Vail Daily column: Thinking outside of the box |

Vail Daily column: Thinking outside of the box

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

A dilemma is a situation requiring a choice between equally undesirable alternatives. But sometimes what we consider to be dilemmas are simply problems requiring us to “think outside the box.” Allow me to illustrate by relating a story I heard years ago.

You’re driving down the road in your two-seat sports car on a dark and stormy night. You pull into a convenience store to get something to drink and notice three people standing at a bus stop adjacent to the store.

The first person you notice is an aging and ailing woman who is in some type of distress and appears moments from death. The second individual is someone who once saved your life during childhood and the third is someone of the opposite sex you met years ago and have regretted not getting their name and number from ever since, because you knew in your heart that this individual could be the partner of your dreams.

So what would you do? Most people’s first inclination might be to give the ailing woman a ride due to her great distress. What could possibly be more noble than driving her to a hospital where she could receive proper care?

“But what’s even more dangerous is that in-the-box thinkers are skillful at killing ideas with statements such as ‘that’ll never work.’”

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

But what about your old friend who once saved your life — this would be the perfect opportunity to repay him or her.

At the same time, you’re also aware that if you miss this opportunity to reconnect with the third person at the bus stop, then you may never find your perfect mate.

Is this truly a dilemma? Are you really faced with equally undesirable alternatives? Remember, only two people can fit into your car, so do you take the older sickly woman to the hospital, repay a debt to a longtime friend or offer a ride to what could potentially be the perfect mate? Give yourself a moment before choosing.

Seeing things differently

If you struggled to arrive at a solution beneficial to everyone, then give some thought to the following. You might offer your car keys to the friend who saved your life and allow him (or her) to take the elderly woman to the hospital while you stay behind with the potential partner of your dreams, and while waiting for the bus, you’ll have an opportunity to get to know him or her. This solution benefits everyone because you chose to step back and alter your normal way of looking at things.

Classic inside the box thinking

Creative thinking consultant Ed Bernaki reminds us that in-the-box thinkers find it difficult to recognize the quality of an idea. For example, in 1899, Charles H. Duell, then director of the U.S. Patent Office, publicly announced that, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Yup — he actually said that.

But what’s even more dangerous is that in-the-box thinkers are skillful at killing ideas with statements such as “that’ll never work” or “it’s too risky.” For some reason, inside-the-box thinkers seem to take a perverted pleasure in draining enthusiasm and passion from others.

Thinking outside of the box requires a willingness to take risks and look at other perspectives. It requires openness and a readiness to do different things and, more importantly, to do things differently while finding value in new ideas and approaches. So what are you — an in-the-box or an out-of-the-box thinker?

Quote of the day: “You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.” —Albert Einstein

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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