To be conscious is more than just continuing to have air flowing in and out of your lungs and to have brain waves on your EEG. It means to have an awareness of the world around you.
Every person in the developed world has tens of thousands of stimuli hitting him every day. Every person we walk by, every sign we see, tv, radio and the internet all contribute to this torrent of information. We can’t possibly be aware of all of it. We all have filters that determine what we notice and what we ignore.
How often have you driven somewhere and when you get there you realize you have no memory of the trip. It has become part of the background noise of your life. You were not even conscious of your trip.
Being an entrepreneur requires opening up your consciousness and loosening those filters. You still can’t take in all that is going on around you. You need to be selective. You pick and chose which areas that you pay attention to and ignore the rest. If you are a teacher you may be acutely aware of everything educational going on around you. Not just in your classroom but when you see a mother teaching her child something in a park, or when you see the manager in the coffee shop training a new employee, these things may enter your consciousness and may spark an idea that translates to your classroom.
These observation skills are natural but over time what you observe is filtered out. A successful entrepreneur purposely disables those filters by being mindful of their conscious thought. To turn off those filters require time and effort but can be done with practice. If you find yourself asking the question “did I just see that?” or making the comment “ you wouldn’t believe what I saw when I was at…” you are developing these skills.
By opening up these filters you become acutely aware of how things operate and opportunities present themselves to you. Not fully formed business plans, but little nuggets that engage your imagination.
Erik Larson, the author of “Devil in the White City” describes it this way “I try to put myself in the way of luck. I try to read widely, promiscuously. I try to fill my brain with things in hope that something will eventually click.”
For me, my consciousness is all about the consumer and how the consumer interacts with companies and their products. It might be standing in a line at the bank or watching people interact in an airport or even at Gillette Stadium home of the SuperBowl champion New England Patriots. I am constantly taking things in and trying to observe how these interactions work and don’t work.
One of the companies that I am currently working on is an app called nomo which is designed for college students. (nomo is the social directory for everything that is happening around campus, outside of the classroom. ) The seed of the idea for nomo came from a conversation that I was having with a student at Union College about entrepreneurship. At one point he said to me “and tell the administration that they need to fix their website.” I asked what he meant and he said “you can’t find out when anything is on it”. We finished the conversation but those comments stuck with me.
Because I spend quite a bit of time on multiple college campuses I kept wondering was there something behind those comments. They penetrated my consciousness and I couldn’t shake the feeling that there might be an opportunity there.
Next month is Curious.