Last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg shared some questionable advice on how to become successful at work: Don't go to the bathroom.
"I always tried to be the first one in in the morning and the last one to leave at night, take the fewest vacations and the least time away from the desk to go to the bathroom or have lunch," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. "You gotta be there."
It wasn't the first time the mayor has suggested that chaining yourself to your desk is the way to get ahead. In 2011, he told TechCrunch, "Don’t ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom, you keep working."
But Bloomberg's bladder-holding approach may not be as conducive to productivity and success as the mayor would like to think. A number of incredibly successful people have had their most brilliant ideas in the bathroom, and research actually supports the idea that being in the shower could boost your powers of innovative thinking.
According to Harvard psychologist Shelley H. Carson, author of “Your Creative Brain," little distractions like going to the bathroom can actually be a good thing when it comes to creativity. She explains that interruptions and diversions can lead to a creative "incubation period."
“In other words, a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution," Carson told the Boston Globe.
Looking for your next big idea? Here are six people who found inspiration in unexpected places -- in the bathroom and beyond.
The writer, actor and director regularly takes showers for inspiration, sometimes standing in the water for close to an hour to get his creative juices flowing.
"In the shower, with the hot water coming down, you've left the real world behind, and very frequently things open up for you," Allen said in a recent interview with Esquire. "It's the change of venue, the unblocking the attempt to force the ideas that's crippling you when you're trying to write."
One of the most famous "aha!" moments in history occurred in a bathtub. Archimedes came up with the principles of density and buoyancy when watching water flow as he drew a bath, and realized that he could determine density by submerging an object in water and examining how much water had been displaced.
Legend has it that the ancient mathematician jumped out of the bath and ran through the streets yelling "Eureka! Eureka!"
Gertrude Stein's best ideas came to her in the car -- while she was looking at cows. She would write for only 30 minutes a day, driving around a farm and stopping at different cows until she found the one that most inspired her.
Rock and roll legend has it that John Lennon suddenly got the idea for "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" from looking at an interesting poster in an antique shop.
“John got the idea for ‘Mr. Kite’ when... we had a lunch break, and we went in an antique shop on the way to the restaurant," bandmate George Harrison said. "We were looking at what they had there and John pulled out this thing that we found … a little poster which had more or less the whole lyric of the song ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!’ on it … I think he was just advanced in his awareness of putting everything in a song.”
Nikola Tesla had many great ideas, but one of his best occurred to him far from the laboratory: the inventor came up with his idea for alternating electric currents while out on a leisurely stroll. According to the Science Channel, he used his walking stick to draw a picture explaining how it would work to his partner.
The British novelist got her idea for "Harry Potter" while on a crowded train. She didn't have a pen to write the idea down and was too shy to ask for one, so she pondered over the concept for the remaining four hours of the train ride in order to lock it into her brain.
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Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, News Corp
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch recently <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/rupert-murdoch-meditation-transcendental_n_3131268.html" target="_blank">tweeted</a> that he was trying out <a href="http://www.tm.org/" target="_blank">Transcendental Meditation</a>, a popular technique developed in the 1960s and followed today by famous practitioners like Oprah, David Lynch and Candy Crowley. The media tycoon <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/rupert-murdoch-meditation-transcendental_n_3131268.html" target="_blank">said on Twitter in April</a>, "Everyone recommends, not that easy to get started, but said to improve everything!"
Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco Systems
Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer of Cisco Systems, meditates every night and spends her Saturdays doing a "digital detox." In her previous role as Cisco's head of engineering, Warrior oversaw 22,000 employees, and she<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/technology/silicon-valley-worries-about-addiction-to-devices.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0" target="_blank"> told the New York Times in 2012</a> that taking time to meditate and unplug helped her to manage it all. “It’s almost like a reboot for your brain and your soul,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/technology/silicon-valley-worries-about-addiction-to-devices.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0" target="_blank">she said</a>. “It makes me so much calmer when I’m responding to e-mails later.”
Tony Schwartz, Founder & CEO, The Energy Project
The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz has been meditating for over 20 years. He originally started the practice to quiet his busy mind, <a href="http://csp.org/practices/meditation/docs/schwartz-meditation.html" target="_blank">according to his book <em>What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America</em></a>. Schwartz says that meditating has freed him from migraines and helped him develop patience, and he also advocates mindfulness as a way to improve work performance. "Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy -- physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually -- requires refueling it intermittently," <a href="http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/12/how-to-accomplish-more-by-doin.html" target="_blank">Schwartz wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog</a>.
Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Company chairman is a big proponent of meditation in the business world, <a href="http://www.inc.com/articles/201110/more-and-more-entrepreneurs-meditate-how-and-why-you-should-too.html" target="_blank">according to Inc. Magazine</a>. At<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soren-gordhamer/bill-ford-on-compassion-i_b_2781129.html" target="_blank"> this year's Wisdom 2.0 conference</a>, Ford was interviewed by leading American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. Ford<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soren-gordhamer/bill-ford-on-compassion-i_b_2781129.html" target="_blank"> told Kornfield</a> that during difficult times at the company, he set an intention every morning to go through his day with compassion. And to lead with compassion, Ford said he first learned to develop compassion for himself through a loving-kindness (<em>metta</em>) meditation practice.
Oprah Winfrey, Chairwoman & CEO, Harpo Productions, Inc.
An outspoken advocate of <a href="http://www.tm.org/" target="_blank">Transcendental Meditation</a>, Oprah -- recently <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorothypomerantz/2013/06/26/oprah-winfrey-regains-no-1-slot-on-forbes-2013-list-of-the-most-powerful-celebrities/" target="_blank">named</a> the most powerful celebrity of 2013 by Forbes -- has said she sits in stillness for 20 minutes, twice a day. She's also brought in TM teachers for employees at Harpo Productions, Inc. who want to learn how to meditate. After a meditation in Iowa last year, <a href="http://www.oprah.com/health/Oprah-on-Stillness-and-Meditation-Oprah-Visits-Fairfield-Iowa#ixzz2XoJNWPAR" target="_blank">Oprah said</a>, "I walked away feeling fuller than when I'd come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is -- still -- the constancy of stillness. Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life."
Larry Brilliant, CEO, Skoll Global Threats Fund
Larry Brilliant, CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former director of Google.org, spent two years during his 20s <a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/commencement-2013-larry-brilliants-address/" target="_blank">living in a Himalayan ashram</a> and meditating, until his guru instructed him to join a World Health Organization team working to fight smallpox in New Delhi. In his <a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/commencement-2013-larry-brilliants-address/" target="_blank">2013 commencement address</a> at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brilliant emphasized the importance of peace of mind, wishing the graduates lives full of equanimity -- a state of mental calm and composure.
Arianna Huffington, President & Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group
In a <a href="http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/arianna-huffington-the-connector/#1" target="_blank">2011 <em>Vogue </em>feature</a>, Huffington described early-morning yoga and meditation as two of her "joy triggers." Now, Huffington has brought meditation into her company, offering <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2013/06/8530708/her-cooper-square-hq-arianna-huffington-goes-even-bigger-yoga-meditati" target="_blank">weekly classes</a> for AOL and Huffington Post employees. Huffington has spoken out on the benefits of mindfulness not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. "Stress-reduction and mindfulness don't just make us happier and healthier, they're a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/corporate-wellness_b_2903222.html" target="_blank">she wrote in a recent blog</a>.
Ray Dalio, Founder & Co-CIO, Bridgewater Associates USA
In a 2012 conversation at the John Main Centre for Meditation and Inter-Religious Dialogue at Georgetown University, Dalio <a href="http://vimeo.com/50999847" target="_blank">said</a> that meditation has opened his mind and boosted his mental clarity. "Meditation has given me centeredness and creativity," <a href="http://vimeo.com/50999847" target="_blank">said Dalio</a>. "It's also given me peace and health."
Robert Stiller, CEO, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.
There is a dedicated <a href="http://www.gmcr.com/continuous-learning.html" target="_blank">meditation room</a> at the Vermont headquarters of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., and CEO Robert Stiller himself is a devoted practitioner. "If you have a meditation practice, you can be much more effective in a meeting," <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aR2aP.X_Bflw" target="_blank">he told Bloomberg in 2008</a>. "Meditation helps develop your abilities to focus better and to accomplish your tasks."
Russell Simmons, Co-Founder, Def Jam Records; Founder of GlobalGrind.com
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has long practiced Transcendental Meditation, speaking out about the benefits of the practice and sitting on the board of the advisors for the <a href="http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/" target="_blank">David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace</a>. "You don't have to believe in meditation for it to work," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/russell-simmons/why-i-meditate_b_474689.html" target="_blank">Simmons wrote in a Huffington Post blog</a>. "You just have to take the time to do it. The old truth is still true today, 'God helps those who help themselves.' My advice? Meditate."