“Do you want to Speak With Impact, get more creative or solve thorny problems? Then learn a lesson from the great poet Robert Burns.
As a junior lawyer I remember being faced with my first legal debate for a case at Glasgow Sheriff Court. It was a fairly complex construction dispute and I had heard that the Sheriff did not suffer fools gladly. I worked late for a few nights in a row and did little else except prepare for the case. One evening, though, I reached a mental roadblock on a particular point and could not see a way through. Having exhausted all other options, for some reason I decided to take a walk outside. A long walk.
I walked along Argyle Street and forgot all about the case. I appreciated the fabulous buildings of the Merchant City and decided to keep going. I went as far as Dennistoun, passing the old brewery, and then turned at Alexandra Parade. On the way back a few thoughts about the case popped into my head. A legal angle that I had previously ignored suddenly took centre stage. By the time I reached the office again my mind was racing as I had several legal avenues to explore. I felt invigorated by the walk and completed my preparation in short order.
Since those days I have used this basic tip many times with pleasing results. Which brings me to the opening gambit of this piece – it would appear Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, used walking outside to foster his creativity. I was researching for an Immortal Memory speech for a Burns Supper earlier this year and I found a number of references to his outdoor approach:
“His brother Gilbert noted that holding the plough was a favourite situation with Robert for poetic composition.”
“Burns composed mostly out of doors, in his head – although he always carried a pen and ink with him, to scribble down ideas.”
I got the clear impression that sitting at a desk was just not for him and that being outside, on the move, helped him enormously. Then I read a direct quote from the man himself which confirmed it. After getting the initial poetic sentiment and first stanza:
“…I walk out, sit down now and then, look for objects in Nature around me that are in unison or harmony with the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom; humming every now and then the air with the verses I have framed; when I feel my Muse beginning to jade, I retire to the solitary fireside of my study, and there commit my effusions to paper…”
Do you need some creative spark? Go outside for a walk. Are you stuck on ideas a speech? Go outside for a walk. Is there a problem you are struggling to overcome? Go outside for a walk.
Of course, no technique works perfectly every time but this could just be the approach for unlocking some of your current challenges. After all, it was good enough for the man described (rightly in my view) as ‘a great poet for all time’.”
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was of a similar opinion on the power of walking, stating that “all truly great thoughts are conceived while walking”, a quote I came across recently while preparing for an Active Travel market research project for a UK city. The benefits of walking, where possible, rather than driving or taking public transport, extend far beyond physical health improvements and financial savings. It also reminded me that one of the best strategy workshops in which I have ever participated included a session when all delegates went for a long walk. We got to know each other better and exchanged more ideas and views than we had done on any previous strategy days. And a lot more pleasant than sitting in a stuffy hotel conference room.
Although they have not actually sent anyone out for a walk yet, Speak with Impact have helped some of my clients prepare their business development pitches for a variety of projects, giving them the skills and confidence to win the work, and also trained some on public speaking. If you’re looking to improve or refresh your communications skills, I’d highly recommend Speak with Impact (look out for their new branding and website coming soon).
Happy walking and thinking!