On my computer monitor at work is a saying from a fortune cookie: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
But sometimes it’s hard to imagine doing something else. I don’t mean just “I am fill-in-the-blank-occupation and this is what I’ll always do.” I don’t mean just work, and I don’t mean deliberate resistance.
I mean that it can be difficult to perceive or to think in a different way from what we as individuals normally do.
And that can be a drawback, because grooves can become ruts.
My friend Anna Haynes pointed me to a New York Times article by Janet Rae-Cupree, who says, “it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you’ve built around yourself.”
This is called the curse of knowledge. Some examples are: “It’s why engineers design products ultimately useful only to other engineers. It’s why managers have trouble convincing the rank and file to adopt new processes. And it’s why the advertising world struggles to convey commercial messages to consumers.”
I think it’s good for people in general and journalists in particular to do things we don’t ordinarily do, to travel outside our comfort zone, in order to broaden our exposure and stretch ourselves.
I acknowledge that I should get out more, but there are many ways to poke outside your natural self. My paper, The News & Observer, requires that all journalists have some training outside their own field every year.
But we can step outside ourselves by doing something as simple as randomly changing the radio station and listening to whatever pops up. Or for the 21st century, we can do it with random web pages.