When I was a teenager I spent a lot of time by myself. I don’t think I was the only one, by the way, being socially impaired is common stuff among teenagers these days. And I’m sure it was like this for centuries.

During those lonely moments my mind started to invented games. Maybe to avoid boredom, maybe to prove myself that spending time alone was a good thing (which wasn’t, of course). Thing is that out of this rather strange period of my life emerged one of the most challenging, useful and fun self improvement techniques I ever experienced.

It’s called “how to get from A to B in 5 random steps” and it works like this: you pick two words, which are the start point and the endpoint. Those words can represent things, concepts, actions, whatever your want. Then you force your mind to find 5 ways to get from A (the start point) to B (the endpoint). Those 5 steps must have something in common but they aren’t forced to follow any logical blueprint. You are the one who creates the connection between the steps. Doesn’t matter if it’s something very personal, as long as it does retain a semantic link along the way. And you must go through only 5 steps, not 4, not 6. A chain of 5 semantic links between 2 concepts.

Sounds a little bit more complicated than it is. So, I’m going to give you 3 short examples (and yes, that means I still do this):

From Cheese to Car

  1. Step one starts from realizing that cheese come from milk. Number one word is “milk”.
  2. Step two acknowledges that milk comes largely form cows (it can also comes from sheep, but I chose cows). Number two word is “cow”.
  3. Cows are eating grass, of course. Number three word: “grass”.
  4. One of the most simple pleasures in life is to walk barefoot on the grass. Number four word: “barefoot”.
  5. One of the most funny images I recall from being a child is Fred and Barney, barefoot, driving their Stone Age cars. Which leads us to the final word: “car”.

cheese -> milk -> cow -> grass -> barefoot -> car.

From Red to Leg

  1. The first thing that comes to my mind is from Karl May’s Winnetou (one of my favorite heroes) and it’s a red skin Indian. Which makes the first word “Indian”.
  2. But you can’t really picture an Indian without making room in the picture for a bunch of cowboys. Word number two: “cowboys”.
  3. And where the cowboys used to live? Of course in the “wild wild west”, which is step number three.
  4. That “wild wild west” was the beautiful background for one of the largest quests in modern history: the quest for gold. Word number four: “gold”.
  5. And what can you make with gold: a bracelet for a leg. Which leads us to the final word, “leg”.

red -> Indian -> cowboys -> wild wild west -> gold -> leg

From Squirrels to Diamonds

  1. Squirrels are nuts for nuts, right? Word number one: “nuts”.
  2. And nuts are usually found in the forest, right? Let then Forrest Gump join in. Step number two: “Forrest Gump”.
  3. I will never forget how Forrest lives a wonderful life owning a bunch of apple shares, at the end of the movie. Step number  three: “apple”.
  4. And what Apple did in such a way that it completely changed the market game? Iphones, of course. Step number four: “iphones”.
  5. An iphone isn’t trendy enough if you don’t put a shiny and completely useless diamond case around it. And that leads us to the final word: “diamonds”.

squirrel -> nuts -> Forrest Gump -> apple -> iphones -> diamonds

I think you now got the idea. Getting from A to Be in 5 random steps is really fun. I used to do this a lot and as I already told you I still do it from time to time.

But doing this for fun was just like the visible part of an iceberg. Deep down, under water, serious things happened, slowly. After a few years I realized that behind this technique was a huge potential. Of course, I had access to this potential all the time, but never at a conscious level. It was hidden in a shiny, useless game. But at some point I realized that the real power of this technique appears the moment you understand that A’s and B’s can be anything you want. Like real things. In your real life.

Replacing The Ends

Now let’s take it serious for a moment. Let’s replace the A’s and B’s with real life situations. Like making A your current situation and B the future, desired situation. Your medium term goal. Let’s say you want to get from broke (A) to rich (B). Or from sad (A) to cheerful (B). Or from single (A) to a happy relationship (B). Ups, that’s a huge shift, isn’t it? Now those random steps are all of a sudden incredible doors to new opportunities, right? Those mental connections are creating new paths. Real paths for real things.

Take a break and think for a while. Try to identify your A’s and B’s. Try to see what you don’t like right now (the A’s) and how would you like it to be in an ideal world (B’s). Put your A’s and B’s on a piece of paper in front of you and try to go from start to end in 5 random steps. Above all, make it fun. Make it like going form squirrel to diamonds, or from red to leg. Don’t let your mind chose a walked path. Let it free, wandering and making surprising choices. That’s the spirit. Now you’re having fun, right?

Seriously Playing

There are at least 4 huge benefits of this apparently innocent and useless game.

1. There Is No Correct Way

There is only your way. Too often solving a problem is becoming impossible because we’re trying to apply correct, or proven techniques. Well, “correct” doesn’t work all the time. If it’s proven, it only means it worked in the past, there is no guarantee it will work again. But out of habits we prefer to froze our mental paths and chose only what was once sure. Playing this game will unfroze those patterns. Will make you understand that there is no “correct” way. There is only one way. Your way.

2. It’s Your Life

Since the base rule of the game is to create a meaningful connection from one point to another, but only from your own life experience, it will strengthen your own universe. Maybe you would have chosen something different at the squirrel and diamonds exercise. I chose Forrest Gump. Because in my universe Forrest Gump has a special place. Or so I think. In your own universe there might be someone or something else. This is why your own life is precious. Nobody else can have it. Enjoy it. Respect it. It’s your life.

3. Train Your Brain For Opportunities

Playing this game will shift your brain behavior in ways you never experienced. I’m not joking. And I’m not exaggerating either. If you constantly fracture your reality in random ways in order to get from A to B, your brain will start to see things it never saw before. Because you’re actually training it for that. You’re forcing your brain to see new stuff and incorporate it in your thinking patterns. The most visible consequence of practicing this game for several months is that you will start to actually spot opportunities around you. Real life opportunities.

4. Prepare For The Unknown

If it’s random, it can’t be predicted, right? It’s unknown. And practicing the unknown in a controlled environment will make you better at facing the unknown in an uncontrolled environment, which basically is what we call real life. If you’ll encounter some strange, unpredictable situations in your projects, well, you’re going to react with a lot of less stress than usual. Hmm, yes, it happens. It’s that randomness, you know? Facing the unknown and reacting to it on the spot is part of life. Actually, is one of the best parts of life.

Can You Do It?

Now, really, can you do it? I think it will be fun. I’m going to poke some of my preferred fellow bloggers and see if they will respond to this and how. So, basically I’m challenging them to write a post with (or about) how to get from A to B in 5 random steps. Might be an example, an exercise, several exercises, whatever. Just for fun. Steven, Mike, Jonathan, Stephen, Kristy, Bunny, Luciano, Steve are you in? Really look forward to see your mental connection from whatever A’s and B’s are crossing your minds right now. :-)

Oh, by the way, if you’re not among the poked bloggers but  you do want to join, don’t be shy. Just write your own A to B in 5 random steps post and link back here, so we all know what you’re up to. And let the randomness begin. And the awesomeness. As one of my dearest virtual friends once said, there’s no charge for awesomeness. And that friend would be Kung Fu Panda, of course. :-)