S V O O B U I
If you’ve ever played the old-fashioned board game “Scrabble” or the newfangled online copycat “Words with Nerds” or whatever it’s called, you know there comes a time when you look at your tiles and draw an absolute blank.
Because you can’t see the next move.
Your eyes scan left to right, desperately seeking something more impactful than “BOO” or “SUB,” or pluralizing a word already played. But unfortunately for you, the paradox—speaking of a seven-letter bingo!—is that the longer you look and the harder you look, the less likely you will find it.
U S O I V O B
But there is a trick you can use to shake things up. And it’s exactly that: Shake things up. Literally physically rearrange the letters, the way a gin player would when collating the cards in his hand. Or, if using your smartphone or laptop, click that “shuffle” button over and over and over until the optimal word becomes, well, it becomes…
O B V I O U S
Same goes for your career. If you’re like most tenured professionals, then you know that there comes a time when you look at your title—or your paycheck, for that matter—and you draw an absolute blank.
Because you can’t see the next move.
Be it board game or board room, the remedy is the same. Shake. Things. Up. Because, simply put, if you want different outputs, you need different inputs, from what you see to what you hear to what you experience. Think back to when you started in your field and it was all so new and interesting and teeming with possibilities. The passion and curiosity are still there; they’re just sleeping.
Here’s how to awaken them.
First, Do Nothing
Multitask, schmulti-task. Researchers long ago determined our brains are not wired to do two or more things simultaneously, unless they’re autonomic tasks like—and boy, is this ironic—walking and chewing gum. High-quality, high-level thinking requires focus, singular focus, and focus can’t coexist with distractions. You may think you think better with music playing or while answering texts and DMs, but think again. Because you don’t. Famed British comedian John Cleese knows this; in fact, his great dissertation on YouTube identifies three keys to creativity, and they all pretty much orbit around the concept of being left alone.
So, starting today, try this: shut off your phone and shut your eyes for 10 minutes. Just chillax and let your mind wander over and around some problem or opportunity presenting itself. You’ll be amazed what you can do when you do nothing at all.
Get With the Times
It’s not your fault, but if you’re over the age of 40, you probably have more outdated references than Marcos has shoes or Carter has liver pills.
Uh, case in point.
Think fast: Who (or what) is a Demi Lovato? True or false: Zendaya is the name of that African country they used to call Rhodesia? What did Geraldo find inside Al Capone’s vault? Remember when Jim Carrey was funny… or Jerry Springer was serious?
Yeah, thought so. Time to update those references, to find out what’s hip and fashionable in ’22… as in 2022. It’s easy today to live in the past, what with streaming reruns and satellite oldies stations. That’s fine for comfort food, but you’ve got to expand your palate. Download Instagram and TikTok and start scrolling away the moments that make up a dull day. Listen to a podcast from someone you’ve never heard of. Next time on Netflix, binge something you hear other people talking about, like, uh, “Game of the Squid” or “Gambit of the Queen.” Immerse yourself, at least partially, into contemporary culture, and it will help reignite your spark.
Viva La Difference
Finally and perhaps most importantly—and definitely most counterintuitively—the best way to find your mojo is to look for it somewhere else. Or at least look for inspiration somewhere else. Go online and read what’s going on in the film industry. Or tech. Or sports. Or fashion. Or media. Or social media. Or blockchain.
WTF that is.
The point of this is to expand your frames of reference. The older we get, the more closed-minded we get. Happens to all of us. And time and tide are not on your side; to reverse this, you actually have to take action. The good news is the smash factor on moves like this is high: even the slightest effort provides tremendous benefit.
And here’s the ultimate boss move to expand your horizons and get you thinking differently: Next time you’re walking past a convention hall and there’s a big congregation inside talking about cosmetic implants or vitamins or cannabis regulations or some Amway-style-multi-level-marketing-BS-or-whatever, here’s what you do:
Grab a badge and walk in, sit down, listen, and stay until they 86 you.
Just make sure you grab a couple of snacks and the goodie bag first.