Have you ever had the experience of trying so hard to figure something out, but didn’t have a breakthrough in your thinking until you gave up? Or maybe the answer came to you in the shower or in a dream.
This thinking is what happened to me when I started my first business. I wanted to start a business so badly, but I couldn’t think of any ideas. I had largely given up on the dream when I had an encounter with a patient and his wife that changed my life, and my first business was born!
This example happens all the time and has occurred throughout human history. There are countless examples of geniuses who gave up on their dreams only to be struck by an epiphany later. Some of these people include Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones.
Interestingly, none of them came up with paradigm-shifting ideas. Their epiphany came in the form of combining ideas that already existed. For example, Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb; it had already been patented forty years before. What Edison did was create a commercially viable bulb. He took ideas that already existed and combined them.
Incidentally, Edison’s least successful invention was the electric pen, which provided Samuel O’Reilly with a breakthrough in thinking. Samuel O’Reilly was a tattoo artist, and he saw the pen as vital to his invention—the modern tattooing machine.
A modern-day example would be Airbnb. There is nothing novel or interesting about travelers finding a place to stay. But Airbnb changed this whole industry on its head by rethinking how it’s done.
Often we think that breakthrough thinking is coming up with something that has never been done before or no one has ever thought of in any context.
In reality, the majority of all breakthroughs are a combination of ideas that already existed.
Take the concept of NursePreneurs, for example. What is unique, is the way that I used knowledge from multiple fields (business, marketing, nursing, academics, web design, and online learning), to create a step-by-step program that is exclusively for nurses.
All the concepts by themselves aren’t new, but the execution absolutely is. The same could be said about any combination of ideas that you come up with for yourself. If the only thing you did was add your nursing knowledge to a business idea, you have something unique. And even if the idea or concept isn’t unique, your execution of it will be. Because ultimately, no one can bring to a business what you uniquely can bring.
But I’m willing to bet you can do one better than that. You are not a uni-dimensional person. Your identity is more than being a nurse. You have hobbies and interests, and you waste time doing things. The trick is to hone in on the things you do to spend time because what you do when you are bored, are precisely the things you care about.
And what you care about is what you get good at. You can combine what you are good at with your nursing knowledge and come up with a fantastic business model.
How To Do It
Breakthrough thinking isn’t something that comes to you when you’ve given up; you can put yourself in a receptive state to help find the answers are looking for.
The most effective way to solve problems is to start “noodling” on the problem right before you go to bed. Once your conscious mind is asleep, your unconscious mind will kick in—and this is where the magic happens. Be sure to keep pen and paper by your bedside!
You can also simulate a sleep state by putting yourself in a very relaxed state. Find a beautiful big comfy chair and make yourself very comfortable. Focus your brain on the problem you want to solve, and then let it go. Allow yourself to drift off; even start to fall asleep. Make sure you have an alarm set for 15–20 minutes because you don’t want to fall asleep! You want to achieve a state where your frontal lobes are shut down.
If this type of scenario doesn’t work for you, here are some other ways that can help you induce breakthrough thinking:
· Schedule some downtime to do nothing but doodle
· Take a walk without listening to music or a podcast
· Watch a documentary on something that you know nothing about
· Take up an exercise like Tango or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
The act of doing nothing or doing something new will stimulate your brain to think differently.
Always keep pen and paper handy. When an idea comes to you, don’t risk losing it. Right, it down and reflect on it more. Some of your plans may come to you crystal clear, and some will need more time and reflection to hash it out.
Give it a try!