It’s unfair of me to blame the chickens.
But a tiny part of me wants to. They’re an easy target, after all. They don’t fly. Well, most don’t. (Their wings, which often have been clipped, seem to be good mostly for snuggling chicks.) They sit around on their hatches all day. If the ones that used to live in my front yard are any indication, they are messy (and a bit smelly).
Even so, it’s not their fault that I’ve been working 12-hour days the last few weeks in order to keep my commitments, one of which was a series of eight chicken comics to celebrate the start of National Poultry Month yesterday (which, as it turns out, is actually National Poetry Month, and it would be unfair of me to blame them for that as well since they were unwittingly pressed into our employment for the day).
I’m no stranger to busy days and hard work. But at the moment, I’m in the midst of a career transition that has stretched even my capacity, as I am winding down one role while the other ramps up, burning the chicken coop at both ends so to speak. I posted a photo the other day on Facebook showing my home office which is now host to three different workstations. The technology count includes five computers, eight monitor screens and three mobile devices. I have three clocks on the wall marking the hour in the time zones relevant to my work (though I’m short one for the six-hour jump to London). I walk in circles between those workstations, trying to decide which phone is ringing and making sure I send emails from the right account.
It feels, at times, akin to what Oxford psychology professor Mark Williams describes: when people “are always rushing around, going from one task to another without actually realizing what they’re doing, it’s almost as if they were escaping from a predator.” When he quotes Williams in his book, A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger writes, “the brain is on high alert.”
Maybe like a chicken might feel if a fox were in its house. Every minute of every day.
Berger quotes William Deresiewicz as saying that “Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it.” And that is the thing that is often missing from our thought process, or at least mine lately: the long enough. If one is escaping from a predator, thinking about a thing “long enough to develop an idea about it” might just be long enough for a fox to retrieve its favorite chicken parmesan recipe.
In this week’s timely reading from A More Beautiful Question, Berger writes about the need for “slow thinking”:
Finding the time and space to question, in a cultural landscape that doesn’t encourage it, is challenging. If questioning might be considered a form of slow thinking, we have to get away from the fast thinking that is required in everyday life—especially in the current fast-moving, info-overloaded environment.
He encourages the finding of time and space to devote to the thinking and questioning process, which may require “stepping away.” And often that means stepping away from the Internet, which “bombards you with other people’s thoughts, ideas, and expertise—which may leave little room for your own creative thinking. And it’s a source of endless interruptions, with every e-mail or tweet providing an excuse to stop thinking.”
Deresiewicz, who suggested thinking “long enough, ” goes on to say that “It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my brain come into play, that I arrive at an original idea.”
And perhaps if we can do that—if we can approach questions as “slow thinking”— we may find the time we need to outsmart the fox who, unbeknownst to the chicken, prefers slow cooking.
We conclude our book club discussion of Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. We invite you to share your thoughts and observations in the comment box.
The author offered to answer questions you might have, so feel free to drop a question for Warren Berger in the comments, and perhaps we’ll ping him on Twitter.
Planned reading schedule for A More Beautiful Question:
March 11: Chapter 1 • The Power of Inquiry and Chapter 2 • Why We Stop Questioning
March 18: Chapter 3 • The Why, What If, and How of Innovative Questioning
March 25: Chapter 4 • Questioning in Business
April 1: Chapter 5 • Questioning for Life
Browse the rest of our discussion of A More Beautiful Question
Browse other titles in our past book clubs