After flying across the Pacific and stopping by Silicon Valley before Christmas, I've been spending the holidays with family here on the north Oregon Coast. The weather has been rainy and blustery, typical for this time of year. Still, I have managed to get a run in everyday on the beach, usually in between storm fronts. Rain or shine, this part of the world is green, gorgeous...and inspiring.
A New Year's message from me to you
Here's a one-minute video message from me to you recorded on a tiny Nikon camera that I carried in my pocket while running on the beach.
How do you find your solitude?
There are many ways to find solitude, and you don't even have to be alone. I find a very pleasant form of solitude, for example, at "my Starbucks" down the street from our house back in Osaka. It's a bustling café but also cozy and relaxing with loads of overstuffed sofas and chairs. But by living in cities all these years — in Japan and in the San Francisco Bay Area — I had forgotten just how good for the soul these long, solitary runs on the beach could be. No iPod, just the sound of my own breathing and the pounding roar of the Pacific Ocean. I love urban life in Japan, but what I miss about living here on the north Oregon coast are the long runs on these amazing long beaches.
The need for solitude
Perhaps one reason why many business presentations are so poor is that people today just do not have enough time to step back and really assess what is important and what is not. They often fail to bring anything unique or creative to the presentation, not because they are not smart or creative beings, but because they did not take the time alone to slow down and contemplate the problem. I'm not saying that more "alone time" is a panacea for a lack of ideas or that it necessarily leads to more creativity, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you can create more time every day, every week, month, and year to experience solitude. For me at least, solitude helps achieve greater focus and clarity while also allowing me to see the big picture.
Many believe that solitude is a human need, and to deny it is very unhealthy for both mind and body. Dr. Ester Buchholz, a psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist who died in 2004 at the age of 71, did quite a bit of research on solitude during her career, what she called "alonetime." She thought that society undervalued solitude and alone time and overvalued attachment. Dr. Buchholz thought that periods of solitude were important if we were to tap our creative potential:
"Life's creative solutions require alonetime. Solitude is required for the unconscious to process and unravel problems. Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers."
— Ester Buchholz
Read this seven-page article by the late Ester Buchholz in Psychology Today entitled The Call of Solitude. Dr. Buchholz wrote the book The Call of Solitude: Alonetime In A World Of Attachment.
(Keynote slide for a future presentation)
I do not want to overly romanticize solitude. Too much "alonetime" obviously can be a bad thing as well, yet in today's busy world too much solitude is a problem faced by few of us. For most professionals, finding some time alone can be a great struggle indeed.
Whatever your personal and professional goals are for 2007, I hope that you'll be able to get a few more "stolen moments" of solitude this year. Everything in balance, of course, but I don't think cherishing your time alone is something to feel guilty about. In fact, it may be the healthiest thing for you, and your family...and your business.
I truly hope 2007 is your best, most fulfilling year ever!