Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Expanding Your Thinking

I hadn't gotten so far as to start linking out to other sites yet but now I think it's time because I have something I'd like for you to think about - "What are you doing to expand your thinking?"

By this, I don't just mean what technical knowledge are you picking up through some kind of continuing education. While that's important, I'm talking about something that will really keep you out ahead of the rest, in that place where all the real opportunities lay. I'm talking about pushing your horizons and challenging your root assumptions. Are you engaged in anything that regularly pushes you in that manner? If you're not, your horizons are probably shrinking, rather than expanding. It takes a lot of effort just to keep them status quo.

Think about the last time you drove all night to get someplace you wanted to be. If you're still at that stage of life where you're doing these things, pick something else you used to do and haven't done for a while. Now pretend you've got an opportunity to do just that. Are you excited about the opportunity? Or are you busy thinking what a pain it was the last time you did it... the discomfort of losing sleep and wondering if it's really worth all that this time. Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating sleep deprivation here - that can be a dangerous thing (for this exercise, let's assume you've got other folks to share the driving with & you're all safe about it); what I'm talking about is intentionally taking yourself out of some comfort zone so that you can have a new experience. Are you still willing to do that? Or have you slowly gotten to the point where new experiences aren't worth the hassle?

In our household growing up, it was always my father's argument that the definition of growing old had nothing to do with age, but rather a willingness to allow our boundaries to contract. As such, I've always strived to do new things, experience what I've never come into contact before and, above all, push my thinking. I like to think it's served me well. You'll have to decide for yourself whether that's true or not for you, however I hope that you at least push your comfort zone enough to give it a shot. Our current way of thinking is one comfort zone that hardly anyone ever likes to push. Challenging our basic ideas about life is a tough thing to do. Of all the horizons that need expanding, though, this is the one that gets us the most for having done it.

For one thing (and there are many other benefits), when we're willing to at least entertain another point of view, it makes it easier to understand others. When we understand another person's perspective, it makes working with them easier and that makes us more effective. On a broader scale, the practice can even prevent war but that's perhaps a different topic. Go ahead and think on it for yourself though, if you're drawn to it. Puzzling through difficult questions is one way to stretch your mind.

Reading thought-provoking material is another good way to do this and there are a few resources I have always felt I could count on for that. One is Bob Lewis' column that used to run in InfoWorld. They've made some changes recently to their format but you can still find him writing on his own at http://www.issurvivor.com. The similarities in name are completely coincidental - unless of course, I subconsciously gravitated toward mine because of his. If you see a name change soon on this site, you'll know it's because I decided it'd be better to try not to step on anyone else's toes - and Bob was out there with his name long before I was here with mine.

In any case, if you're reading this at this still early stage, chances are good that you know me, so probably you know you can trust me about Bob. He's good people. I've been reading his column for years and it's always been on target. If I don't immediately agree, I stop and ask myself why that is. That's the mind expanding part that's so important.

Another terrific resource for new ideas and ways of thinking about things is Fast Company Magazine. They always strive to push boundaries, their own and ours in a variety of ways. I always feel excited about new possibilities after reading one of their issues and frequently recommend particular articles to people. It's worth spending time on.

Do you have other resources for stretching your imagination? What keeps you at it? Email me at techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com and I'll share your ideas with the others.

Stay current; stay young - keep stretching your horizons.