Just Think …

Over the past couple weekends, I’ve spent a lot of time on my old Ford tractor mowing some fields and trails. It’s been the hardest work I’ve done in quite some time.

Not the mowing. That takes very little to no effort. What does require effort is the thinking I do when I’m aboard that old machine. The truth is, I don’t spend nearly enough time just thinking. The average workday tends to be a series of reactions interrupted by the occasional fit of productivity. It’s not unusual for me to end my day with that sinking feeling that I worked my ass off and didn’t accomplish a thing. Happens to all of us.

Which is why tractor time is so important. For me, that’s when the real work happens. Looking back over my career so far, I realize that no matter how busy I’ve been, I’ve always managed to find ways to step away to give myself time to work through various challenges. I’ve found that an hour or two of uninterrupted hard thinking at least once or twice a month has been the secret sauce. All I need is good music, a monotonous task, and an issue to tackle.

I’m rarely struck by a thunderbolt of brilliance during those times, but I do find that I’m able to work through things in a way that’s just not otherwise possible for me. I often tell people every decent thought I’ve ever had in my career happened while staring out an airplane window. Or jogging. Or mowing the lawn. Or stuck in traffic.

It’s never been harder to find time to think. With two young kids, increasing professional demands and the occasional need for down time, I’ve never been pulled in more directions than I am today. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But with the breath-taking pace of change in our industry, I find that it’s more important for me than ever to make the time to think.

Which is why a few hours of mowing aboard a 1949 Ford tractor is the hardest work I’ll do this month.