Archive: Open your eyes and ears – Podcast
If you have ever visited the wilderness after a long time in the city, you have probably noticed an interesting phenomenon. When you finally pull over and turn off your car, you are struck with an odd, almost overpowering sense of silence. This silence can seem so “loud” as to almost be palpable – something you can reach out and touch. After a short time, though, you start to notice that there are indeed sounds among the silence. You start to hear the buzz of hummingbird wings, the call of a scrub jay and even the sound of the breeze through the trees.
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Just as we can become used to certain smells and eventually ignore them altogether, so we can block out the constant cacophony that surrounds our lives. It is only when we get away, to a different, quieter place, that we can see how much we are unconsciously ignoring – how much we are missing in an effort to control our lives.
This same phenomenon also effects your work life. Until you disengage yourself from the constant din, you cannot hear nor address the underlying issues, the hidden sounds, that hold the real issues and the real answers to your work and career. Of course, getting away from life’s noises can be easily accomplished by taking a trip to the mountains or the desert, but how do you escape the noise of your work? Here are a few ways to get started.
Changing environments is a great way to shock your system and open up a new view of your work. As often as you can, spend a day working in another office or department in your company or working from home. If you are like me, you will immediately notice a change in your work. The new sights, sounds and interactions are sure to trigger different thoughts and actions. As you sit and listen to the work around you, you may discover hidden problems, dissatisfaction or even new ways that you can have a greater impact on your company.
Don’t bury yourself in regular office work, though, while working off-site. Do what needs to be done, but then open your eyes and ears to this new environment. Listen for the office equivalent of the breeze through the trees. At the end of the day, try to lock in some of the memories and feelings of how it felt so you can revisit them even when back in your own office.
You can experience even larger benefits when you totally divorce yourself from your work environment, even if only for a short time. One of the best methods, and one of the easiest, is to take a long walk. You can do this alone or take along an interested co-worker or friend. There is something about moving that frees the mind of its usual burdens. If you are walking with a co-worker, you will probably start talking about the usual complaints of office life, but given enough time, your discussion will turn to more important issues. You can even start your walk with a particular topic in mind and bypass the complaint stage entirely.
Write it down
Finally, one method that serves me well is taking my journal and a nice pen, finding a comfortable and beautiful spot and starting to write. In fact, this is exactly what I am doing right now, as I write this column. I am sitting at a picnic table in a beautiful wilderness park in the Santa Monica Mountains. My view overlooks a small pond with ducks bobbing on the water, birds calling in the background and the quiet appearance of a horse and rider from around the bend in the trail.
While it might seem odd to write about high-tech careers in such a bucolic environment, this contrast is exactly why I came here. Away from the “You’ve got mail!” bleeps and bloops of the computer (although still within cell range) I can let part of my mind wander while the other parts reach deeper for new thoughts, new ideas and new methods of improving my life and career.
While you may not think yourself a writer, we are all thinkers . Writing in a journal is just thinking on paper. No one else need read your thoughts. In fact, I recommend against it, but you will find that the act of putting your thoughts down on paper makes them real and concrete and greatly improves the chances of those ideas becoming reality.
Find a new place, whether it is within your company or up in the mountains, where you can escape the noise for a little while. It is only in this way that you can begin to hear the important sounds – the thoughts, the ideas, the desires – that will help you to grow your high-tech career.