I recently finished Break the Wheel, a book by one of the major influencers of my work philosophy, Jay Acunzo. Actually I’d rather use the word galvanizer than influencer, and hopefully Jay (if by some strange miracle he is reading this) is cool with that.
His message is absurdly straightforward — and every time it came up in the book I pictured Jay on stage, communicating as passionately with his arms as he was with his words.
THINK FOR YOURSELF.
Listen, I went to a liberal arts college. Some call this institution a “hidden gem” of higher education and “America’s Premier College for Mentored Undergraduate Research.” Way to work the SERPs, Wooster!
Shameless plugs aside, independent research and writing were mandatory to graduate. Hell, every year there is a campus-wide holiday celebrating independent study— specifically the completion of it and the beginning of a carefree, André-soaked spring for seniors.
So, this whole notion of thinking for yourself wasn’t foreign to 22-year-old Amanda entering the workforce. The stakes were different though. In college, I pretty much had one job and that was to think. I was being encouraged to think all the time, without too much risk involved if the results didn’t pan out. Critical thinking itself was the goal.
In the real world of professional work, it’s more complicated. We get caught up in a cycle (a wheel, if you will) of following what has been done before. Best practices and how-to guides infiltrate our work because there are projects, people, and paychecks that depend on us.
That’s why we turn to Google to answer questions like, “What type of Facebook posts get the most likes?” So simple! In seconds, I’d have thousands of listicles, quick guides, and infographics with “answers” on what to post.
It’s not a completely irrelevant question, but it’s kind of like if I asked the Googs before getting dressed in the morning, “What are the best type of shirts to wear?”*
THERE ARE SO MANY BETTER, MORE MEANINGFUL QUESTIONS TO ASK. And way better sources to consult than Google. The second half of Break the Wheel breaks down the important questions to ask ourselves about our work.
It also kicks off with Jay retelling the story of the first time he drove a quad, which is eerily similar to the first time I drove a mini-motorcycle. Yep, right into a tree. #Relatable.
Everything Jay does is done with a keen understanding what ails today’s creators. It’s the same thing that paralyzed me on that scooter and Jay on that quad: Fear. Fear of failure, fear of conflict, fear of being too flashy or different. Even just the fear of having to explain ourselves and justify our work to others.
What I love about Break the Wheel is its implicit call for fearlessness. The anecdotes and case studies weaved throughout are not tales of creative genius; they are celebrations of people brave enough to follow their intuition. To do hard work, with the right intent.
I’m not about to list off the questions here, because that would be selling Jay’s work short. If part of your job description includes coming up with ideas, solutions, strategies, creative assets, communication tools, recipes…essentially, if you are ever expected to answer the question, “what do you think?” in your role, I recommend you give Break the Wheel a read.
*What I discovered through this (seemingly ridiculous) search is that men appear to know nothing about shirts. The first two pages of search results for this question were all guides about different types of men’s shirts and when/how to wear them, lol.