‘Meditative Isolation’

Spending time in an office in Hollywood has helped me figured out why people make so many awful decisions. No one shuts up. Ever. They’re always on the phone. Always bullshitting. Always setting up side-meetings and lunches and drinks and dinners. No one ever takes time to think. They’re too fucking busy.

From what I’ve seen business is as much a creative art as writing or drawing. It takes concentration and inspiration. School was the same way for me. Almost ever paper I wrote for class was finished in my head before I sat down at the computer. Even if I wasn’t that far along, I’d at least wrestled with the big idea over and over. It’s not really something you can teach – you’re either the kind of person who uses their mind for thinking or you walk around empty-headed and consumed trivial nothings.

The former requires silence. It means doing things that jog your inspiration like reading or running or relaxing. An office facilitates almost none of those things. I like listening to the same song on repeat, often 20 or 30 times in a row. It sort of allows me to separate the right and left brain – the music keeps one occupied while the other comes up with ideas. Mostly though, it’s about creating a space that you can step in and be creative

Frank Lucas called this “backtracking.” He’d lock himself in a room, pull the blinds and tune everybody out. He’d look forward and inward and outward and just think. That’s where he came up with the Cadaver Connection – importing heroin directly from South East Asia for a tenth of the cost in imitation coffins that they’d sneak on US Army jets. John Boyd called it his “draw down” period and it’s where all his big ideas came from – EM Theory, Destruction and Creation. Both of them relied on introspection to create innovation.

From meditative isolation comes clarity. In the office though, I get so fucking frustrated that I have to leave – I just can’t deal with all the waste. But I do leave and jam in little pockets where I can take the time to think. No one is ever going to ‘give’ you that space, no one will ever drive you there and drop you off and hope you come back with something great. You have to demand it, steal it, fight for it.

If you stop even for a second – which I have before – it’s really fucking hard to get back.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.