The Sound of Silence - Can you bear it? Startup series part 12

I enjoy silence, in fact I love silence, it is calming and a break from the over stimulation that comes with so many aspects of modern life.  I have always had an appreciation of solo activities, such as walking, swimming and just being out in nature. However, I reached a real awareness of the power of silence about eight months ago.  It started with my radio breaking.

 

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I never quite got around to replacing the radio, and so instead of listening to the ‘upbeat’ Chris Evans show, or hectoring John Humphries, as I soon as I woke up, I heard …… silence. At first it was unnerving, an enforced cold turkey which left me slightly on edge, but there was something about the silence that made me want to peresevere and now, as I get ready on the morning, I listen to silence and let my mind wander.

Starting up a company can be a huge leap of faith, frenzied, and plunge the founder into a steep learning curve. There are loads of new experiences, meetings, phone calls and significant changes in life itself. The life of a founder can involve long hours, traveling, speaking, making new connections etc. This constant ‘stimulation’ can be like a drug and ultimately has an enormous impact on the life of the founder and potentially their business.

The noise in life appears to be increasing with open plan offices, mobiles, podcasts, the increase in videos on social media, traffic etc. Founders are told to get out there: that mixing with people, working in cafes will help increase their motivation and energy levels. But is that really true? Perhaps there are those who need the opposite or at the very least a break from the noise of life? People are different. Noise can be exhausting. The Fast Company article  “Quiet doesn’t cut it: why your brain might work better in silence” provides excellent insights into noise – we are affected by all levels of noise not just loud intrusive noises. It also talks about giving the brain a break with a good dose of silence, and that many of us will do our best work in silence.

There are plenty of articles on the importance of silence, and its ability to promote calm as well as relieve stress and tension. Try typing in the phrases ‘can silence stimulate creativity’, and ‘effects of silence’ into Google. There are a multitude of fascinating articles on the potential of silence to regenerate the brain, give the brain a rest, promote calmness, creativity and many other benefits.

Looking back, silence has always been important to me: whether it was studying for exams, writing an article, working with data or just thinking. However, I did not know how important it was, and so I used to go out walking to find that opening of the mind which lets thoughts and problems be processed. I still walk but having now realised that I can achieve the same state with silence it means that I can ‘take my mental walk’ just about any time, and any place (as long as I have a set of ear plugs). With open plan offices, many people try and reduce the distractions of background noise by listening to music with ear phones. They may be better to wear noise cancelling ear plugs or head phones and listen to ………… nothing.

So, getting back to the founder of a startup who is constantly advised to get out there, talk, listen, meet people, conduct interviews and so on; perhaps the best advice is to seek silence – find some dream time, and make sure you give your brain a break.

What do you think? When do you do your best work?

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"The Sound of Silence - Can you bear it? Startup series part 12" First published on Company Connecting April 2018

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