This is the final of seven challenges in the Bored and Brilliant series, based on the exercises in the book by Manoush Zomorodi. I actually started this challenge in March 2019 after I read the book. I got all the way through the first six challenges last year and came to a screaming halt.
For some reason, making the time to do the final challenge eluded me and I still hadn’t done it by the end of last year so I put it on my 20 for 2020 list in the hope that this might encourage me to do it. All I really needed was uninterrupted time alone of about 30-60 minutes, which is generally possible on Tuesdays when I work from home.
I still managed to put it off and put it off, and then Covid-19 happened and my home alone time disappeared.
As the year went on, I felt more and more like the time to do this challenge was slipping away, so I decided that as soon as I knew I’d have a decent amount of time alone at home, I’d do it. That time happened last Tuesday morning and I was ready.
This challenge is intended to make you really bored and “in so doing, discover a new level of introspection, creativity, discovery and courage”.
The instructions are: Step 1:Identify an aspect of your life you’ve been confused by, avoiding or downright terrified to think about. It could be anything from trying to work out a new career path from organising your kitchen cupboards. It’s the issue that whenever you think about solving it, you end up on Facebook instead.
Step 2: Set aside 30 minutes when you’ll be completely free from distraction and put your devices away. Put a generous pot of water on the stove and watch it come to the boil.
Step 3: As soon as you have completed step 2 (and are mind-numbingly bored) sit down with a pen and paper and work on solving the problem you identified in step 1, in whatever way works for you: lists, drawings, plans . . . whatever. The goal is to use boredom to unlock a brilliant solution to your problem.
It’s not that big a deal really. Watch a pot of water boil with a problem in mind and then sit down and try to solve it.
So, that’s what I did. Empty house, check. Phone off, check. Pot of water, check. Gas on, watch and wait.
It was an interesting exercise. First, I picked a vague problem. Then I set about to do the challenge.
I’ve never watched a pot of water boil before. Maybe when I was a kid for science class. It was interesting to watch how very slowly the little bubbles started to rise to the surface of the water, and there would be these occasional swirly patterns in the water. And then as it heated, the little bubbles’ path to the top of the pot got more erratic, and then there were more bubbles and the bubbles got bigger and there was more steam.
I can’t say that it was boring at all. Certainly not “mind-numbingly” boring. I tried not to dwell on any particular thoughts and I think my mind welcomed the break from actually having to do or think about anything. I found it quite relaxing. I would say I watched it for about half an hour from cold to boiling.
Once the water had come to a boil (the photo is of a recreation, not the actual event, as I didn’t have my device on me), I sat down with a couple of pens and a notebook and brainstormed my problem. I wrote out about four pages.
I don’t think I came up with a solution, brilliant or otherwise. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t actually bored. Maybe the problem was too big or too vague and I should have tried it with something more discrete that could have resulted in a more definitive answer. I did start to see the problem from another perspective though, and came up with an idea to explore further so I wouldn’t say I got nothing out of the exercise.
Perhaps I’ll try it again one day and see what happens.
And just so you know, I reused all of the water for other purposes, so no water was wasted in carrying out this project.