Give it five minutes

A few years ago I used to be a hothead. Whenever anyone said anything, I’d think of a way to disagree. I’d push back hard if something didn’t fit my world-view.

It’s like I had to be first with an opinion – as if being first meant something. But what it really meant was that I wasn’t thinking hard enough about the problem. The faster you react, the less you think. Not always, but often.

It’s easy to talk about knee jerk reactions as if they are things that only other people have. You have them too. If your neighbor isn’t immune, neither are you.

This came to a head back in 2007. I was speaking at the Business Innovation Factory conference in Providence, RI. So was Richard Saul Wurman. After my talk Richard came up to introduce himself and compliment my talk. That was very generous of him. He certainly didn’t have to do that.

And what did I do? I pushed back at him about the talk he gave. While he was making his points on stage, I was taking an inventory of the things I didn’t agree with. And when presented with an opportunity to speak with him, I quickly pushed back at some of his ideas. I must have seemed like such an asshole.

His response changed my life. It was a simple thing. He said “Man, give it five minutes.” I asked him what he meant by that? He said, it’s fine to disagree, it’s fine to push back, it’s great to have strong opinions and beliefs, but give my ideas some time to set in before you’re sure you want to argue against them. “Five minutes” represented “think”, not react. He was totally right. I came into the discussion looking to prove something, not learn something.

This was a big moment for me.

Richard has spent his career thinking about these problems. He’s given it 30 years. And I gave it just a few minutes. Now, certainly he can be wrong and I could be right, but it’s better to think deeply about something first before being so certain you’re right.

There’s also a difference between asking questions and pushing back. Pushing back means you already think you know. Asking questions means you want to know. Ask more questions.

Learning to think first rather than react quick is a life long pursuit. It’s tough. I still get hot sometimes when
I shouldn’t. But I’m really enjoying all the benefits of getting better.

If you aren’t sure why this is important, think about this quote from Jonathan Ive regarding Steve Jobs’ reverence for ideas:

And just as Steve loved ideas, and loved making stuff, he treated the process of creativity with a rare and a wonderful reverence. You see, I think he better than anyone understood that while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily just squished.

That’s deep. Ideas are fragile. They often start powerless. They’re barely there, so easy to ignore or skip or miss.

There are two things in this world that take no skill:

  • Spending other people’s money.
  • Dismissing an idea.

Dismissing an idea is so easy because it doesn’t involve any work. You can scoff at it. You can ignore it. You can puff some smoke at it. That’s easy. The hard thing to do is protect it, think about it, let it marinate, explore it, riff on it, and try it. The right idea could start out life as the wrong idea.

So next time you hear something, or someone, talk about an idea, pitch an idea, or suggest an idea, give it five minutes. Think about it a little bit before pushing back, before saying it’s too hard or it’s too much work. Those things may be true, but there may be another truth in there too: It may be worth it.

译文

几年前,我还是一个行事莽撞的人。无论别人说了什么,我都认为他说的不对。如果某件事不符合我的世界观,我则会狠狠的反击。

这就比如说我才是第一个应该提出某种观点的人,似乎成为意见领袖对我来说是一件非常重要的事情。然而事实是我对问题缺乏深度的思考,你反驳的越快,说明你思考的越少,虽然并不总是这样,但几乎是。

谈起膝跳反射时很轻松随意,好像这只是别人才会有的反应,你也有。如果你的邻居没有免疫能力,那么你也没有。

时间退回到2007年,当时我正在Providence, RI举办的商业创新工厂会议(Business Innovation Factory conference)上发言,Richard Saul Wurman也安排了发言。在我的演讲过后,他上来向我介绍他自己,同时赞扬了我的发言,他是如此大方,显然他不需要这么做。

但是你知道我接下来都做了些什么吗!?我对他的方言进行了狠狠的反驳。当时他在台上发言表述他的观点,而我在创新方面上和他意见相佐。等到会议间隙我有机会跟他对话时,我对他的某些观点进行了急不可耐的反驳。当时我的样子看起来像极了傻瓜。

然而他的回应改变了我的一生。『这简单』他说,『伙计,先思考五分钟』,我问这是什么意思?他说:『不同意我的观点没关系,对我的观点进行反驳也无所谓,并且坚守自己的观点和信念是一件好事,但是在你确认反驳我的观点之前能否给我的观点留点时间,先思考一下』。原来他说的「五分钟」代表「思考」,而不是当即反驳。关于这一点,他完全正确。我急匆匆的介入这次讨论只是想证明我的观点才是正确的,而这并不能让我学到什么。

这是我人生当中一个重要时刻。

Richard花了整整30年的职业生涯时间来思考这些问题,形成他自己的观点,然而我在几分钟内就立刻进行反驳。放到现在来看,当然他可能是错的,我是对的。但是在你对某件事非常确定你是对的之前,不妨先深入思考下。

另外问问题和反驳观点之间也有很大的不同,反驳意味着你对自己了解的问题进行了思考,已经形成自己的观点;问问题是说你想要去了解。这个世界如此之大,多多问问题。

先思考而不是立即反驳是我们一生的追求,这很难。我仍然有时会头脑发热,但是我真的很享受情况变得越来越好时所带给我的好处。

如果你不确定这一点为什么如此重要,你可以思考一下下面这段Jonathan Ive看待Steve Jobs对Idea是如此珍惜的一段话:

And just as Steve loved ideas, and loved making stuff, he treated the process of creativity with a rare and a wonderful reverence. You see, I think he better than anyone understood that while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily just squished.

阐述的如此深刻,Idea是如此脆弱,它们开始时显得如此无力,几乎看不见,很容易就被我们忽视了。

在这个世界上有两件事情看起来是不需要掌握任何技能的:

  • 花别人的钱;
  • 对Idea置若罔闻;

错过一个Idea显得如此容易,因为它不牵涉任何工作。难的是你要小心保护它,对它用尽心思,让它生根发芽。

所以下次你听到某人说了什么,谈论了什么,或者提出了某个想法,先深入思考五分钟吧,在你狠狠反驳之前,你可能会认为他们说的这些事情太难了,或者有太多的工作需要完成,也许你认为的都对,但也有可能相反:恰好值得一试!