The View From the Back Of the Room

A world-famous scientist was being driven to a university where he was scheduled to give a lecture. During the drive he confided to his chauffeur: “I’m not sure how interesting I can make this talk. I’m getting a little bored with giving the same lecture at every campus we visit.”

“I have an idea,” said the driver. “I’ve been listening from the back of the room each time you’ve given this lecture and I know the material pretty well by now. Why don’t we trade places? I’ll take your notes and give your speech, and you can sit in the back of the room and relax— besides, it might be fun for you to watch everyone.”

“I’ll take you up on that offer,” replied the scientist. Before they arrived at their destination, the pair stopped at a coffee shop and traded clothes. The scientist then drove while the chauffeur reviewed the lecture notes from the backseat.

The driver was able to pull off the lecture with no problem, but several minutes into the Q&A portion of the presentation, a student asked a rather complicated question.

The driver, standing confidently at the podium, maintained his composure as he said, “The answer to that question is so simple that I’m going to let my driver, seated in the back of the room, answer that for you.”

Upon having the students all turn to him for the correct answer, the scientist realized how grateful he was for his position. Sometimes a change of perspective is all we need to see our life through others’ eyes.

Only an Empty Cup Can Be Filled

A young lady, who was finishing up her master’s degree in philosophy, traveled to Indonesia for a semester abroad. The trip included personalized teaching from a local sage. Eager to begin, the student walked into the meeting hall and immediately began to tell her new teacher all that she had learned over the past two years, and how excited she was to put it all to use.

The sage listened. When the student paused for breath, the elderly man offered her a cup of tea.

“Yes, thank you,” said the young lady. “And so then I spent a semester focusing on…”

The master brought in a second pot of tea while the young lady kept on talking. Suddenly, the student realized that her cup was overflowing and the tea had spilled onto the floor. Still, the master kept pouring. “Sir, please stop!” cried the student. “My cup is already full—it can’t possibly hold another drop!”

“Ah,” said the master. “So we cannot add something to a container that is already full?’ ‘Perhaps first we must empty the cup.”

Suddenly, the young lady understood. Before she could learn anything new from this teacher, she had to create space for learning. Only an empty cup can be filled and only an open mind has room for new lessons.

Finding Buried Treasure

There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… or is there? A treasure trove of 68,000 Celtic coins and jewelry that was buried between 30-50 B.C. on the island of Jersey in the English Channel was found by two amateur archaeologists.

According to the Smithsonian magazine website, metal detector enthusiasts Reg Mead and Richard Miles began searching for treasure after hearing about some silver Celtic coins that were found in an old pot near her Jersey home. The current owner of the field gave permission for the pair to search, but only once a year, and only after he had a chance to harvest his crops.

After 30 years of searching, Mead and Miles uncovered a chunk of earth containing the coins, then called in an archaeological team to bring them up. The findings turned out to consist of at least 68,000 coins, along with many heavy gold neck torcs, ancient glass beads, a leather purse, and a bag encrusted with silver and gold decoration. The treasure is valued at 10 million British pounds.

An Exciting Finish

Two of the more experienced bass players performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony knew from experience that at the end of the piece, the bassists play nothing for quite some time. Quietly, they decided to sneak off the stage for a quick snack at the lounge in the lobby.

After quickly downing a sandwich and a soda, one of them checked his watch. “Uh-oh, we play in about two minutes.”

“Don’t worry.” His friend ordered a second plate of fries. “I tied down the last page of the conductor’s score, so they’ll keep playing the same part over and over.’ ‘No one will ever notice.”

Taking the plate of fries with them, they tiptoed backstage and made their way back to their chairs. They slid by, mostly unnoticed, as the conductor struggled to untie his music score with one hand while still conducting the orchestra. However, an usher at the rear of the auditorium noticed that the musician was balancing a plate of fries and whispered, “What’s going on?”

The other usher answered, “Well, it’s pretty exciting.’ ‘It’s the bottom of the Ninth, the score is tied, and the bassists are loaded!”

Brainstorming With Your Best Collaborator: You

You can’t always call a meeting of your colleagues or employees to brainstorm ideas. Sometimes you have to generate solutions or options on your own. Here are a few techniques to get your brain into a creative mode:

  • Time machine. Imagine you’re facing the same problem or situation 100 years ago. What would your alternatives look like? Or send yourself 100 years into the future: What tools might be available for your use? Can you create them now?
  • Reversal. Turn your problem around for a fresh perspective. Think about what a reasonable person would do with the situation, and consider what would happen if you tried the exact opposite.
  • Gap analysis. Look at where you are and where you want to be. What steps are missing between those two points? Identify what would bridge the gap.
  • Free writing. Sit down at the computer and start writing about the problem. Don’t censor yourself: Put down anything that comes into your mind, regardless of how alien to the topic it seems. After 15 minutes, take a look at what you’ve written. Much of it may be unusable, but you could find a good idea or two hidden in your words.