Faking Picasso

One of my favorite stories about the power of trusting the deeper intelligence behind the mind is of a consultant friend of mine who brought a new intern with him to a corporate mediation.
08/25/2012 10:59 am ET Updated Oct 24, 2012

What do you do when you don't know what to do?

One of my favorite stories about the power of trusting the deeper intelligence behind the mind is of a consultant friend of mine who brought a new intern with him to a corporate mediation. The first session was disastrous, with everyone shouting everyone else down and my friend's counsel being largely ignored. During the first break, his intern came up to him and said "That was awful!"

My friend replied, "I know -- it really was!"

"What are you going to do?" asked the intern, revved up into a minor panic.

"I don't know yet", said my friend calmly, "but we've got about 20 minutes -- hopefully something will come to me during the break."

At the end of the break, the intern returned. "Did you figure out what you're going to do?"

"No, nothing's come through yet."

"But what are you going to do?"

"I don't know."

The intern was exasperated. "You've got to do something -- they've paid us a fortune and they're all waiting on you!"

My friend looked surprised. "What do you want me to do -- make something up?"

The reason I so love that story is that it points to a deep understanding of how creative thought actually works. My friend the consultant wasn't panicked, because he knew two things that the intern had yet to discover. The first is that stress and worry are not particularly conducive to creative innovation. The second is that an original idea is worth waiting for.

By way of example, imagine you ran art dealership and a customer arrives in search of a Picasso for his or her private collection. Through your contacts, you manage to track down a dealer in Amsterdam who promises he can get you one for only $32 million, which will net you close to a million dollars in commission and fees. You make arrangements with your new client to leave a deposit and come back to pick up his painting in 10 days. And then you wait. And wait. And wait.

You have nearly a million in your own possible commission tied up in a painting that you're supposed to turn over to your client tomorrow night -- and it hasn't arrived yet. So you begin to panic. You start to think it won't arrive in time. What would you do?

Would you try to make your own Picasso in case the original doesn't arrive in time? Or would you make whatever arrangements you could in case the painting is delayed, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst?

Most people in this scenario recognize there would be no point in trying to fake the Picasso. After all, no matter how good your imitation, it won't be the same as the original. Yet when faced with the choice to wait for a creative solution to our personal or business challenges or to try to wring an answer out of our brains by worrying, it's amazing how often we choose to go with the limited thinking of our little brains over the awesome creative capacity of the mind.

For myself, I used to wish I had more faith in the creative process and didn't feel the need to stress out over answers and insights that I didn't yet have. But over time, I've come to see that it's less about faith than recognizing the quality gap between what I can come up with on my own and the infinite creative potential of the mind. The truth of my experience is that most of the time a brilliant answer or new idea comes when I need it, and occasionally it doesn't. But either way, it's always (yes, always) worth the wait.

Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts and stories of the deeper intelligence behind the mind coming through in your life!

With all my love,

For more by Michael Neill, click here.

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