In my late teens the school career counselor advised me to start work at the local chicken-packing factory. A decade earlier I dreamed about becoming an astronaut, so my life was clearly heading in the wrong direction. Living in poverty with a mother dying of cancer and a permanently unemployed father made me feel like I was stuck in quicksand. I sought a way out, and clearly my career coach was not the solution. What I needed was a brilliant idea, a moment of insight that could break me free. The harder I tried, the fewer that came to mind
At my local library I found a section of autobiographies and tentatively started reading about the lives of the brilliant self-made; people like Madam C.J. Walker, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Mary Kay. I noticed how all their lives took a sudden turn for the better after they had a moment of insight… just one idea that came to them in a flash of inspiration, and after which they never looked back. That's what I wanted, and what excited me the most was that they all had a technique for creating those moments, and their techniques were remarkably similar regardless of what was acceptable in the culture and societies of their times.
From Einstein to Emerson, they each indulged themselves in 20-30 minutes of quiet time every morning. Simple. Henry Ford used to walk to the derelict farmhouse where he had grown up, sit in his father’s rickety rocking chair and, well… do nothing for 20 minutes. Samuel Colt sat under a large American oak tree come rain or shine every morning at sunrise. They all sat still once a day, every day, and in that stillness the ideas came flowing.
I copied them. Every morning I went to a quiet place in the home, also a derelict farmhouse as it happened, pulled a ladder-back wooden chair to the window and just sat still for 20 minutes. I remember feeling foolish at first, and to ensure none of my family knew what I was doing, I was first to rise in the morning.
That simple act changed my life beyond my imagination. After a few days practice the ideas flooded my mind. My dream was to travel and see all the world had to offer, and although I have yet to visit outer space, I've lived a remarkable adventure ever since through fifty-six countries.
By sitting still every morning — what I call “Taking Quiet Time” — I've conjured up ideas for travel, finding my life partner, and yes… growing rich. As a serial entrepreneur who settled down in the Pacific Northwest, the ideas for all four of my companies came the same way, as did the insights for who to sell them to when the time came to move on to even bigger and better ideas. Sit still and grow rich.
These days I meet many people who want to reinvent their lives, but they all say the same thing. They just don’t have any great ideas. When I recommend taking quiet time they often dismiss the advice because it is so simple. We have grown accustomed to living in a technological, noisy world and have lost some trust in the simpler things in life.
When left undistracted for 20 minutes, however, the 100 billion neurons in the human brain make 600,000 trillion connections, sending signals externally, connecting our minds away from our electronic gadgets, TVs and radios, and directly with the universe. All great ideas appear to come from nowhere, and I believe it's taking quiet time that encourages our brains to connect with them and bring them to us.
Can you really grow rich by sitting still? I am living proof, and there are many more living the life of dreams today who know this secret. The beauty of "taking quiet time" is that from age five to 95, anyone can start doing it today and enjoy the benefits. There are no levels of mastery, and no costs. Simply start this way:
1. Find a reasonably quiet place that feels comfortable.
2. Be alone
3. Sit on a comfy chair, hands touching each other, feet on the floor
4. Close your eyes if you want but it is not necessary
5. Stop thinking. Let your mind's chatter float away. There are no mantras, no points of focus for the eyes, no breathing techniques.
6. Sit still for 20 minutes every day, and the ideas will come.