Thursday, June 30, 2011


A friend shared an intriguing insight with me recently about how growth, creativity, and learning are directly tied to our ability to forget. When our minds are cluttered with ready-made assumptions, they block the questions that lead to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Forgetting what we know—at the appropriate time—can open the door to new insight.

An example was given of an exercise that involves making paper airplanes. A line is drawn at the back of a room, and participants are given sheets of paper and five minutes to make as many airplanes as they can to fly past the line. The one with the most across the line is the winner. 

The most common approach, of course, is to fold the sheets into conventional paper-airplane shapes. With the only criterion that it must “fly” past the line, however, the winning design is almost always paper that has been crumpled into a ball.   

While some are limited by what they think a paper airplane should look like, others conveniently “forget” that and are open to more creative thinking.

It got me pondering… What conventional wisdom am I relying on? What would happen if I forgot the obvious answers that spring to mind, and searched for new ones? What assumptions can I let go of? Can I grow and succeed by forgetting? Wait, what was the question? 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just Add Water

I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of business writing lately and have run into the proverbial “writer’s block” more than once over the last few weeks. Sometimes I need that good pivotal idea or a turn of phrase, and sometimes I just need a mental reset button to still the commotion in my mind and shake it loose so something fresh can fall out.

I remember hearing that prolific screenwriter Aaron Sorkin takes up to eight showers a day to help jump-start his writing. If things aren’t going well on the writing front, he gets into the shower, then into different clothes and tries again. It gives him a burst of energy and focus that helps him get down to the task at hand.

Curious, I tried this last week and it worked! A quick, convenient, effective do-over to get me writing again. And that started me thinking… Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could choose a do-over at any time and in any area of our life simply by taking a shower? How nice it would be to have that option. Just add water!