Why You Need to Be BORED

When was the last time you were bored? I’d be willing to bet that you can’t remember. If I’m right, it’s because, in 2018, no one ever has to be bored. That smartphone super computer you carry around in your pocket or purse guarantees it.

Don’t know what to do next? There’s always an Instagram feed to look at, a text to answer, an email to delete, a cat video to watch, a news headline to click on or a Fortnite game to beat. Thanks to technology, none of us ever have to be bored.

How great is that, right? Actually, it’s not so great. We – you, me, all of us – need to be bored once in a while.  That space between active thoughts is where we get our best ideas. Want to prove that to yourself? Answer this question. Where or when do you get you best ideas? (I’ll wait for you to consider your answer).  Got it? Here we go…

I’ve posed that question to thousands of leaders over the past several years. The number one answer is, “In the shower,” followed by “When I’m working out,” and “Commuting.” No one has ever answered, “At my desk in front of my computer,” or “Thumbing through my smartphone looking at Facebook.” You get your best ideas when you’re not actively engaging your brain with something else to pay attention to or think about.

This topic is on my mind because of a conference call I just had  with a group of executives.  We were having a random discussion while one of their co-workers was compiling some data. One of the women on the call mentioned that on the previous Saturday she noticed that she was actually bored. It was the rare day when she didn’t have a ton of family commitments to attend to or a presentation or some other project that she had to fine tune for Monday morning back at the office. She told us, “I actually didn’t know how to handle it when I had nothing to do.”

That’s because she’s been so used to having her foot on the gas that she’s become physiologically attuned to the feeling of always being busy or mentally occupied. That’s great for dealing with all of the stuff on your daily plate. It’s not so great when you need to get up on the balcony to process the patterns or look around the corner to consider what’s next. When you don’t leave any space or opportunity to be bored, you’re a lot less likely to make visits to the balcony where you can see the bigger picture or possibly come up with the next game changing idea.

So, how do you create the space to be bored? It’s simple really. Quit filling up your interstitial (Yes it’s a word, look it up if you like) moments with more input. Going for a run or cleaning out the garage? Take out the ear buds. Standing in line at Starbucks or Coffee Bean? Leave your phone in your pocket or purse. Driving home from work? Turn off the radio, let it be quiet.

Give your brain a break and allow yourself to be bored. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you come up with.

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One blow at a time – One day at a time

It is easy to go really hard at something for a period of time, but the energy wanes. It reminds me of boxing. When those fighters start the first round, they come out hard! They throw hard punch after hard punch. They only win if they land that quick knockout.  More often than not, the bout is determined after quite a few rounds, and goes to the guy who landed the most punches over the most time.

The fighter that has greater stamina (can stick around for the entire twelve rounds, plus some), coupled with well-timed devastating punches wins. Muhammad Ali knew this and used his famous “rope a dope” strategy in his famed bout with George Foreman. Foreman, by most measures, was the superior fighter. Bigger, stronger and faster. Foreman was predicted to win, and in the beginning of the fight looked like the clear winner. In fact, some thought Ali would die that night as he took punch after devastating punch from Foreman.

But that was Ali’s strategy.  Ali had trained for that fight by having his sparring partners pummel him. During this practice Ali discovered that, if he positioned his body against the ropes, the majority of energy from each punch would go into the ropes, not his body. The more Foreman punched, the more Foreman grew tired. Then Ali went into action.

With a tired Foreman, Ali systematically delivered punch after punch on Foreman. Foreman was too tired to defend himself, he had “punched himself out.” Ali, with a reserve of energy, kept punching and punching, systematically.  Thus, he went on to win the bout.

Your business success is not so much about coming out swinging. It rarely is a successful strategy, since you are unlikely to deliver a knockout blow to your industry, and then will have exhausted all your resources to say in the long fight.  Instead, be a systematic, relentless fighter. Each day deliver one more punch. Don’t let yourself tire, it is going to be a long fight.  And the victor almost always is the one with the most stamina. Not the hardest punch. Just the most punches over the longest period of time.