Running in the Background

When you’re passionate about a subject, you’ve always got topics related to that subject running in the background of your mind. I’m not sure if this is the best way to explain it, but that’s how I feel when I’ve got something on my mind constantly, even if it’s not at the forefront of my thinking. I personally feel like the “background” is often the most productive place for a problem to reside in my brain, as everything that touches my brain also touches the background topic. I think the background provides the “aha” moments in the shower, or the random connection that something provides. Some examples of how I let things run in the background? Let’s take a look into how my brain works.

I received a proposal from one of my colleagues for a TV show titled, “The World’s Greatest”. I’m pretty biased against using mass media to promote our services, as we’re in a very niche industry. I gave my gut reaction as, “This doesn’t seem like a good fit, but I’ll do more research.” For some reason, this proposal was running in the background of my mind, and every so often, something would trigger the, “nope, still not a good fit” reaction. Here’s where the connections get a little funny, but totally useful: last night’s dinner recipe called for vidalia onions… vidalia chop wizard…. “as seen on TV” store…. neon green boxes on packaging stating, “as seen on TV”…. suddenly our products are going out with these little neon boxes promoting our TV status, and our print ads are over-taken by cheesy headlines proclaiming, “We’re the world’s greatest, are you?” The colleague’s main point in sending the proposal to me, was that we might be able to build a whole marketing campaign around the fact that we were on the show, and we’d have more exposure than we’d have via print ads. The above connection ramblings showed me that I didn’t like the idea because it seemed cheesy, and hard to market without our current forms of advertising. And, our current forms of advertising are much more targeted than the mass media show. In an industry that requires rifles, this shotgun approach just wasn’t a fit.

The whole premise of running in the background, is letting our minds make connections at will, versus trying to force the greatest idea out of ourselves immediately. I’ve talked before about making random connections in my discussion of the book, “The Medici Effect”, and I’ve determined that for me, this works best when I let things run in the background. I’ve been analyzing my good ideas recently, and noticing that letting my mind traipse around the subject has been much more beneficial than staring at my computer screen until the idea “pops” into my head. Also, it makes perfect, logical sense, but clearly, the things I’m most passionate about get the most time to wander around my brain. Thus, I think passion is a strong component of a successful employee. I remember a colleague at a former company telling me that he used to intentionally shut down any thoughts related to work outside of business hours, because he didn’t want to devote any more mental space, time, or energy to helping the company succeed, since he was miserable and under-paid. What a sad (and in this case, unfortunately true) sentiment! Some of my best work happens outside of business hours, as my mind just naturally courses over topics that run in the background. This blog and my pursuit of the MBA have been excellent facilitators in creating more topics for my mind to consider, and I’m excited to keep exploring everything that is running in the background.

Are you using your background effectively? Are you passionate enough that your brain just runs through ideas in the idle times?

2 thoughts on “Running in the Background

  1. Matt Faus

    Bertrand Russell describes his intentional use of background processing in the Fatigue chapter of Conquest of Happiness. He claims this is where his most brilliant thoughts have come from.

    “My own belief is that a conscious thought can be planted in the unconscious if a sufficient amount of vigor and intensity is put into it. Most of the unconscious consists of what were once highly emotional conscious thoughts, which have now become buried. It is possible to do this process of burying deliberately.”


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