I almost always find myself in a creative mood when I fly. As much as I travel, there’s still something counter-intuitive to me about being suspended in the air 30,000 feet in a metal machine that weighs tons. This sense of vulnerability brought on by doing something counter-intuitive makes me a little emotional and my emotions are the fuel for my creative thoughts and actions. Knowing that I’m going to feel this way when I fly, I’ve made a rule for myself. When I open my laptop on the plane, I’m only allowed to do something creative. In my case, that means I write. I’m not allowed to look at my calendar or go through emails, only creative stuff. In fact, I’m writing this now on a trip from Nashville to Baltimore, headed to a musical team building program, suspended over the clouds below, temporarily free of the little worries everyone thousands of feet down are concerned with.
If you’ve been having a hard time being creative or solving a problem; try doing something counter-intuitive. That doesn’t mean driving sixty miles an hour down a back road in the snow, or getting drunk before work. It can be simple. In fact, it should be simple or you’ll never do it.
Try this – tomorrow morning when you get to your office, don’t open emails and do silence your phone. Set a timer for ten minutes. Think about a challenge or problem you’re working on but also let your mind wander wherever it wants to go. Think of resources you might use to solve your challenge, resources you haven’t considered. Have you asked your six-year-old son or daughter, have you read other people’s ideas on the subject, have you considered turning the word problem into opportunity?
I was at the piano one day several years ago, desperately trying to find a song idea with no luck. My work ethic kept me at the piano, although my day had been futile thus far and I was spinning my wheels. When my son got home from school he asked if I’d play outside with him. It was only 3 pm and my first reaction was, “I’m working Julian, it’s too early for me to quit.” But about five minutes later I realized I wasn’t working effectively so I knocked off and went outside to play with my son. He had been learning about insects in school and our backyard became a great science lab as I followed him around noticing everything, including a beautiful white cocoon. Later that day, I went back to the piano consumed with a song idea, “Cocoon”. That song was eventually recorded and commercially released by my co-writer and friend, Steve Wariner.
- I took time off from work to go into the backyard and mess around with insects
- I stumbled onto a new idea
- I solved a problem
- I discovered another way to be successful
When we lead groups through musical team building, we’re forcing them to be counter-intuitive. It’s not on most people’s agenda to spend part of the workday turning their business experience into song. But it works…every time. And there’s real ROI, discovered in a counter-intuitive way.
Try something different today, and let me know how it works out for you. Meanwhile, I have to turn off my computer. We’re getting ready to land.