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Odds and ends to kickoff the year

Have a Happy (and inspiring) New Year!

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.

Quiet_time_1
(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!

Comments

Mike Kaspari

Thanks much for the holiday card. PZ was my favorite discovery on the web this year. PZ site epitomizes a principle I teach my students:
Quality = Design * Content

Getting Things Done in Academia
a guide for graduate students

Mike Kaspari

The second principle is "always proofread". ;-)

Ben Casnocha

Awesome quote Garr -- thanks. Happy New Year. I didn't make it to Osaka, unfortunately, on my last trip to Japan, but I hope next time. If you make it to San Francisco drop a line. Thanks!

John Windsor

Nice post, Garr. Great way to ring in the year.

Moses Ting

I agree with your thoughts on this one. We're so caught up in our everyday lives - running from meetings to meetings, wanting to experience as much as possible, and living off the business "high" - that we often forget to stop and smell the sweet roses. Or in your case, enjoy a nice run on the beach.

Parag Shah

I absolutly agree with you. It seems that in the race to know everything and continue being competent, spending the time for soul searching seems impossible.

A few years back I had attended a Vippassana session. It was 10 days of "no talking", "no tv", "no reading/writing"... just meditation, and believe me it was just wonderful. I have never felt so energized by any other thing.

Wish you a happy new year and thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts with us on this blog.

Bill Harris

Thanks for the support for the idea of alonetime. I drew a similar conclusion in my recent "Music lessons (for organizations)" at http://facilitatedsystems.com/weblog/2006/12/music-lessons-for-organizations.html .

Greg B

More mono no aware in running. Love it. I was just thinking about how precious each step was at the end of my run this morning. Each step is there and then gone forever. Each run is cataloged and contemplated and then its gone to memory. Each run is connected in some small way to all the others in the last 13 yrs of running. This adds to my sense of perspective, being able to quietly contemplate their connectedness in solitude after my run is done or perhaps during my run. Its the sense of perspective that one gets from this inactive action that allows me to further my focus at work, interacting with my wife or kids, or just problem solving on the way into work.

Now I'll have to go and see what George Sheehan says about all this in his book Running and Being. Happy New Year!

Andrew Horton

Garr
Thanks for this and all your fantastic thoughts and inspiration in 06. Have a great 07!
Andrew

Steve N.

Happy New Year to you and your wife. Thanks for the nice article about "alonetime." Here's to some of that precious time alone to think and process in 2007.

Juan Alonso

Have a nice new year all of you!

Zaid

I wonder if there are people that tend to rely on solitude more than others to figure things out?

After observing myself in past few years, I've realized that I like to take my time and think through problems. The problem is sometimes those problems are very simple - yet, my brain refuses to process it even a bit until I'm left alone.

Secondly--and may be some entrepreneurs can relate to this--I have periods of say days or weeks where I'm "subdued" and less communicative with folks around me. This is also the time my brain is processing some exciting idea to new, different levels.

I think if you're someone who gets and idea and loves to yell it out to the world, next time just sleep and think over it for week or two. It annoys my family when I get in this phase of quiet thinking but business and creativity-wise, it brings in great results!

-Zaid


SSB

My experience is meditation or a visit to a holy place (temple in my case) always helps in focussing.

When I used to prepare for exams, I always tend to go to a temple to relax myself. Instead of just praying, I step back and assess the situation and comeout with plans. Everytime when I come out of temple, I will have a clear plan and feel rejuvenated.

Reed Bailey

Thanks for the Oregon coast and sand. Rain, it seemed to be raining, is beautiful and has a metronomic and soothing effect on the senses. The addition of a cadence of foot steps adds to the simplicity and peacefulness of the beach. Silence, alone time and meditation are seen by many as doing nothing. I have the intuition their perspective lacks creativity. May you be blessed and may others be blessed by you. Keep writing, have fun,
Reed

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