. It's like being a metal worker and spending your time making tools for metalworking. It's incredibly satisfying because you use these things every day so you get to have the benefit yourself. Paul Phillips talked about the "exponential productivity boost of writing software for yourself" ; in theory there is an exponential benefit, because if writing software tools makes you X% more efficient at writing software tools, you can write more to help yourself, then even more, etc. I believe in practice that it is in fact not exponential, but I'm not sure why that is.
There is, however, an interesting non-linear jump in tool making and process enhancement. The issue is that what we do is somewhat art. You need inspiration, you need to be in the right mindset, you need to be able to play with your medium. When the craft is too difficult, when there's too much drudge work, you sap the vital juices from your mind, and you will never have a big epiphany. If you spend some time just working on your tools and process, you can make the actual act of creation easier and more pleasant for yourself, so that you come into it with a totally different mind set and you have different kinds of ideas. It might seem more efficient to just knock out the work the brute force way, but there is something magical that happens if you transform the work into something that feels natural and fun to play with and experiment with.
Things I want to avoid : dumb TV, booze, sugar, surfing the net, web forums, lying on the couch. But god damn, when you cut all those things out, life is hard. When night time rolls around and you're tired and bored, it's hard to get through the dark hours without those crutches. My real goal is to spend less time on the computer that's not real good productive time.
It's depressing trying to manage your investments in a down-market period. Despite the fact that we're in a mini-bubble false recovery at the moment, I believe that stocks will performly badly for the next 10 years or so; if you can beat inflation during this period you are doing well. I believe that there is very little skill in most "business" ; if you happen to start a company during an up-swing in the economy, you will do well and think you are a genius, if you do it during a down-swing you will do badly (but still probably think you are a genius). In particular, if you are lucky enough to be able to run something with big leverage during a general market up-swing, you basically just get to print free money. It's not that you were some brilliant real estate developer (or whatever), it's just that you put big money into the market when all boats were rising.