The Power of Solitude
Today's Guest is one of the most amazing women I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Svetlana Kim is the author of White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee, which chronicles her journey from Russia to the United States, where she arrived with only one dollar in her pocket and a few words of English at her disposal; today, she is a leader among her peers in the business world, and has been honored with numerous awards citing her commitment, skill, and integrity. Svetlana is an entrepreneur and community leader, and I am blessed to call her friend and associate.
Thomas Edison wrote in his notebook, "The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil."
Where are you physically located when you get some of your best ideas? The most common responses to this question are: in the shower, in the bed, driving my car, and during a long walk. It's extremely rare to hear someone say, "I get my best ideas at work." You cannot hope to experience the quiet needed to unearth your greatest ideas if you are running 100 miles an hour and have seventy things on your to-do list.
We need to schedule time for ourselves. Make it a habit to pause during the day just for one minute-even as you sit in your chair. Close your eyes and breathe. This simple exercise can help reenergize your day.
Thomas Edison loved ideas and innovations. He dreamed of a new world, and from those dreams, he created a new world. He was certainly an individual: He scoffed at formal education, he thought that four hours a night was more than enough sleep, and he often worked forty or fifty hours straight, sleeping on a laboratory floor. He filled some twenty-five thousand notebooks with research records, ideas, hunches, and mistakes. Most notably: He loved solitude. He appreciated that access to solitude was key to make great ideas come to fruition.
In a world of endless phone calls, meetings, and BlackBerry messages, finding time for solitude requires conscious intention and commitment. Take time to read a book, stroll through a zoo, meditate, listen to Zen music, or take a yoga class. Once every few months, have one day to yourself of being quiet or getting away. Turn off your computer and your phone on that day.
Solitude will lead to being mindful. As Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness, expresses it, "Learning to stop, see, understand, and choose are hallmarks of mindfulness and have profound implications for the ongoing development of individuals and organizations...Yet our capacity to effectively handle stress, to make informed decisions, and to access previously untapped resources and apply them in challenging, fast-paced business situations all relay on our capacity to be present."
Allow yourself to be alone with yourself, to open yourself to quiet moments of reflection. This will help you find a balance between the big picture and the small details, to stay centered in the face of challenges, and to be calm. You will be able to focus on finding solutions rather than focusing on the problem itself.