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Why You Need More Distractions in Your Life

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I grew up in the shadow of an Amish dairy farm (depending on where the sun was, of course) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now, if you’ve spent as much time around the Amish as I have, you know that they’re kind of big on horses. And if you’ve spent as much time around Amish horses as I have, you know that they all have something in common.

They’re all wearing blinders.

Partially as a fashion statement, of course, but mostly so that they don’t get distracted. Because, let’s face it, if the horse and buggy is your primary form of transportation, you don’t want to end up turned over in a ditch because Cinnamon saw a gopher.

To put it another way, the Amish put blinders on their horses so that they (the horses) can’t see other options.

So, blinders for Amish horses is a very good idea.

Not such a good idea for innovators.

You see, what some people (and horses) see as distractions, innovators see as raw ingredients. That’s because a distraction is defined as something that diverts focus from the task at hand. It’s the “bright, shiny object.” And that’s generally seen as a bad thing.

To an innovative thinker, however, the “bright, shiny object” is actually a “random connection.” And a random connection could be just the spark that ignites the breakthrough idea.

To an #innovative thinker, the “bright, shiny object” is actually a “random connection.” And a random connection could be just the spark that ignites the #breakthrough idea. Click To Tweet

In 1973, a young Steve Jobs (maybe you’ve heard of him) audited a course at Reed College in, of all things, calligraphy. To some (most?), this could be seen as a distraction. I mean, why would a computer guy waste his time on something that has nothing whatsoever to do with computers? Most computer guys I know live, eat, and breathe computers. It’s what they learn about, what they read about, what they talk about. Calligraphy? You might as well take a course in 14th century French poetry.

But then Steve and his buddy Steve Wozniak decided to build a computer of their own. And Steve Jobs asked the question, “What if we built a computer that could do calligraphy?” And they created Apple.

And that calligraphy “distraction” proved its worth when, on August 2nd, 2018, Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar company.

You never know which “distraction” will be the one that leads to the breakthrough idea. That’s why you need to read outside your field, learn outside your field, talk to people outside your field. Yes, you need to be good at what you do. You should strive for true expertise. But not to the exclusion of all else.

You never know which “distraction” will be the one that leads to the breakthrough idea. Click To Tweet

If you go through life wearing blinders, you may avoid the ditch. But you may miss the trillion-dollar idea.

Blinders are a great idea for Amish horses. But not for innovators.

Which one are you?

If you go through life wearing blinders, you may avoid the ditch. But you may miss the trillion-dollar idea. Click To Tweet
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About the Author:

For 15 years, Executive Producer and Hall of Fame speaker Bill Stainton, CSP led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results--in THEIR world and with THEIR teams.
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