Reignite the fire...

Hey folks 👋 this week, we're going to explore how doing nothing can lead to something.

For frequent readers of this newsletter and the blog, you'll no doubt have figured out that I'm no stranger to unpopular opinions and counter-intuitive methods when exploring high performance. I'm going to pull back the curtain just a bit and share another tool in my kit that helps me reignite the creative powers when the tank runs dry.

Also, not forgetting the usual dose of weird, wonderful and what I hope is helpful content from the rest of planet earth in my curated roundup.
The big thought

There's nothing more terrifying in my work when the thoughts, ideas and all-around creativity dries up. Of course, most of this is psychological but alas, frustrating nonetheless. Something that I've found incredibly helpful to combat this is so simple that you might delete this email immediately! Because it's to do nothing at all.

Yes, you read that right, do nothing. As I type these words on my overly priced keyboard, I have just returned from a week away deep inside a forest in a cabin with no phones signal, Wi-Fi or even a landline (Yes, I know, perfect setup for a horror film. Yet, I survived!).

This is something I do at least once a year. Except for the last 2 years of course, where I instead just disconnected in my second bedroom looking at my indoor plant collection because it was slim pickings with the world, ya know.

So, why am I sharing this with you? Simple, because it's one of the main tools I use to enhance what I see as my own high-performance lifestyle throughout the year. I've found through trial and error that sometimes the best thing to do when seeking that next breakthrough or level of work is to just stop completely.

Again, counter-intuitive, I'm aware. Like all of us, I have what feels like a million things going on (in reality it's more like 10 main activities that I repetitively do but you get the picture). And the inspiration, creativity and of course thoughts, do dry up.

And when they do, doing more stuff won't work to generate more of the above. I can't will performance into existence on an empty gas tank.

This is why I find sometimes, the best thing to do is to do nothing at all. For me, this often means no digital world, no screens or writing (on that overly priced keyboard anyway) and chilling out in a forest in a cabin where I may or may not be killed by Jason or Freddy.

This recent experience reminded me of thoughts that I've shared on the blog before on the power of mind wandering and finding what refuels our tanks. You'll find them again below to delve a bit deeper into what I'm banging on about.

The art of doing nothing

It’s easy to kick ourselves when all we want to do is nothing. We feel guilty about the supposed waste of time and productivity we could have had. But, what if I was to tell you that sometimes, doing something comes from doing nothing at all.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise Pascal

As an example, this post you’re reading is from my blog. The idea for that blog and my newsletter came from staring out into space one day and doing nothing. I’m not saying this will be the same for everyone but it’s possible. 

I knew I wanted to do something but I was so focused on figuring out what that something could be that I poured all my energy into trying to create, yet, I couldn’t come up with anything.

I felt guilty for laying around and staring out into space, as it was a supposed waste of time. However, that same moment of doing nothing is when the ideas started to flow and eureka! Here we are now.

I’m sure other writers (and fyi I’m not saying I am a writer but I do write) experience this when they know they should be writing but are just staring at their screen thinking, “I’ve got nothing!”. Then, somehow in a random moment of doing nothing (for me generally walking) the creative mind awakes and bam! The story flows.

I’m sure you might have examples of this in your own life too.

Just think about it, how many times have ideas struck you when you’re sleeping, lazing around the house or doing mundane tasks such as cleaning, ironing or washing the dishes? I bet it’s been a few.

You might ask, why do ideas and creative thoughts stream in the middle of doing nothing?

Now, I’m not a doctor and I’m not going to play one on the internet. My 2 cents on this, is that in the realm of doing nothing, our brain finally has the freedom to digest information and let its creative juices run wild.

I'm a big fan of mind wandering and basically the simple (or what some may call mundane stuff) has more research than ever on the positive outcomes it can have in developing big ideas.

If you look across your own experiences, I bet you can find those times when the really quiet moments led to something. I’m not advocating that doing nothing all the time is going to lead you to get the next big idea. If that’s what you’re hoping for then I’m sorry, you’re going to have to find focus and effort to get big things in life.

However, your brain needs quiet time to actually breathe and the space to entertain big ideas. And this is exactly what allowing yourself to do nothing could bring.

The beginning of something great can come from moments of nothing but you’ll need to deploy effort and focus on making them a reality.
Just doing nothing at all in the hopes of your mind coming up with lots of creativity and then not acting upon it, is just being lazy.

So, do not discount the power of doing nothing when you need to build something.

When you’re so focused on doing something or feel like you should be doing something and you just can’t get to it. Perhaps, taking moments of doing nothing will lead you to that something.

You might also like...
Content that has caught my attention and might interest you too.

🤔 The first of a few interesting posts on LinkedIn from my doom scrolling adventures as of late. This one made me stop with its definition of being human and how we need more humaness in workplaces to build truly rewarding careers.

💡 The second post from my doom scrolling adventures focuses on collaborative learning with university students. This thread explores a real-life example and a useful set of commentary from many people on the topic, plus some free resources.

👏 An interesting piece from Vox on why the return to office isn't working. This is from an American viewpoint but I have no doubt it is a shared theme with many countries too. As this social experiment continues, we're starting to truly recognise whether the office can work again.
One more thing...

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Lao Tzu


That's it for this week. Please do share your thoughts with me on these pieces or anything I share on the Twitterverse and LinkedIn. Chat to you soon and stay healthy people!

Don't forget to visit my website
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(P.SWriting this newsletter is a labor of love for me and I'd keep doing it if only one person read it. If you enjoy my words, this content and think it might benefit others too, then please do me the honor of sharing this with your community).
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