When I was a kid, we spent many a summer day at my grandma’s house while my mom worked. Though I adored my grandmother, she was not the type to entertain her grandkids. She left that up to us. Needless to say, I spent many a boring hour staring at the wallpaper. I also spent quite a bit of time sitting on the back of the couch watching the world wander past my grandmother’s big bay window.
And in time, I noticed something interesting. During the lunch hour, the lawyers and statesmen who worked half a block away at the state capitol building would walk past my grandmother’s house, deep in conversation. And the doctors and nurses who worked at the hospital half a block the other direction would also hurry past. If I were to put up a lemonade stand at exactly that time, these successful individuals would have to walk right past it. And as statesmen and healers, they were practically obligated to support some cute, little kid’s endeavor, right?
So I had my mom buy us cans of lemonade, and my brother and I mixed up a few pitchers. We positioned our table as close to the sidewalk as possible, with our backs to the street, so that our sole focus would be on those passing professionals. We spoke up, we smiled, we waved, and we sold lemonade. At the end of the lunch hour, we packed it up and went in. It was too hot to sit out there waiting for the occasional passerby. We’d be back tomorrow when the traffic was high.
Some people look to this story as proof that I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, but I see something else. In my mind, it all started with boredom, which lead to observation, which lead to distinguishing a pattern, which lead to inspiration.
Is it possible that in order to do our best work, we must build in some time to just sit with our thoughts? Is it possible that being busy doesn’t always equal being productive? Can we give ourselves permission once in a while to just sit and watch the world go by? And if we do, what might we see?