Straw, Paper Clip, Brainstorm!

Article by KARLI GRACE

A straw? A paper clip? What do those things have to do with a brainstorm? Years ago (pre-internet), five people, including me, were driving back to our college from a conference when Bob, a grad student, pulled out a straw. His intent was to expand the minds of the undergrad passengers. He took us into the process of brainstorming what the straw might become or be used for when its dimensions, density, and intended use could be altered. The conversation flowed as the miles went by. Then Bob repeated the process using a paper clip. Our collective energy was flowing freely now and numerous possibilities emerged. There was no pressure—only fun and light-hearted banter. Soon the topic shifted to how to teach piano or write a song online (this was in the 1970s), which were seeming improbabilities. From there we explored the feasibility of using a device that could be attached to a gas pump to allow customers to pay on the spot. Back then, it was far-fetched, but it soon became a reality. This brainstorming experience was an example of “no box” creative thinking. Engaging in the brainstorming process was exhilarating, stimulating, and I owned the skill even more after doing those thought exercises during that drive. Brainstorming is part of problem solving—a basic life skill. With the rule of initial non-judgment, it is freeing and allows the imagination to run wild and potentially produce wonderful solutions and create that which has never existed before. Though not always formally taught, learning to problem solve is done as situations occur. The ability to problem solve is honed just by living life. There are daily challenges and decisions that need to be made. It could be as simple as “What do I wear today? or “Do I drive or take the train?” By looking at possibilities and making decisions, you gain knowledge, experience, and for many things, follow the ‘one way to do it’ rules, such as when solving a math problem. With age, you’ll grapple with issues of efficiency and productivity, such as how to be a better spouse or parent, how to make more money, or leave a good impact behind. All day long, you are engaged in the problem solving, decision making process. But do you make it fun and allow it to flow? It is easy to get into the habit of viewing your daily decisions from a more automatic or negative perspective. At times, you might feel overwhelmed with never-ending uncertainty, and/or challenging situations. The months of pandemic navigation tested everyone with isolation and grief. We had to learn to shift or else face resistance daily. Did you lose the joy of creating and seeing life anew? Did you dig in and cling to that which was changing before your eyes? Remember, creativity and infinite possibilities are always available. Some people wake up with a sense of dread and say, “Oh no, it’s morning!” What if they woke up and proclaimed, “Oh wonderful, it’s morning!” Are you grateful for each new day? Do you greet it with enthusiasm, zeal, and a readiness to create the day in your own way? Each new day offers the opportunity to be creative and brainstorm your options and discern what your day will look and feel like. You do have a choice about how you show up. Imagine that you are loving your life, taking it in stride as it comes to you, knowing it offers new learning and possibilities. Decide to make it fun, interesting, and fulfilling in the way you approach the tasks of being human. It’s true that certain situations do pull your energy down and result in solutions that may not be obvious, or seem out of reach. When negativity rears its head, shift to a brainstorming session that you allow to flow without judgment, and let a plethora of new ideas in that can move you forward. You get to decide what your attitude will be about how you approach life and what will support you on your path. So, how do you consciously approach living so that it is fun, creative, innovative, and an adventure? How do you create a foundation to move you forward with joy? Where does laughter fit? Within you is the capacity to pull forth new ideas and possibilities. Learn to live with “no box” to create and innovate a new world. Maybe…start with a straw.