Somebody once asked Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic, why he was so successful. He must be terribly clever!
Adams replied, paraphrasing, that he was actually pretty damn stupid 95% of the time, stupider than most. However, he was DAMN SMART around 5% of the time, and that’s what made all the difference. It just so happened that this 5% coincided with the cartoon business part of his life, and not the less productive parts.
In his book, “The Road Less Stupid,” Keith J. Cunningham makes the point that if you want to be successful, it’s not that you need to become smarter. You’re already smart enough. It’s that you have to start being less stupid. Paying less “Dumb Tax,” as he calls it.
The idea being that most of the time, people get successful not because of some act of staggering genius, but because they avoid making silly mistakes. Examples of the Dumb Tax would come after, say, signing a million-dollar lease on an office long before you’ve made your first sale.
Cunningham posits that we pay so much “dumb tax” because we don’t typically take enough time to consider second-order effects or the law of unintended consequences – what urban legend calls the Cobra Effect.
The main reason being that we don’t take time to think, period.
Not because we’re stupid, but because we’re busy, or even worse because we pride ourselves on constantly taking action.
Cunningham believes the antidote to this is creating what he calls “Thinking Time”, i.e. time personally set aside in the day to do nothing but actually think things through. Think about the big picture and where potential land mines might be buried.
It’s an excellent idea. Two additional points to consider:
1. Thinking is great, but it’s also just as easy to overthink as it is to underthink. Eventually, action is needed. That comes with experience.
2. Proper thinking is hard. As David Ogilvy once said, most people hate to think and will go to great lengths to avoid it.
In our experience, establishing a routine that creates more white space is a great way to kickstart the good stuff.