Killing Myself (Or, At Least, My Brain Cells)

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith


Looking back at the first four months of 2012, here’s what I did: Answered emails, dealt with problems as they arose, answered emails, prepared for and attended meetings, answered emails.

Here’s what I didn’t do, at all, during one third of an entire year: Think.

One day into a late April holiday, admittedly aided by the latest edition of Fast Company, a book called Imagine, and a few cervezas, I may have actually started to use my brain again. It’s still there (I think).

The problem isn’t the people sending the emails, it’s the person receiving them. Many of them I requested, though mostly not. Here’s the real problem: Why do I rate emails as the most important thing in my life - more important than thinking, for crying out loud? Why do I value all this noise and activity to the exclusion of any reflection at all? (It’s probably, like everything else, an insecurity thing.)

We all know that 3M pioneered the practice, decades ago, of telling their people to spend 15% of their time just thinking and experimenting, and created the world’s most innovative company. Google copied 3M. At EllisDon, we give people lots of freedom, but it’s safe to say we like to see everyone very busy, hard at work (sending and receiving emails). Perhaps EllisDon should learn from the masters and enforce one rule: For at least one hour a day, turn your computers off, unhook the phone, and have a thinking conversation with yourself, or even just let your mind wander around.

I have read more than once that the science is conclusive: Your brain does not get better or bigger by Sudokus or stressed mental activity. It does grow, literally, by meditating, by thinking of nothing. It’s a fact.

So, I guess EllisDon would likely be a far more profitable company if our people spent significantly more time doing ‘nothing’. That is, by spending time with themselves. Thinking, reading, messing around with ideas, mostly just thinking.

Somehow, anyway, I’ve got to turn down the noise. It’s killing my energy, my brain, my affability and my usefulness.