|Each Monday I post the next section from my 2001 book, Hoover’s Vision. I had planned to revise the entire book — although all the basic ideas would be unchanged — but have been focused on other projects. See "Who is Gary Hoover?" (hooversworld.com/gary-hoover) to learn about my latest adventure, at the University of Texas at Austin!
The Ultimate Radar: Your Mind
To extend our horizons, we must get up on the highest hill around and look out as far as we can. We should look east, west, north, and south. We should look up. But we must also look down—at our village, at our own house, at our friends and family. All are potential sources of ideas and information. The more landscapes we know, the more scenery we see, the stronger our vision will be. We should try to travel as far as we can in every direction — into our own souls, backward through time, and physically to neighboring towns, states, and countries.
As we look, travel, and explore, we should try to leave our emotions and biases behind. Every person on earth has his own favorite hobbies, interests, and passions. But if we momentarily suspend our own tastes, maybe we will discover new ones; maybe we will see things in a new light. The human mind is a powerful antenna, maybe the best radar ever created. It is capable of receiving and processing vast quantities of information. It can handle a lot more than we ever ask of it. Keep your antenna turned on.
The Power of Serendipity and Browsing
Remember, in your search for answers, that the answer is almost never where you expect it to be or where you are looking for it. The history books and the company profiles at Hoover’s are full of stories of accidental discoveries that gave rise to great innovations — and often created great fortunes. It is difficult to exaggerate the power of serendipity:
Having an open mind means always exploring — everywhere, all the time, and in multiple dimensions. Listen to every kind of music. Try every type of food. Go to a variety of movies. Read books from every shelf in your local bookstore or library. Go to another industry’s convention. Don’t say, “I’m not interested in going there,” if you haven’t been there.
One of the great risks of the Internet Age is the fact we can do our research with surgical precision. Online service providers offer customized services — such as a newspaper personalized to cover only my hobbies, my sports, my stocks, my news. But how did we ever discover our hobbies, our sports, our stocks, and our interests, except by stumbling across them? We did not know to look for them when we first found them. How much have we discovered by browsing an old-fashioned ink-on-paper newspaper and glimpsing a headline about some subject we had never heard of?
Today’s automated dictionaries let us look up a word like scone without wasting time on other words. But flipping the pages in a traditional dictionary might also lead us to discover the meanings of sclaff (to strike the ground with the golf club before contacting the ball), scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and sconce (a decorative wall bracket for candles).
I love buying books on Amazon. The website suggests other books I might like, sometimes as perceptively as an intelligent bookstore clerk. But if I bought my books only through Amazon, I would miss that bargain table at my local bookstore’s front door, the tables devoted to James Dean’s birthday, the anniversary of the invention of aspirin, and African-American history. I’d miss all those books that I need, but which I had no idea I needed — all those ideas that I might otherwise never have stumbled across.
Of course, we must use the latest tools and take advantage of their power. But if we put our minds on cruise control all the time, we have no reason to expect they will remember how to work. Southwest Airlines, among the safest airlines on earth, is one of the few that requires pilots to land planes manually; most airlines use automated landing systems. They probably have the right idea. We must stay in touch. We must keep our minds, our eyes, and our mental muscles toned up. We must be strong enough “mental swimmers” to resist the tides of thought that sweep away all around us (or at least their minds).