Seth Godin mentioned putting his shoes on in the dark in a recent blog post, and it reminded me of a way of thinking years back for me.

Years ago I used programs like Fruity Loops to make music as a hobby, and at one point I’d started a series of creative exercises by turning the speakers and headphones off and just putting instrumentation and rhythms in place. Not randomly, but following my gut. At the time I’d drawn inspiration from the stories of Beethoven playing piano deaf at the end of his life, still composing music without being able to hear it.

Sometimes the results were cool, other times not. It was an intriguing process nonetheless, as it forced me to rely on intuition and careful planning rather than trial by error. There was a central theme there: we can limit ourselves by “checking” too frequently.

This is not to say that we should always do things blindly, but an occasional exercise can change our mindset about how we solve problems. Relying on a constant “test and measure” forces us to think small and stick with known success routes.

Operating Outside Your Expectations

When I slapped rhythms together with the speakers muted, I was fully developing an idea with minimal checking, so I was left with a “finished” idea by the time I ever listened to it. When it was good, it was because it did not sound like I’d expected. Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised by how some of it sounded together, creating a sound that hadn’t even been on my mind and was not likely to have gotten there if I’d been checking it the whole way through.

In other words, the end result I was so pleased with never would’ve happened if it’d gone the way I expected the whole way.

Occasionally our expectations of how something will go narrow our vision, as when the result is not what we expected our knee-jerk reaction is to consider it a failure.

Thoughts on this?