Putting Einstein’s most famous quote to work — the surprising benefit of thinking long and deep

Marlin Watling
Micro Sabbatical
Published in
8 min readFeb 29, 2024

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The scattered reactive mind

“Most people don’t really think,” I tell people that are interested in our Micro Sabbatical experience. It is a bit provocative. But I rarely get push-back. “Tell me more,” is the most common response.

“Well, we have a lot of thoughts, certainly. But to really think about something is super rare. Most people have no practice for that, no tool. So, thinking is often like circling without any sense of progress.” To tell you more, I want to share our Denkzeit-approach with you.

Our mind is like a vast ocean, where thoughts are currents and focus is the wind steering the waves. In the expanses of this ocean, the winds of focus can swell, gathering the currents into a powerful stream of consciousness that flows deep and true, capable of carving canyons of creativity and innovation in the ocean floor.

Yet, in today’s incessantly connected world, our oceanic minds are often caught in a maelstrom of distractions. Notifications, emails, and endless meetings crash like tempests upon the waves, scattering thoughts and dissipating the once-focused currents into frothy, reactive shallows. Here, in the choppy surface waters, depth is lost, and so too is the potential for the mind’s great discoveries and insights.

The cost of this scattered state is not simply a map filled with uncharted territories but the treasures of deep thought that remain undiscovered. For when the mind is always reacting, it is as though we are sailors who can no longer navigate the endless possibilities before us, and are instead left handling the urgent and superficial tasks.

Most people don’t really think; they have thoughts, but to truly ponder is a rarity, a craft unpracticed and a tool often unutilized.

The antidote to this is to seek the calm within the storm, to find those moments of contemplation. These are the ‘Denkzeit’ — the quiet harbors where the winds of focus can once again gather strength, where the ocean of the mind can settle and reflect the clarity of the skies above.

It happens to all of us: we want to take time to explore a complex idea, with our sails full of the winds of focus, only to have the storm of reactivity blow you off course. Each interruption is a gust that tugs at your sails, tempting you to chart a course toward the rocky shores of immediate response. But by entering a ‘Denkzeit’, we can anchor our thoughts and allow the depths of our mind to emerge from the chaos, clear and creative.

It is in these moments, away from the storm’s reach, that our mental oceans can once again run deep, allowing intuition and insight to flow freely. Here, the mind is not a victim of hectic weather but a master of the deep.

Thus, the scattered reactive mind, once adrift in the shallows, can reclaim the depths that are its birthright.

The value of actually thinking

It’s not that we don’t want to think. It’s just that in the crossfire of tasks and deadlines, that the true essence of thinking is diluted. We are sapped of attention and mental energy which prevents us from getting to important questions and decisions. This is where our practice, known as ‘Denkzeit’, or ‘thinking time’, proposes a radical shift — creating space and time to sit down and think. Systematically. Even for the untrained person. This practice is not merely a pause; it’s a deliberate dive into a process of contemplation, promising profound transformation in our professional lives.

Thinking is a lost art. In a world obsessed with action, true thought is the silent hero behind every big leap.

Firstly, Denkzeit is a resource for the fragmented mind, allowing a convergence of thoughts that typically scatter in the face of buy lives. It’s in these moments of solitude and silence that the mind can weave threads and see what is going on. This focused introspection cuts through the noise, fostering a quality of thought that is as rare as it is necessary. The clarity that emerges from such undisturbed reflection can transform scattered sparks of idea into insight and change.

At the core of Denkzeit’s philosophy is the belief that uninterrupted reflection is the crucible for innovative problem-solving. When we allow ourselves the freedom to linger on a problem, turning it over in our minds, we often find solutions that are both novel and effective. By stepping away from the habitual dance of responding to external stimuli, we grant ourselves the opportunity to engage with challenges in a more profound and meaningful way. This is where creativity is not forced but invited, where ideas are not flying around but centered on helping us move on.

Finally, the practice nurtures a sense of strategic clarity that is often obscured by the day-to-day demands of life. In granting ourselves the gift of time, we gain the luxury to evaluate our direction and choices with a critical eye. This is thinking at its most strategic — with time and spece, it allows for a reevaluation of goals and approaches. The outcome is decision-making that is not just reactive but deeply informed and in tune with who we are and what is going on.

The implementation of Denkzeit is more than an exercise in disciplined scheduling; it’s a process that is guided and usable for everyone. It reclaims thought as the cornerstone of ownership and progress. Denkzeit is not as a mere diversion from work, but as the very essence of high-caliber professional endeavor. Some may wonder if dedicating time to think in silence, away from the hustle of daily tasks, is indeed practical. Consider the leaders who swear by it, the entrepreneurs who have had breakthroughs during such times, and the countless creative professionals who attribute their best ideas to periods of undisturbed thought. Their experiences confirm the transformative power of “Denkzeit.”

In essence, the value of actually thinking cannot be overstated. It’s not just about the quiet, but about what the quiet can yield — a wealth of insights, value-judgements, and decisions that stand the test of time and change.

The mechanics of Denkzeit

We set up Micro Sabbatical to get going with Denkzeit. Getting your first taste can be a transformative experience. Incorporating “Denkzeit” into your life is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity for those who aspire to thoughtful leadership and innovative problem-solving. To make this practice a reality, start by starting — we have set you up for it.

In the Micro Sabbatical program we employ a structured approach to maximize its effectiveness. We have developed a Denkzeit Canvas — a one page visual guide to help you settle, sort and strategies about important issues. Designed as part of the Micro Sabbatical program, the Canvas serves as a roadmap to navigate your thoughts. We embark on ‘Denkzeit’ with a precise 45 to 60-minute session carved out for deep thinking.

You start off by preparing your space with minimal essentials — timer, pen, paper, and the structured Denkzeit Canvas from our Micro Sabbatical program.

Then, you kick off your session with start ritual to mark the beginning of your focus period. Like a cup of tea, a breathing exercise, a prayer or a strech. Next, you pinpoint the core question driving your reflection. As you delve into initial thoughts, the Canvas aids in moving past surface issues, pushing you to confront and question foundational assumptions.

At the heart of ‘Denkzeit’ is the transformative power of observing, asking for underlying issues and allowing yourself to see the whole picture. It’s here, with the aid of the Canvas, that you transition from identifying problems to formulating strategic, innovative solutions. This logic transformation is the pivotal moment that defines the Denkzeit effect, propelling you towards clarity and actionable insights.

Clarity doesn’t come from doing more. It emerges in the quiet spaces we dare to create. That’s the power of ‘Denkzeit’.

By the conclusion of each session, not only will you have a visually organized map of your thoughts, but you’ll also emerge with options that can lead to impactful decisions and new opportunities. It’s through these dedicated moments of contemplation that true cognitive wealth is accrued, setting the foundation for leadership that’s not just reactive, but profoundly proactive and informed.

Einstein saw it before everyone else

Albert Einstein famously remarked that we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. This relates directly to us as the complexities of modern challenges demand a confident problem-solving. To break the chains of conventional thinking, you must see what is going on, take ownership of it and find ways to move forward. It is with this mindset that you can find novel perspective and devise solutions that are not just effective but transformative.

Albert Einstein revolutionized the way we understand the universe not merely through intelligence, but by dedicating undisturbed time to contemplation. His insights on relativity sprang from profound periods of thought — exemplifying the transformative power of ‘Denkzeit’. It’s this power of his deep thinking that shows us what is possible and needed for us today.

Einstein knew it: New solutions come from new levels of thinking. ‘Denkzeit’ is your ladder to climb out of old patterns.

The connection between deep thought and leadership cannot be overstated. Leaders who carve out time for reflection gain clarity, enabling them to navigate complex challenges and inspire innovation. The contrast is clear: a leader with clear vision and deicions is one who can lead beyond the horizon, while one caught in the relentless pace of reactivity risks missing the bigger picture.

Embrace Einstein’s approach: Simplify your environment, eliminate distractions, and invest time in thought. This is not just about having moments of insight but fostering a consistent practice and process that fuels vision, clarity and strategic foresight.

Leaders must embrace thinking time as an essential discipline in their professional practice, one that refines judgment and fosters an environment where innovative direction can take root. It is through this disciplined approach that leaders can not only adapt to change but become the architects of it. In a world that values action, it is the unseen action of thought that often holds the key to unlocking our greatest potential and our most complex puzzles.

Embrace Your Genesis Moment: Ignite your Personal Flywheel

In a world of hustle and tangible results, take the counterintuitive step towards stillness. Initiate your journey from zero to one with a Micro Sabbatical — a four-day journey into the heart of your personal and professional evolution.

This is your invitation to a foundational experience, your genesis moment where you step out of the relentless stream of demands and into the fertile ground of ‘Denkzeit.’ A Micro Sabbatical isn’t just an escape; it’s a strategic retreat designed to propel you forward, to uncover ideas and paths previously obscured by the incessant noise of daily tasks.

Your future is knocking on the door. Will you respond and unlock your untapped potential? Secure your time now. By choosing to pause, reflect, and cultivate your mental acumen today, you set in motion a cycle of continuous personal growth and innovation. It’s not just an investment in time; it’s the cultivation of your legacy. Book your Micro Sabbatical and turn the page to the next defining chapter of your story.

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