Be alone, that’s the secret to invention

Creativity for me does not happen in crowds. However, this is simply not a personality issue. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Create some time to just listen to yourself.
  • Moments of solitude allow you to reach deep within yourself and your imagination.

We live in a people-driven society. From the day we were born, there have been been people around us who shaped how we think, our values and what we believe in, among others.

At school we were surrounded by classmates. At home, we had our families. Every day when we read or watch news, we learn about what other people are doing. Social media also gives us an opportunity to share and consume information.

Many extra-curricular activities revolve around people. Nowadays, training programmes centre around group activities.

Our social interactions are important but given that other people play a role in shaping our lives, it is no wonder that we tend to worry about what they think of us.

That’s what we learnt anyway; to want the validation. However, this sometimes comes at a dangerous price.

We forget ourselves, we don’t learn to hear ourselves and many times we don’t really know what we want.

We know what we have been taught to want but have no idea what we authentically want.

Over time, we have also been compared to other people in conventional ways such as grades, family status, career paths, financial status, among others, so we keep making the biggest mistake of our life – thinking that these are the only things that will give us a happy and fulfilling life.

But in the midst of all this, you need to listen to yourself when making life decisions.


The question thus begs: How do you get to hear yourself in a noisy world? I believe one of the greatest gifts one can give themselves is solitude.

I do not mean you have to go live in the mountains for three months (although if that’s what you really need, go for it!) What I mean is the ability to regularly and in your own way spend time alone and get comfortable in that space.

We tell our entrepreneurship students to spend 30 minutes a day alone thinking about their businesses.

Many find this very uncomfortable in the beginning, but as time goes on, they report being able to generate ideas or think about solutions they never would have.

My personality has made this relatively easy for me. I naturally recharge by being alone.

Had I not devoted time for myself, these articles that you have been reading for the past eight years would probably not exist.

Creativity for me does not happen in crowds. However, this is simply not a personality issue.

It stems from the understanding that not everything you need is out there.

Not all the correct answers are with somebody else or have even been thought about. It is not always about the external resources you are looking for.

The highlight of our personal finance programme comes when people realise they were sitting on something they could use and get over the mental barriers that exist so they can actually leverage on those resources.

We have seen people who have paid off debts by baking, but they had to understand that they could actually do it, and even get over what others thought about them trotting into work with cakes.

That internal push came from spending time with themselves.

Validation from other people is great. But there will come a time in your life when that validation will be missing, so you will have to draw on internal conviction to move in an unfamiliar direction.

You may intend to start a business and nobody around you understands why you would want to quit your well-paying job. Many people stop here because they wrongly think that if others don’t approve of their choices, then something must be wrong with their line of thought.

It could be a career or life path quite contrary to the one you have been groomed to take. But people can’t think for us because they are not us.

These are some of the moments that call for some time alone. It is in these moments of solitude when you discover your true identity.

The clearer your own voice becomes, the better you see yourself and what you truly want.


Waceke is the founder of Centonomy. Her book Making Cents will be on sale soon. Get in touch on [email protected] [email protected]