The best way to get irrelevant feedback on your ideas is to talk about them. Countless times, I’ve had an idea for a project or a business I wanted to do. I’ve told my family and friends about it, and the feedback is almost always great.

“What a good idea!” they say. Then, since I’ve already gotten good feedback, I don’t feel the urge to test it in real life. Something inside me is already satisfied from the approval of people I trust.

A good friend of mine once called this process “idea-masturbation”.

I didn’t take into account that I haven’t tested the idea in a way that actually means something. Most of the time, the people I’m asking aren’t even the ones who can accurately tell me if it’s a good idea or not. Their opinion is just as relevant as mine, and both are irrelevant compared to somebody with skin in the game.

Let’s say we’re talking about a business idea.

The only people who can tell you if your business idea is substantial are the ones who would be willing to buy your product or service. Your friends and family can praise you for being creative, innovative and smart, but that means nothing. In fact, it can actually hurt you. Receiving that positive feedback so early makes you feel satisfied for not having done anything. Then, you feel less inclined to chase the positive feedback.

The best form of that feedback is making a sale. It’s real.

When you have an idea, find the quickest possible path from where you are now to the point when  somebody hands you cash for it. If you can’t get anyone to hand you cash for it, ask them why. Maybe they’re not the right type of person. Maybe your idea isn’t quite what they’re looking for, but it can be with a little modification.

Ask them what they would buy from you instead of your current idea.

Next time you have an idea, keep it hidden from the people you trust. Don’t talk about it until you’ve taken an action that gets other people to talk about it. Then, you can ask your friends and family for feedback. Only this time it’ll be different. You’ll have some experiential results to show, discuss, and learn from.

Instead of saying “I’m thinking about creating X for Y type of people, what do you think?”

You’re saying “I created X for Y type of people, then I tried to sell it to 5 of them and none of them liked it for Z reason. What’s the best way to turn X into something Y would want, considering Z?”

A specific question like the latter will yield specific insights. You’ve now made intentional progress. Even at this stage, the advice from  your friends and  family will be nearly irrelevant compared to your attempts at getting cash-in-hand.

Brainstorming sessions are different than an active negotiation. In an active negotiation with a potential customer, their money is at stake. In a brainstorming session, anything is possible and creative ideas fly all over the place, feasible or not.

Both interactions are important in their own place, but one of them is much more representative of tangible success than the other one. Testing things in the real world is always, always, always more effective than testing things in your brain. Use your brain to think, but make sure that leads to more than just thinking.