August 24, 2022

Allow time to think on the questions without answers

On one of my recent business trips to the US, I decided to spend a little bit of my free time at an art museum. The painting Place Vintimille by French artist Edouard Vuillard particularly caught my attention. While I was viewing it, a group of children on a class trip and their teacher came over to look at it as well, and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. 

The teacher started by instructing the kids to look quietly at the painting then share their impressions with the class one by one. Next, rather than discussing the life of the painter and his artistic style with the kids, the teacher took the opportunity to invite them to think about the following two questions: “Is there anything you wish you could do over and over again? Is there any place you’d like to live forever?”

I found these questions quite intriguing. The inspiration for this painting was the view from the artist’s window in his Paris apartment, and within the 18 years he lived there, he painted this location many times over, in different seasons, different years, and from different perspectives. The painting I was looking at was in fact one of many. 

One of the young students raised their hand and answered, “I would ride Space Mountain at Disneyland nonstop!” Another said, “I would eat nothing but donuts!” The teacher never commented on the students’ answers as being right or wrong, but rather encouraged them to use their imaginations, which made the kids only more excited to share. 

As they grow up, it’s unlikely that these kids will remember this artist or that particular painting. However, I’m confident that this conversation will plant a seed in their minds that will help those students to use their powers of thinking, observing, and listening when given the opportunity. 

This experience also led me to ponder another question: aren’t we as adults less and less willing to let our minds wander as we grow older? We spend the majority of our day consuming information, building our expertise, and looking for answers to questions, yet we pay no mind to those things that are most likely to trigger our inspiration and allow us to explore those “questions without answers”. 

Indeed, it is extremely difficult to think about things without a specific goal or without the context of “right” or “wrong”, because without any logic or criteria to follow, we have to define a framework for ourselves. However, whether you’re an entrepreneur, investor, or still finding your path, I believe that being able to think about things without a specific goal is one of the most valuable qualities a person can posses when facing uncertainty and exploring unknown territory.  

The truth is that there are no shortcuts to nurturing this ability. So let’s all remind ourselves to allow space and time in our lives for unstructured thinking! 

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