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We need those Einstein moments

It has been nearly a year since we were able to feel comfortable. Such a challenging year, and it’s not over yet! At some point in time, thoughts of “normal” seemed to fade away. The “new normal” became something to hope for, even though no one can define what that might be. Well, a year is a long time to hang our heads and wonder — too long to reflect without answers — too long to hope that everything will be better soon. After a year, it’s time to take action.

I recently enjoyed an interview with Jeremiah Tower, a person who, in his day, changed the restaurant industry with his forward-thinking ideas about what that experience should be like. Even after more than 40 years, his ideas still draw praise. In our discussion about the future of the restaurant business, he proclaimed: “What we need is an Einstein moment.” Ever since that conversation I have been contemplating the significance of that statement.

This isn’t the first time that our country, and the world for that matter, has been faced with a catastrophic event — an event that brought everything to a halt and made us wonder how we might ever recover. World wars, military conflicts, crazy weather events, floods and fires, the Great Depression, economic downturns, pandemics and terrorism have all weighed heavy on our minds, bodies and souls. We have always managed to claw our way out and even, in some cases, find a way to rise up stronger and more confident after. This may very well happen , but like those events in the past, never without ingenuity, a unified effort and boatloads of hard work. This pandemic is a bit of a different animal. It has managed to bring us to our knees on many different fronts simultaneously. This event has shown our vulnerability in health care, economics, social interaction, education, compassion, government, leadership, distribution channels, production, transportation, travel and food service — to name just a few. We find ourselves focused entirely on survival in the moment while investing little in how will we get through this and come out stronger and better.

Throughout history when a segment of society seems to have stalled or destined to decline, someone or some group has stepped out from the pack and revealed one of those Einstein moments — something that makes us first scratch our heads, maybe even resist, but in due time we recognize it as the path forward, a path that will excite, invigorate and renew. These moments never come without some pain and confusion — they never come without the need for us to change at some level. Change upsets our routines and tosses aside our preconceived ideas about what is right and how things should be done, but change, as is said, is inevitable.

When record sales were waning in the music industry — Napster came along with an Einstein moment and offered us the ability to download individual songs and package them as we like. Apple Computer then figured out a way to do that legally and identify a new revenue stream through iTunes. This was an Einstein moment. When the process of fighting traffic, parking your car and walking a few miles through a shopping mall became more of a chore than fun — room was made for online shopping to take hold. This was an Einstein moment for the consumer, but the retail industry still hasn’t figured out what to do with brick-and-mortar stores. When communication (or lack there of) became one of the greatest challenges for everything from business information to employees and customers, to family connections, and marketing and sales initiatives — the smartphone filled a gap and created a need that no one could have predicted. This was a true Einstein moment.

Now is the time for Einstein moments, not the time to simply reflect on what was, or hope that what was will be again. Now is the time to invest in creative thought — thought that will help us to shake things up and reinvent those parts of our life that have been changed irrevocably. Now is the time to embrace the exciting opportunity to not just fix but dramatically change those parts of our life that have demonstrated just how vulnerable they are.

We don’t need to fix health care, transportation, the supply chain, education, the way that we socially interact, the restaurant business or retail shopping — we need to reinvent it. This requires people who are willing to push aside what has been and think differently about the possibilities. It has been a very long year, and all indications are that challenges will continue to be there for some time to come. Let’s put our heads together and start seeking out how to be different and better in the future. How can we rise up from this challenge and come out stronger than ever? Where are those Einstein moments and where will they come from? We can’t just dig our way out of this — we must think, learn to forget what we think we know, share ideas, experiment, and invest our heads and our hearts in the possibilities.

“The world of reality has its limitations; the world of imagination is boundless.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Einstein moments go beyond problem solving — they help to create a new platform of thinking and acting that will help to minimize the existence of future problems. It is said that humans use less than 10% of their brain potential, yet when given the opportunity to think differently, some are able to shed light on a challenge in ways that few others have given thought. It’s time to tap into that potential — we all have the potential. What better place to find the oxygen for creativity than in the Adirondacks. It’s not ironic that Albert Einstein found his way to the Adirondacks along with a plethora of great writers, incredible researchers and icons in the hospitality industry. They all knew the potential that the tranquility of our environment provides.

Paul Sorgule lives in Saranac Lake.

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