As a young boy, I lived next door to two boys Trey and James that were older than me, five and three years older respectively. I relished the rare opportunity I got to play with them – as would any four year-old who was blessed with the privilege of participating in big kid things.
One hot Houston summer day in 1987, Trey and James, along with some of their other big kid friends, were playing outside with a plastic water rocket. They would use a garden hose to fill the rocket up with water, increase the internal pressure with an air pump that came with it and then it would blast the water out the other end and fly through the air. I remember watching this herd of boys, ranging from 7 to 9 years in age, as they skillfully maneuvered these contraptions to create an amazing act of flight. I was in awe.
Then, a complication arose. The hose broke; the boys were no longer able to fill up with rocket with water, and that meant an end for aqua-fueled aviation. Everybody grieved and groaned for a moment, but a shred of hope emerged when James spoke.
“Maybe we can do it without the water,” he said.
The other boys met this idea with immediate rejection. James’ brother Trey exclaimed how it would not work with a shouted crescendo. However, looking back on this, I see a great deal of insight in this quote. It conveys the pure essence of what it is to think outside the box.
What This Means to Me
To quote Austin Kleon:
“Creativity is subtraction.”
This means that to be creative is to make something without one of the ingredients, to build something without having the right tool, to accomplish a task without one of the necessary resources. In the context of this story, James proposed creativity by suggesting that he and his friends could launch a water rocket without the water. Whether or not they were able to, that way of thinking about things is golden. That is where great ideas are born, unique solutions are developed and innovation is fueled (no pun intended).
I caught myself using this thought strategy at home recently, and it enabled me to accomplish things in a unique manner, which in turn made me feel really good about myself.
- Making Coffee
- I use an upgraded French Press to make my coffee, and it consists of two main parts – a chamber and a plunger.
- I had the coffee half ready to go when I realized that I had left the plunger at my office.
- I told my wife, “Maybe we can do it without the plunger.” She Mac a contraption using a broken coffee pot, a paper towel and the half-brewed coffee and was able to pour herself a complete cup.
- Shooting Video
- I was working on a video project at home, whose shots I conceptualized as being done during daylight hours so as to utilize natural lighting.
- Limited time and resources required me to complete some shots in the evening, which subtrtacted the resource of daylight.
- I said to myself, “Maybe I can do it with out the daylight.” I flipped on some houselights, moved some furniture around and completed the shots, and they ended up looking better than I imagined.
Call to Action
I have converted James’ quote into a script that will stimulate your creative thinking when applied. The next time you face a goal, and you are missing something that you had thought was critical to the accomplishment of that goal, use this script:
“Maybe I can do it without the [insert missing resource here].”
When you apply this script when faced with such an obstacle, you will find that you are more capable, creative and adaptable than ever before.
Let Me Hear From You
Who has been able to use this script to overcome challenges? What was it like? Tell your story by leaving a reply below.