Don’t Just Think, Act Outside the Box

J. Keith Hughey


Volume XXI, Number 45 (Issue 1049) November 6, 2023

Don’t Just Think, Act Outside the Box

Do you ever get tired listening to people tell you to “think outside the box?” I do, which is ironic since on occasion I have suggested that others do that very thing. Maybe not in those words, but the message has been the same. Of course, it is easy to tell others what to do and how to think. It is a vastly different challenge to stretch your own thinking and actions. That is because most of us get caught up in the constraints of the current reality. As a result, we struggle to move beyond what we know. Perhaps that is why we admire the creative types in our midst who invent, solve complex problems, and transform a blank canvas, block of wood, piece of marble, or sheets of paper into things that entertain and inspire.

I know I for one am in awe of those who are blessed with that sort of creative genius. So, what if we too could set aside our conventional thinking long enough to imagine something completely new and different for ourselves and others?

I will confess it is hard for me to let go much of the time. In many ways I am conventional through and through. It has been that way much of my life. For example, I grew up in a conventional middle-class family in a conventional suburban neighborhood. I attended conventional schools, studied conventional subjects, held conventional jobs (if you consider spending forty-seven years as a consultant conventional), have a conventional family including 2.3 kids (actually we have four children) where we live in a conventional house with conventional pets in a conventional neighborhood. We are also members of a conventional faith and church. Nor does it end there. We drive conventional vehicles and enjoy several conventional pastimes. In short, we do our best to be like most people who adhere to the tried and true (some might say boring) path.

Do not get me wrong. My mind is not closed to different thinking and points of view. As proof of that I would direct you to the scores on some of the personality assessments I have taken in my career. There you would see results indicating I am a life-long learner. They would also tell you I enjoy pondering new thoughts and ideas while another assessment would tell you I match the “creative pattern” in their model. However, I think that particular score reflects a different dimension of creativity compared to the one I have been referencing. Yes, one might argue that my writing is creative. But my writing does not take the form of poetry, short stories, or novels. It doesn’t even pass for journalism apart from the constant editorializing I do. Thus, to my mind I do not meet the creative/visionary/doer threshold I am referring to.

With that bit of self-assessment as backdrop, you might be asking, where am I headed with this commentary? So here goes.

First, I believe the creative process works best when one starts with a blank canvas rather than one that is constrained by the realities and present-day constraints we allow to limit our thinking.

Second, the old expression, “necessity is the mother of invention,” is true. Not only is the mind a terrible thing to waste, it is also an amazing thing capable of tackling and solving big problems. Sure, we may need some technical knowledge and know- how on occasion to convert the things we envision into reality, but fortunately for us, such technical skills are obtainable.

Third, and finally, there is another old saying, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” You and I must dare to try since a vision without action is simply a daydream. For example, Robert W. Kearns conceived of the intermittent windshield wiper in the early 1960s. He developed a prototype and applied for a patent. It took another seven or so years for Ford Motor Company to say let’s try it. Now, virtually every vehicle rolling off an assembly line has that feature – all because someone saw a need, had an idea, experimented, and through dogged determination made it happen. In other words, he dared to act.

Will we dare to dream? If so, will we dare to act?

Soli Deo Gloria

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18

J. Keith Hughey

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Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2023 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

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