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by • February 11, 2013 • UncategorizedComments (16)1107

Okay with bored

Steven Pressfield says the army provides a foundational skill for creatives: it teaches you how to sit there and just be miserable. Accepting the slog is an important talent when you’re proof-reading a book or facing a particularly intractable user acquisition problem.

And PG recommends arranging your circumstances so that the top idea in your mind (the one you think about during your idle time, like in the shower) is the most important one.

Then, as I listened to a TED talk in the shower, it occurred to me that I was so unable to endure boredom that I was filling my brain’s last chance for deep thought with more noise. My most important thought was being given no soil in which to take root.

Empty time is hard. It’s boring. But that’s what nourishes our most important idea. In our busy lives, the shower tends to be the only empty time we have. But we can make more of it if we’re willing to turn off the filler and endure boredom.

So I’ve deleted all the news and fun and games from my phone. I’ve stopped carrying headphones and books. I moved away from the city, to somewhere less busy, at least for now.

I want more time to be bored.

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16 Responses to Okay with bored

  1. This was one funny side-effect for me of doing meditation years ago. I found it incredibly boring, but man I had some amazing ideas sitting there trying to be aware of my breath.

    • robfitz says:

      Haha, hadn’t thought of that. Totally true though. I wonder if you get accidental results faster when you’re intentionally working at thinking nothing… :)

  2. StartUpJerkFest says:

    I had the same realization back in December, so I started the new year by ignoring a lot of things that were not critically important, things that i was using to fill every minute with “something”. youtube, netflix, twitter, blogs, etc. i even ignored this until it mistakenly opened in a preview pane and the phrase “Ted talk in the shower” caught my attention. i would never have opened this email based on the subject line.

  3. I’m reading this article because I’m bored – oh the irony. Thanks, it was wonderful.

  4. david pinto says:

    During my thirties, I spent 6 months working, the rest I spent “out-of-the-loop”, mostly living in a place where nature was on the doorstep, slowing down to the pace of the season. Takes a while to process the big ideas, keep track of what is important. And when returning to the buzz of city life, one enters with a cleaner perspective, almost beginner’s mind again. Can’t recommend it enough. So, glad you are taking some time out to consider the internal processes, furniture, and hearing what comes to you as a result.

    • robfitz says:

      Thanks David — so far the distance has been less magical than I had hoped, but I guess we still need to put a bit of work behind even our miracle cures ;)

  5. Rosie says:

    I find myself increasingly becoming more selective in what I choose to consume. Also, what I’ve found helps me is not specifically finding time to be bored, but more about finding time to do stuff for me. Part of it is forming better habits, like popping down the tennis courts mid morning with my husband, because we can. However another aspect is the ‘making’ aspect – it’s so easy to consume, but making stuff is so much more rewarding. I’ve been learning to draw as part of my ‘making’ time.

  6. Travis says:

    Amen! I’ve been starting to panic about this weird alien hand phenomena. 2 seconds without stimuli and I can’t seem to stop it from reaching for the iPhone! Even though i know there is nothing new there. Its a much more immediate version of the old repeatedly checking the fridge for food, though you’re not hungry and you havnt been shopping since you checked 10 minutes ago.

    I think I’ll follow your lead and massacre my apps. My mind revolts and I feel the panic of an addict at the thought of extending the carnage to books though! Probably a good sign it needs to be done :(

    • robfitz says:

      I’m very on-the-fence about books. I think I’ll find a middleground there… reading as a pleasure or a trigger for thinking seems really enjoyable/valuable for me, but I’ve lately found myself filling every waking moment with something to read and without giving myself the time to process or act on it.

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