This concept comes from a story I read in the classic little book I Dare You. A professor once hit upon a great discovery while buttoning up his vest. Or rather, he hit upon the discovery because his vest wouldn’t button up. His little daughter had sewn up some of the buttonholes by mistake. His fingers were going along as usual in their most intricate operations of buttoning a button, when something happened. A button wouldn’t button.
His fingers fumbled helplessly for a moment, then sent out a call for help. His mind woke up. The eyes looked down………a new idea was born, or rather a new understanding of an old idea. What the professor had discovered was that fingers can remember. You know how automatic things can become, riding a bicycle, using a keyboard, or even driving home from the office.
Then the professor began playing pranks on his classes, and he found that the answer was always the same. As long as they could keep on doing the things they had always done, their minds wouldn’t work. It was only when he figuratively sewed up their buttonholes, stole their notebooks, locked the doors, upset their routine, that any thinking was done.
So he came to the great, and now generally accepted, conclusion that the mind of man is “an emergency organ.” That it relegates everything possible to automatic functions as long as it is able, and that it is only when the old order of things won’t work any longer that it gets on the job and starts working. Keeping things the same may be keeping you stupid.
* Maybe that job loss is an opportunity for your brain to wake up and discover meaningful work rather than just a paycheck.
* Maybe having the bank refuse your loan application will prompt your brain to come up with a better solution.
* Maybe that flat tire will trigger a great invention that will make you a millionaire.
* Maybe the warning about high blood pressure will wake you up to better health and richer relationships.
So my advice is this: Sew up some buttonholes in your life this week. Drive a different route home from work. Read a book you would not normally read. Write your name with the hand opposite your normal dominance to see how it wakes up your brain. Take time to stop to help a stranded motorist. Volunteer to help on a community project. And welcome the unexpected “closed buttonholes” this week. You may be surprised at having your brain turn on. Who knows what creative ideas or solutions you may discover.
- Dan Miller, author of No More Mondays