These Ideas Seemed Stupid — but They Actually Worked
That sounds like a horrible idea. Let's do it.sheff/ Shutterstock
We’ve all been stuck in a jam before, and in a moment of brilliance — or sheer panic — have come up with a crazy idea for a solution.
Some of these half-baked ideas worked so perfectly, it was as if you'd planned it that way all along. But you were still wondering how you ever pulled things off.
From off-the-wall plans to last-minute improvisations to just plain luck, here are some wacky ideas that worked out for people on Reddit — and left them feeling stunned.
Comments have been edited for clarity and grammar.
1. Cheating 2 ways
In my freshman year of college, my grades were not great. And my parents were really strict about getting good grades.
When my dad asked to see my grades, I panicked and did inspect command on the computer where you can change typefaces on the screen to read different words and letters.
I changed all of my bad grades to good grades. My dad was so happy that I did well in my first year of school.
He asked me to print my results. I did, and it turns out he had to send them to our car insurance company for a "good student discount."
Ultimately, I committed insurance fraud by accident. But I got a discount.
2. Bouncing back
When I was 7 years old I was playing in my back garden with those incredibly bouncy little toy balls, just bouncing them high off the house and letting them bounce randomly before trying to catch them.
One time, I went for this huge throw off the wall and it bounced crazily off various surfaces so fast I completely lost track of it.
So my 7-year-old logic was to stand back in the same place and throw another ball the same way.
I watched it bounce this way and that about 10 times before finally hitting a plant and coming to a rest in a flower bed.
I went over to pull back the foliage and sure enough there were both balls literally lying touching each other in the mud. At the time I was like, “Yep, makes sense...” but over the years since then, I've often thought about it and how it worked!
3. What a tree-mendous feat
A storm broke a limb on a tree hanging over my house in my backyard, but it was still hanging on by a few splinters.
I didn't want it to fall, and it wasn't in a place where I could use my ladder to get to it.
So I found some rope, tied a brick to it, threw the brick and rope over the limb, made a crude rope swing, and swung and pulled at the branch until it finished breaking.
It wasn't until I was using the chainsaw to cut it up that I realized how many times during my stupid idea I could have easily hurt or even killed myself.
4. 'Testing, testing'
Back in high school, I stopped by one of my teacher’s rooms after class to ask him some questions about our homework.
When I walked in, I noticed he was grading some of our tests.
Of note, all of his tests were made up of multiple-choice, true/false, or matching, and all of the answers were bubbled in.
What I noticed was that instead of using an answer key to grade, he was just placing a stencil over the paper with the correct bubble punched out.
The stencil wasn’t transparent, so all it showed was whether we bubbled in the right answer or not.
Flash forward to our next test, and I’m stuck on a T/F question. Knowing how he graded, I figured I’d bubble in both T and F, and if he caught it, it would be easy enough to claim it was an accident.
Well, he didn’t catch it, and I used that trick the rest of the year for a little extra boost on all of his tests.
5. A totally new person
I was taking a class that required me to purchase an online textbook and workbook that was registered under your name.
It basically ensured that each student would have to buy a new online copy each semester, instead of buying used textbooks.
I had a friend who took this class a semester before me, so we came up with the idea to message customer service and explain that I had recently gotten married (so my last name had changed) and I legally changed my first name from [my friend’s first name] to [my first name].
I would need them to change it in their system. It totally worked and the rep even congratulated me on my marriage.
6. What an egg-cellent idea
When I was in junior high, I did this project where I had to drop an egg off the back of some bleachers onto the sidewalk and not crack the egg.
There was a sidewalk with grass next to it, but you had to hit the sidewalk. If you missed it, you had to drop it again. You had three shots, and if you missed every time you got a D-minus. (F if you missed and your egg broke.)
I got a Pringles can and a few packages of Jell-O. I also cut a hole in the middle of the can, because the teacher had to see me put the egg in there.
When I dropped my Pringles can, it landed exactly how I expected it. However, I did not expect the next part.
The little door I made to put the egg in, burst open and the egg shot out the side and went skidding across the grass unharmed.
7. It was a pigment of their imagination
I was working as an art director at an animation studio, making videos for clients.
One client was especially pesky about the use of yellow in the background. They wanted it to be that of their logo, which was this horrible neon yellow.
We advised against it, but, after numerous calls, we had to cave and gave a version with that color.
They hated it, and asked for a change. What followed were 12 versions with numerous calls in between tweaking the color over and over.
Eventually, I got tired of it and just sent the original version again, I didn't even bother to rename the file.
The client said, "This looks exactly the way I wanted, thank you!”
How that ever went right I still have no idea.
8. Dropbox miracle
In university, I was late on an assignment that was supposed to be in my teaching assistant's dropbox by noon that day. I didn't manage to get there until almost 3:00 p.m., so I was sure he had already emptied it.
The dropboxes were literal boxes in cubbies with a slot on the front and a lock on them that prevented them from being pulled out.
The rack holding them was just a basic metal frame with about five rows of boxes. My T.A.'s box was somewhere in the middle of the shelf.
So I figured, "I'm late anyway, why not take a chance?" and slipped my assignment into the box below my T.A.'s box.
I got my assignment handed back a few weeks later than everyone else and it had a note from another T.A. scribbled on it that said, "Looks like this fell into my box by mistake."
I got full marks on the assignment.
9. Taking a chance, seeing it pay off
I stuck my neck out for an ex-con on house arrest at my job.
He interviewed well, but his availability was horrible, between the ankle bracelet and meeting with his PO, drug treatment program, etc.
My general manager said, "No," and I said, "I'm doing it anyway."
The first night he worked there, I found myself in a bind. He was the only person scheduled in the kitchen from 8:00-10:00 p.m., and I had no one who knew the kitchen besides myself.
I told him, "Look, dude, we're pretty messed up back here, and I'm going to try to keep my cool, but I can't promise... And because I'm the only manager on duty, I might have to run to the front/drive-thru."
Well, this guy mastered production in about an hour. He was faster than my general manager on the grills and fryers, and his attitude was so good.
I waited on nothing and he even tried to help me make sandwiches and send them out. He also managed to clean up the entire kitchen.
10. Chicken fried ride
In college, I was at a friend’s house on the other side of town, it was very late and the buses had stopped, so my only way home was to call a cab. (This was before Uber.)
I was also really hungry, but because I only had about $10, my choice was either get some takeout and walk for an hour to get home at night, or call a cab and go hungry.
I went into the Chinese takeout place and asked for a delivery to my home address and asked for a ride home.
They protested at first, but I explained that my hitching a ride was no extra cost for them. They agreed and I got a free ride home and Chinese takeout!
11. Remaking Greek history
Took a class on Greek history in college.
We had our first test, it covered everything we learned so far. It also covered the intro to the book, even though we never discussed it in class.
I studied and felt great until I get to the last essay question, which was about the intro of the book.
The question asks about one of five reasons regarding Crete and to pick one and explain it.
I rack my brain for something coherent and remember an episode of Jeopardy! about Crete.
So, I make up some nonsense; I thought I might get points for writing something.
When the professor is giving back the graded tests, he says he knew I didn’t show up for class, because the answer wasn’t even close to what was in the book. But he handed it to the chair of the department to read.
They realized I had identified a sixth, and perhaps, better answer than what was in the book. They reached out to the author and suggested he include an update in the next edition.
12. Two wrongs made a right
I was rearranging my room in my apartment and set my TV on the edge of the bed.
While I was moving my desk, I heard a loud thump and saw that my TV had fallen off of my bed and was sitting face down on the floor.
I picked it up, turned it on and the screen was just blue.
I sat there for a few minutes, wondering if I could even afford another TV before the dumbest idea hit me.
Maybe if I set it back on the edge of my bed and give it a slight nudge to land face down again, it will bump everything inside back into place and fix it.
I laughed at myself for even thinking it, but then was like, “Well, the worst case is that it still won’t work.”
So I did it.
I hopelessly plugged it back in and to my surprise, it turned right on and worked just fine again.
13. They made bank
This was at a time when I desperately needed a short-term loan.
I deposited about $400 dollars cash into an inside-bank ATM, which malfunctioned and swallowed my money, leaving $20 dollars in the tray.
I was mad, but I quickly saw an opportunity.
When I was on the phone with the customer service agent, I said I lost $1,500 dollars, not $400 dollars. They said they needed two weeks to process a request of that size.
I was rightfully outraged, [because] I just "lost" $1,500 dollars!
They returned “my” money within a week.
Of course, the error was reversed, but it took about a month longer to process. By that time, my personal problem was fixed, and I had their money waiting in my account.
14. Reaching into a hole
I was taking a computer science course at university, and for the final project, we had to code this thing in Java.
I had no idea how to do it, I was really stuck, and thought I would end up failing the class.
I remembered back to a lab session during the first week of class. The T.A. had been teaching us the Unix systems and was explaining about file permissions.
To let us get a hands-on understanding, he demonstrated how he could set his personal directory public and then we could all view his files.
Surely he set his personal folder back to private after that. But I tried accessing it just in case.
And jackpot! I could see everything in the T.A.'s personal folder, including a working solution to the final project.
15. The parking ploy
I had a car in college, but there was nowhere to park near campus.
There was a parking garage for the school-run hospital, so I used to park my car there. Every time that I left, I had to pay the full $12 dollar fee, since I didn’t have my ticket.
I decided to trick the ticket machine into giving me a new ticket, so that I could leave without paying.
I assumed it used some sort of magnetic detection to know whether a vehicle was there or not, so I went to Home Depot and built a pretty strong electromagnet. That didn't work.
Then, I emailed the company that built the ticket machine, saying I was a science teacher, and wanted to know how it worked, so I could teach my class.
They responded that it uses some kind of sonar that sends out pulses.
After that email, I would bring two umbrellas with me that I would open up and walk toward the ticket machine, hit the button, and get a new ticket.
16. An accent people understand
I have a terrible stammer/speech, but I have always enjoyed singing and acting. I would constantly pretend I had different accents for as long as I have remembered.
One night, I noticed I wasn't stammering when I was alone, or when I was singing.
I decided I would talk with a slight accent, to see if I could speak normally. I practiced my best James Bond accent, put on my coat and went to a party.
It actually worked pretty well, I was able to clearly be heard and understood and I have been doing it ever since.
It turns out when you sing or pretend to have an accent, you use a different part of your brain than what you use to speak.
My stammer, stutter, and my word mixing is completely gone now, what's replacing it is this mixture of different accents that I mashed together.
17. Lipstick lies
One time, senior year of high school, I came home around 5:00 a.m., after staying out all night. I hadn’t slept, so my eyes were super groggy and red.
I was supposed to be staying at a friends house up the road, but was with some other friends in a town over.
My mom wakes up at 5:00 a.m., so I knew I’d have to face her.
I took red lipstick and used it on my lower lash line as eyeliner. I did a little dab right in both of my eyes.
I told her I woke up at my friends house and that her mom sent me home because I must have major pink eye in both eyes.
I stayed home from school, got some sleep, and even the doctor thought I had pink eye.
18. Hello, my name is ...
I had a part-time job that had a problem with people leaving after less than a year.
To combat this, they gave everyone working there in the summer a special name tag, that if they were still there a year later and had the nametag, they would get an extra $200 dollars on their next check.
I started one week after they gave out the nametags.
A year passed and people were getting their name tags ready. I was mad, because I had been there just as long as them.
I was also in college as a graphic design student. I decided to try and make my own pin and hand it in.
I copied the graphics best as I could, got the closest font I could find, and ordered the pin from Zazzle, and handed it in.
19. The document's detour
When I was a senior in high school, my USB drive got stolen, which I forgot about until I had to print out a paper I'd been working on at home.
We didn't have another USB at home, and our school computers didn't allow access to private email sites, so I couldn't email it to myself and print it out that way.
However, it was fall and we were all working on applications for college including a site for the common app which was allowed on our school computers.
The site included a section where you can upload drafts of your personal essay before you submit it.
I downloaded my paper and saved it as a draft, then got to school the next day and printed it from the common app website.
The dumbest most convoluted way to print out my English essay, but I was proud it worked perfectly.
20. Doctor who?
When I was in high school, I finished a test early for the last class of the day. Instead of allowing us to go home afterward, my teacher made us sit quietly at our desks until the end of class.
I finished 45 minutes before the end of the class, on a Friday afternoon, so obviously I wanted to leave.
My teacher wouldn’t let me. I walked back to my teacher and asked if I could go to the bathroom.
Inside the bathroom I called the school's main office. I told them I was my father and that I had a doctor's appointment and that I had to leave immediately.
As soon as I got off the phone with the school's receptionist, I walked back to my classroom and not a minute after I sit back down at my desk the classroom phone rings.
My teacher comes over to me and tells me about my doctor’s appointment. I act surprised, and she lets me leave. I felt like a genius.
21. A Creative Anthropology major
My first year of Anthropology was boring and made me want to fall asleep.
One thing we had to do for the class was weekly journal entries. We had to go do something relating to anthropology and write it down, ask a bunch of questions.
I did the first few weeks, which took way too much effort and got low grades as a result.
I was here to be a Creative Writing Major though. Why not use that to my advantage?
For every week going forward, I fabricated the entire journal entry. I typed up responses from people I didn’t talk to, made up prices and activities which I had never done or seen, and had gotten better grades on each and every assignment.
We had to go see a religious ceremony and explain what happened. I, by simply looking at the website of the church which I had found, wrote a four-page paper about the visit, and got a perfect 10 on it.
I had an A in the class overall.
Back at school, I forgot to do my physics homework.
As I was about to tell [the teacher] I hadn't done it, I looked into my bag to get my book and realized it was nearly identical to my other physics book (for my other physics teacher).
I handed in the wrong book on purpose and my teacher didn't notice.
Knowing him, he'd still be mad at me for giving him the wrong book, but I knew he was also lazy, so I figured I'd have time to fix it.
I went home that night and did the homework in the correct book.
The next day during lunch, I snuck into his room, found where he kept our books in the cupboard, and switched the books.
I got full marks and he never even realized. I was honestly shocked I managed to get away with it.
23. An idea that grew on them
When I was getting married, I knew I wanted lilies and I am close with a woman who does amazing fake floral arrangements, so I wanted to use her and make sure everything looked perfect.
I had found this deep pink-orange lily (real one) in a shop, and took a picture because it was gorgeous, and I wanted my flowers to match.
My florist was really struggling to find a fake lily that matched this gorgeous color and she couldn’t find a place to buy bulk real lillies in this color.
Cue my fiance saying, “Can we just buy white lilies and paint them the right color?”
I start making fun of him, like, “Yeah, let’s paint the flowers.”
The florist is like, “You know, that is actually brilliant, I’ve never tried that before."
So she painted each lily to be the exact color I wanted, and they looked amazing. Everyone thought they were real.
24. Inappropriate jokes aside
I was doing a series of training videos for a client. They always wanted an element of comedy in what they were doing.
I would send scripts and they would always have weird things singled out for me to revise in the scripts. I would make the changes and we’d move into production.
But, no matter how much I tried to learn their tendencies, I couldn’t write something that they didn’t want to pick apart.
I guessed that they just felt the need to change something. To test this theory, I tried adding one patently inappropriate joke into the next script.
They rightly pointed out that we couldn’t use that, but said they loved everything else.
So that’s what I did from then on — add one joke that was so weird, so inappropriate for corporate culture, that they had to say something about it.
And they left the rest of the script alone. Every time.
25. A gum-believable idea
When I was a kid, a water pipe burst in the house, and my mom was trying everything she could to stop the leak.
I remembered a story in a Donald Duck comic, where Huey, Dewey and Louie used bubble gum to plug a hole, and I suggested that we try that.
My brother said that would never work, but my mom tried it anyway, because we didn't have any other ideas.
Lo and behold, it started working.
Mom told us to get as many packs of gum as we could. About 10 minutes later, and numerous empty packs, the pipe was covered in a disgusting slimy pink mass.
But at least the leak had stopped.
26. Finding the perfect hook
Had a beater car as my first one. Driver side window was stuck down just a crack. Motor must have been blown or something.
One day after school, I locked my keys in my car, and they’re sitting right on my seat.
I kept my keys on a carabiner [rock climbing clip] at the time, and the first thing that came to mind was to fish my keys out with my earbuds.
I kid you not, my first cast down, I hooked one earbud in the carabiner and barely pull my keys up and out of the cracked window.
I was even lucky enough to get it a video of it!
27. This will never grow old
I must’ve been around 7 years old. I wanted to watch Peter Pan, and my mom couldn’t find the VCR tape.
I kept nagging her and eventually I came up with an idea.
I told her, “Look, all you have to do is this,” and I proceeded to grab a random VCR tape and then wrote ‘Peter Pan’ on it and fed it into the VCR.
Lo and behold, it played Peter Pan.
At that point, I was convinced that I could watch any movie I wanted by just writing the title on the VCR tape.
I don’t know why I had assumed that, but I was convinced that that’s how it worked.
28. Sneaking around
It was my mom's birthday. We got her to stay inside so we could decorate the front with balloons and streamers.
Well, we got the whole thing done in secret, as hoped, but then we realized there was no way we could get all the leftover decorations and balloon pump inside without her noticing. One way into the house was the back door that leads into the garage and then into the kitchen where Mom was.
I would go in from the back door and distract her, while my brother brought the stuff in through the front, and down the hall past the kitchen.
Once I got in the kitchen it had occurred to me that I had no plan of attack, so I just said, "Hey Mom, look at this dance I made" and started like swaying and bobbing up and down and doing jazz hands.
Mind you, I'm 17 years old in this scenario.
She's just watching me, and my brother is sneaking through the hall behind her with all the stuff.
She kept watching me in confusion. The second he was in the clear, I stopped and said, "Ok, that's it."
And that was that.
29. All tied up
I was a call center agent when I joined the Freemasons. They wear ties to meetings, so I had to buy one for myself.
I didn't like the Masonic ties available online at the time, they were tacky and loud.
Since I have a little bit of graphics design background, my wife suggested that I just design one for myself and find a factory to make it.
The factory made two instead of just one. I kept one for myself, and the other one I auctioned on eBay for 99 cents.
I can't remember how much I was hoping to sell it for, but it attracted a lot of bidders, with the final bid at almost $200 dollars.
Eleven years later, and we're still in the business, and have since expanded our product lines to shoes, watches, apparel, etc.
30. WoW, can’t believe that worked
Once in college, I had a pretty bad World of Warcraft addiction, and was constantly putting off assignments to play.
In one of my classes, we had a lengthy essay that was our final assignment and worth 50% of our grade.
I wrote about 7% of it before I got sucked back into my game, and forgot about it until the day it was due.
I decided to try to trick the teacher into thinking the file got corrupted and I had actually written the whole thing, hoping she would let me turn it in late.
So, I opened an .exe file with Notepad, which produces gibberish. I pasted the contents into the .docx file and emailed it in. All 10 pages of gibberish.
To my surprise, I did not get an extension, I got a 100% with no explanation or note.