“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” – Allen Ginsberg
I want to go on a vacation and do nothing. No itinerary. No sights. No adventures, events or obligations – however pleasant – to distract or interfere with me. I desire no input of any kind, really. I don’t even want to make a sound. I want to go to the lake, alone, and do nothing but think and when required, eat.
And when I feel a need to feed myself, I want to prepare my meals with care and I want to savor them. I want to wake up early and watch the sun come up while I drink really good coffee made in a French press, slowly.
I want to feel time.
I want to feel not being in a rush. I want to slow down. I want to feel present, in my space and in my head.
I want to feel all the time in the world.
I want to feel a long minute.
I’m going to go to the wilderness, to live and think deliberately. I’m going to bring Smoochie, my four-legged wingman from Labrador, some incredible food and some incredible technology and then I’m going to focus and think for three days, experience a serious shift and come out of it a better version of me.
Here is how you can have your own serious shift, in three steps. Eliminate distractions, increase your capacity for concentration, and think better thoughts.
The world is busy, too busy really and it beeps, chimes, rings and vibrates to make sure you are paying attention. Most of us are chronically fatigued; we expect entirely too much from ourselves professionally while privately we lead lives of quiet desperation. While I am all for adventure and excitement, this blog is about finding a quiet place to learn to think, and not about anything with an agenda.
In order to think deeply, you need to find a peaceful and comfortable spot where there are no distractions – no social media, no NETFLIX, no texting people who are not there so you can tell them you are alone and thinking. Does just the idea of being away and out of touch with your collective make you uncomfortable? Are you over-connected? You might want to consider this.
Go to the wilderness alone, if you can and stay at least 3 nights.
Harmonize your environment.
Eliminate all distractions that prevent you from concentrating and will keep you from going deeper with your thoughts. Eliminating distractions allows you more space for thinking. I used to imagine having my own sanctum sanctorum filled with books and art. Not anymore. Now I prefer an empty room, a bed, a desk and a chair with nothing on the walls. Anything that doesn’t lead to me concentrate, to think, is a distraction.
The Internet poses a problem because I need the Internet to do research when I’m thinking, but this is fraught with peril. Good luck! Seek only what you need to find. Your lizard will throw all kinds of distractions at you via unimportant questions which it (your lizard) knows the answers to are only a quick keystroke away … Who won the hockey game last night? What will the weather do later? How is the world, have we declared war on Eurasia? Do coconuts migrate and what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? These are all distractions.
Learn to concentrate.
To learn to concentrate you first have to learn to deny yourself distraction. Distraction keeps your thinking on the surface, preventing you from going deep. You don’t will yourself to be a better concentrator. You practice. Get yourself somewhere that you can enjoy some space, unplug the technology, shut out the world and just think. Allow it to happen.
Think deeply. The other day I mentioned in a blog that geniuses think differently, with more purpose, and I referenced Sir Isaac Newton being struck by the apple. In reality, he didn’t get hit on the head with an apple, he merely observed apples falling from trees in an orchard.
For most people, seeing the apples fall wouldn’t necessarily trigger a cascade of thoughts and questions, but that’s because most of us have not learned to think deeply. Newton saw the apples falling and thought about it. He considered it. He didn’t just see it, he wondered about it. Why were they falling? Because something was pulling them down. What was pulling them down, and does it pull everything down? An invisible force, and it pulls everything down, including us. Down from where? Does it pull us to the ground or does the ground just get in the way? Is it pulling from the center of the earth or from beyond the earth? Is the earth also getting pulled there? Is everything on earth and in the heavens being pulled to some point? And if so, to where? Where does this force originate, and what happens when whatever the force is pulling eventually gets there? Does it get crushed? Is there a whole bunch of stuff circling a cosmic drain in space?
And why was Sir Isaac Newton able to consider these things? Because he knew how to think, and because he went to an orchard to sit for some time and do precisely that – think and nothing else. Take your cue from him; you need to create a place and time to go think.
Think about better things – seek nourishment for your brain and soul.
The first two steps focused on creating a space, free of distraction for thoughts of greater substance. The next step focuses on finding the right things to think about in your newly created thinking space.
I don’t find it hard to think about higher-minded things. What I once had difficulty with was finding the inspiration to have them, but I have since figured that out. You have to seek out something that introduces entirely new viewpoints to your perspective of life. Companies that innovate are only able to do so because they are never so in love with their own thinking and beliefs that they can’t seriously shift.
Being able to fully explore a new idea or a new approach will help you remain flexible and open to innovation.
I think about three things mostly. The Experience Economy, entrepreneurship and doing more work that matters. These are the main things that I think about and I am always interested in knowing what new thoughts people are having. Who is doing what in experience design? What are the new trends in business? How will technology further change our world? What will save retail?
Books and blogs and Twitter serve as incredible sources for inspiration. I investigate what the thought leaders in my world are reading and are interested in.
And finally, people, there is only so much room in our life for passengers. I can have nobody in my life that doesn’t add to it. Surround yourself with other thinkers.