So the last time I was in school, I learned things – many of which turned out to be useful – and I thought thoughts – some of which turned out to be intelligent.
I’m doing both of those now, too, but what’s interesting to me is that the times I’m learning the most – the times when I swear I can actually hear my mind expand and feel the rush of air and light through the newly opened space – are the times we pause for reflection.
The “Moment of Silence” turns out to be a teaching tool, one way of breaking up a long lecture into 15-minute chunks to keep the students involved. I understand this principle: When someone expects one of my clients to fill an hour at a conference I tell them they’re going to get a 20-minute speech followed by as much Q&A as the room wants. No way I’d let someone talk for any longer than that!
Once, early in my career, I had to write a two-hour speech for a famously grumpy executive to deliver in Japan. We questioned, we even protested, but the organizers insisted it was a cultural thing: the Japanese audience would be highly offended if he spoke for even a minute less. Two hours of simultaneous translation later, my famously grumpy executive and his unfailingly polite audience were all sick of the sound of his voice. I’ve had a 15- or 20-minute limit ever since, and nobody’s culture seems offended by it. (My personal culture is most offended by speakers who talk too long. But I digress.)
So the Moment of Silence. It serves a mechanical purpose in the classroom. And at yesterday’s class it also helped me, somewhat miraculously, synthesize what I’m learning with why I’m learning it. It allowed me to remind myself of my strengths, which I don’t often do.
Now, I’m used to doing a lot of stuff that doesn’t directly look like work. I believe it’s important for my creative process, and often I’m right. When I need an idea, I’ll do some background reading on the subject I’m tackling and then go do something else, like take a walk, and let the ideas ferment in my head before I sit down to write. But fermenting is not the same as reflecting. In the fermenting process I am deliberately NOT thinking directly about a thing; the Moment of Silence offers time to confront a question head-on.
So as of today, there’s a new policy here at Bennett Ink: the daily Moment of Silence. I have a pile of things I’ve set aside to think about – including but not limited to this – but I’ve been too busy “doing” to think. Now I see that thinking is an important thing to do, all on its own.
Are you thinking about anything in a new way – or for the first time? How is it helping you?