Give It Five Minutes

Jason Fried has a good post on taking a step back (by reflecting for five minutes) before choosing to critique others’ ideas:

A few years ago I used to be a hothead. Whenever anyone said anything, I’d think of a way to disagree. I’d push back hard if something didn’t fit my world-view.

It’s like I had to be first with an opinion – as if being first meant something. But what it really meant was that I wasn’t thinking hard enough about the problem. The faster you react, the less you think. Not always, but often.

It’s easy to talk about knee jerk reactions as if they are things that only other people have. You have them too. If your neighbor isn’t immune, neither are you.

This came to a head back in 2007. I was speaking at the Business Innovation Factory conference in Providence, RI. So was Richard Saul Wurman. After my talk Richard came up to introduce himself and compliment my talk. That was very generous of him. He certainly didn’t have to do that.

And what did I do? I pushed back at him about the talk he gave. While he was making his points on stage, I was taking an inventory of the things I didn’t agree with. And when presented with an opportunity to speak with him, I quickly pushed back at some of his ideas. I must have seemed like such an asshole.

His response changed my life. It was a simple thing. He said “Man, give it five minutes.” I asked him what he meant by that? He said, it’s fine to disagree, it’s fine to push back, it’s great to have strong opinions and beliefs, but give my ideas some time to set in before you’re sure you want to argue against them. “Five minutes” represented “think”, not react. He was totally right. I came into the discussion looking to prove something, not learn something.

This was a big moment for me.

He concludes:

Dismissing an idea is so easy because it doesn’t involve any work. You can scoff at it. You can ignore it. You can puff some smoke at it. That’s easy. The hard thing to do is protect it, think about it, let it marinate, explore it, riff on it, and try it. The right idea could start out life as the wrong idea.

So next time you hear something, or someone, talk about an idea, pitch an idea, or suggest an idea, give it five minutes. Think about it a little bit before pushing back, before saying it’s too hard or it’s too much work. Those things may be true, but there may be another truth in there too: It may be worth it.

I think what’s important about this post, to me, is that it is making me recognize how often I may be prone to dismissing someone’s idea when I first hear it. While it is useful to be quick on one’s feet when listening, it’s also important to recognize that some thoughts take a bit longer to process and develop. So, give it five minutes.

One thought on “Give It Five Minutes

  1. It takes me a long time, or at least longer than others, to absorb an idea (and articulate my own perpective/take on something), which is why you won’t see me jumping into debates on Twitter as a story breaks. I suppose this stand back-and-observe approach shows in my writing, which is largely reflective and tends to pick at the most resonant bits of a discussion long after it’s over (on Twitter, at least).

    So, I like (and agree) with what Fry says here. (And I’d say give it more like five *days* rather than five minutes, but that’s just me!)

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