There Is a Reason There Is a Box


How often have you heard someone described as an “out of the box thinker” or heard someone praised for “thinking outside the box”. This is usually considered a compliment. However in a recent conversation with one of my clients (who happens to be a world renowned plastic surgeon) I made the statement that forms the title for this article. THERE IS A REASON THERE IS A BOX.  I went on to say that I thought most people would do well to really familiarize themselves with the inside of the box. I like to think that the coaches I admire could be described as someone who knows the subject matter “inside and out” vs someone who thinks outside the box.

Coach John Wooden has a great quote :

“ if you spend too much time learning the tricks of the trade you may not learn the trade”.

Coach Wooden was a brilliant man and the way he coached basketball was amazingly simple. In fact, he began every year with a detailed explanation of how to put on your socks to avoid blisters. This could be described as very “inside the box” thinking . In fact, some coaches might view something as mundane as this as a waste of time. Wooden viewed players missing practice from blisters caused by not putting socks on correctly ( no wrinkles inside the shoes) as the real waste of time and he was correct. Wooden drilled fundamentals. Very inside the box. To be honest, most of the best coaches I know talk about simplicity more than complexity.  Athletes Performance founder Mark Verstegen often uses the phrase “simple things done savagely well” in his talks while Dewey Neilsen of Impact Sports Performance implores us to be Brilliant at the Basics. There is a Buddhist  quote that says “in the beginners mind there are many choices, in the experts mind there are few”.  I think there is a reason why I so often agree with so many of the people I consider to be good coaches. Those who have attained the expert level seem to think very much alike and react in very similar ways to new information.  The experts are open to change and have great mental filters. As a result the best coaches seem to end up at the same places even when coming from different paths.

People might view me as an “out of the box thinker” but that may be based on thirty years in the box. The truth is I can’t tell you how often I give the same answer to a different question. People ask questions. I tell them to KISS it ( and I don’t mean my rear end). I tell them Keep It Simple Stupid. Stay in the box. Out of the box thinking should be reserved for those who know the inside of the box like the literal back of their hand.

Next time you hear someone described as an “out of the box thinker” ask yourself if the person being referred to is also the “master of the box”. The key for us as coaches is to become “masters of the box” well before we become “out of the box thinkers”.

17 Responses to “There Is a Reason There Is a Box”

  1. I own a fly in fly fishing lodge. Every year I tell new workers how to wear work gloves when splitting wood. Why? Because when you nick yourself at a fly in fishing lodge, with your hands always wet and scabs forming then getting wet and failing, it takes 5 or 6 weeks to heal a simple cut, and work performance suffers. And, sure enough, every year the first 2 weeks, newbie is out of commission because he hasn’t worn gloves.

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