Creative opportunity that comes with a pause

By Yunus on 28 April 2020

What happened? Seems like I just blinked and the bottom of the world fell out. It’s really hard not to describe the last few weeks in clichés – please don’t say “unprecedented” ever again – but it is a ridiculously scary time witnessing the devastation Covid-19 has caused across the globe.

Most businesses are suffering, while a few are prospering – especially those who laid the foundations for home delivery (with the sad exception of fashion). Some people are busier than ever, others have a bit more time on their hands. Some though, once this is all over, will sadly have to start afresh because Covid-19 will have wiped out their jobs.

The prospect of starting afresh, staring at a blank canvas, can generate so much anxiety at a time when there’s not much anyone can do. There’s so much advice out there… “learn a new skill”, “update your portfolio”, “give back to the community”. What do you do?

Dr Richard Feynman, a famous American physicist found himself in a similar position. He was a radical and visionary physicist who went on to win the Nobel prize for physics. Before winning the Nobel Prize, Dr Feynman found himself at a loss what to do – he had lost his enthusiasm for his field and found it difficult to get work done.

Eventually, he figured he should go back to the reason he took up physics in the first place. He used to have fun playing with whatever problem he wanted to play with. Within a week, he was in the cafeteria at Cornell, where he taught, and saw a guy throw a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air, Feynman saw the plate wobble. He was intrigued by the wobble of the plate, so he started figuring out the physics behind the motion of the wobble. He didn’t care what his colleagues said, he just enjoyed working on this problem. He enjoyed being distracted.

Before he knew it, he realised the wobble of the plate was similar to how subatomic particles behave and this work earned him the Nobel Prize. Dr Feynman cut himself some slack and rediscovered his passion. And that is a great lesson for us all.

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