It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.
You face issues everyday that require ingenuity to overcome. One of the qualities that separates the ingenious from the mediocre is their willingness to ask and “sit with” questions. Albert Einstein’s quote is powerful because he points out a quality of creative and effective people: they are willing to stay with and in ambiguity longer than others. It’s easy to feel uncomfortable with ambiguity—with not knowing.
Try This: Question Yourself
Think about a difficult and ambiguous situation you’re facing. One that really has you at a loss. Now turn that difficulty into a question—what is it that you need to know or figure out? Write that question down on a piece of paper. Or, put it on a note taking app on your phone. Or, text it to yourself. Or, do whatever will help you keep it in front of you this week.
Several times a day, pull out the question and give it some focused thought. Don’t worry if you don’t solve it right away. Just focus on it for 5 or 10 minutes. Ask related questions, analyze adjacent issues, construct possible solutions, poke holes in the solutions you construct. Just sit with the question in a focused way a few times a day. Then, LET IT GO. Go about your day and don’t give the issue focused attention. Just let it be. Believe it or not, your brain is still working on it. Practice this rhythm–of focusing and surrendering– throughout the week. Also, include others in the conversation about the difficulty, if that is appropriate. Then, trust the process. Sometimes you will get a flash of insight that will lead to the solution. Other times it will come through analysis and focused thinking. Sometimes someone else will help you see the solution through a conversation. The key is to SIT WITH IT, LIVE WITH IT and give yourself time to explore it–in both a focused and diffuse way.
If you practice this strategy, you will be surprised how many times you resolve difficulties that lead to ingenuity. Don’t abandon or “settle for less” too quickly. Stay with the question and see where it takes you.
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