A Poetic Pause to Reveal the Solution

The faster we can connect, the more we can get done. Isn’t that the promise of email, texts, Zoom, and Slack? 5G doubles productivity. Go! Go! Go! The light is always green!

While we are busy getting more work done, has quality faltered for speed? Do we allow time for our best work to be done? Do the best solutions come to us under the pressure of all this instant communication or in the silence of a walk in the woods? Look around and we see that the most creative and beautiful solutions actually come to light when given space. Even the smallest of pauses can then reveal the most eloquent of solutions.

Envision the iconic goateed beatnik at a poetry slam lingering in the space of the caesura (the natural gap in speech) before completing the next line in the poem. The pause creates tension before the revelation. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” has a quintessential caesura.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”

In Spanish fútbol, there is a moment when a player dribbling the ball quickly toward the opponent’s goal might slow down and take a brief “La Pausa” or pause. It’s a very subtle change of pace from the frantic running up the field.

FC Barcelona’s legendary midfielder Xavi Hernandez used La Pause to create calmness with the ball and in that brief second, spaces between players change, and opportunities to penetrate and score goals reveal themselves in a way that would not have been possible if he tried to outpace everyone else. A frantic player would have missed what became an obvious opportunity for Xavi. It’s in that sublime moment of pause he makes a pass to a teammate that seems to open up the game in an unexpected and eloquent way that truly expresses soccer as the “beautiful game.”

In the American version of football, where players collide and destroy space and time to dominate the opponent, there was a running back, Barry Sanders, who was like no other. Sanders had his own version of a poetic pause. He would actually slow down, at times coming to a complete stop, in the thickest and most chaotic space on the field, the line of scrimmage, to see the spaces between players reveal opportunities to gain yards up the field. While everyone else expected him to run, cut, and slash forward as fast as he could between the thousands of pounds of muscle mass colliding all around him, Sanders, composed and agile, paused and then elusively found the wrinkle in time and space to gain yardage.

What can we as marketers learn from pauses that can turn into beautiful solutions? We all know that the path to achieving our goals is rarely a straight line yet many of us rush forward as if momentum and speed are the only way to achieve our ambitions. Inevitably there are stumbles, sometimes created by tumbling over our own feet. Instead of running as fast as possible (which seems to be a standard that changes the rate of Moore’s Law) take a moment to see the spaces that reveal the opportunities.

Perhaps you work for a brand that was recently acquired by a private equity firm and the growth shot clock is ticking or maybe your direct-to-consumer business isn’t hitting the same numbers it did when everyone was afraid to leave home in 2020. It might be that you simply want to grow faster now more than ever. Regardless, of whether the pressure to run fast is externally or intrinsically motivated, the irony is that the best path to achieving your goal, to solving complex problems, is more likely to reveal itself in a moment of pause when we slow down enough to see the spaces.

Why do fresh ideas or solutions often come to us in the shower, when hiking our favorite trail, cycling over gravel roads, or resting in the savasana yoga pose? It’s because our brain is actually at its best when free from stressors.

Perhaps the most important and strategic move you can make in your day, as you solve the marketing challenges of your brand, client, and organization is to be more like Barry Sanders than Usain Bolt. Yes, when the path to the finish line is an unobstructed straight line, working as fast as you can, could lead to a gold medal. However, when the goal is obstructed by inevitable variables, it can be wise to stop, look and listen to see what you have been missing. It’s in that moment that the eloquent solution from your beautiful mind may reveal itself.

Much like Ferris said, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.