Thinking about thinking

Last few days, I’ve been thinking about thinking. I was listening to James Altucher’s podcast interview with Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She is well known for her story of constantly using failure to learn lessons. Her father would ask at dinner table, “What did you fail in this week?” and if they didn’t have anything they failed at, he’d be actually disappointed. He helped her frame it that failure isn’t about the outcome. For them, failure is about not trying. She says if something doesn’t turn out or ends up embarrassing herself, it’s not a failure. Failure is not doing something out of fear. I related to it very much. She also said she goes out of her way to embarrass herself. If too much time go on without embarrassing herself, she feels “Oh, I gotta do something” —and she’d sing in an elevator when other people were there. etc. I liked the idea. Embarrassing yourself is a good exercise to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. (Yes, this is a huge keyword for me) – She also mentioned the importance of being vulnerable. Another reason I love her.

I’m fan of hers not because I want to be a millionaire business mogul, but because she seems like a very down to earth person with an “always-learning” mindset, in which I always strive for as well. I’ve heard her “What did you fail this week” story elsewhere, but what I didn’t know was her need to think alone. She said thinking is her favourite thing to do, and believes it’s so important for us to be alone and think. That’s when all her ideas come to her. She lives 5 minutes from her office, but she’d drive around for 45 minutes before work to do some thinking. In this “always-connected” era, where informations coming at you from all over the place, from your phone’s lock screen to billboards and TVs in elevators, it’s important to be alone, turn everything off, and think.

For myself, I do my best thinking in shower, or while I’m putting my makeup on. Those are pretty much the only time I’m left alone. I’m sure all the moms out there would agree. These days, I have so much going on, I need to literally write things down on somewhere, otherwise my thoughts disappear into the thin air. This is why I have wad of paper bundled with clip everywhere on my desk. I know it looks messy but I don’t care. This works for me.

Driving is also my time to think, just like Sara. I can’t write things down while driving, so I often use voice memo on my phone. A friend – an actor and playwright – said he uses Siri to record spontaneous moments of thought. That makes sense to me too.

And after thinking, I need to write about it. Musicians would create music, poets write poems, painters paint—and writers write.

  • Yes! I actually have to have some alone time to think and during the summer, my husband takes the boys to his mom’s in the mountains during the week. Those weeknights alone in my house help me recharge for the entire rest of the year when the house is a noisy, noisy place. Need to carve out more time during the rest of the year when I just think.