A Brighter Idea

Years ago I read a book that challenged the way I looked at the world around me. I don't recall the title, but I vividly remember two things.

The first was a perilous journey through a mountainous region in Mexico. The author, then a young man and the owner of an unreliable auto, had been pressed into driving an old woman back to her natal village. Sheer drops loomed to one side; reckless drivers barreled toward them on the other. When the travelers finally saw the village from afar, it glowed with the golden light of a New Jerusalem, and the two almost wept with relief. But when the driver woke in the village the next morning, he saw it was a sad, filthy and impoverished place. Which, he asked, was the reality? 

The second was his advice to "always think sideways." Which brings us to the photo. We had quickly and rather cleverly crafted a display shelf from scrap wood. Too late — or so we thought — we saw that the pyramid shape of the shelf blocked the spotlights. We stepped back, and the proverbial light went off. We flipped the pyramid on its head, thus transforming a rather ordinary-looking shelf into something that delighted the eye, because it defied the eye's expectations.

So forget about "thinking outside the box." And don't just think sideways. Think upside down, because sometimes even the most obstinate problem can be solved simply by turning it on its head.

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