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Hurricane Sandy sure changed what I was doing during the last week in October. With all of my clients’ projects trapped in an un-powered computer – and with 80 mph winds lashing the side of the house – I ended up with some rather unexpected free time on my hands.

Big-picture thinking became the goal, and between putting logs on the fire and checking on my elderly neighbors, I was able to catch up on some reading (yup – the old-fashioned kind…with an honest-to-goodness book).

Not too long ago, I’d started doing some preliminary planning and analysis on where to take my business in 2013. (For all you procrastinators: yes, it’s time to plan now). By whatever twist of fate, I found myself reading The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau.

As many of you know I question everything, so unconventional thinking tends to be quite attractive to me. I found a number of concepts and thoughts that will certainly help my business in this book.

But one thing in particular stood out.

It turns out that Bill Gates had a habit while running Microsoft in its glory days of holding something called “Think Weeks.” Apparently, twice a year he would shut out all distractions and go into a room full of reading material he’d selected for several days at a time. Food would be brought in and he would “plot the future of Microsoft’s world domination strategy.” (Give the man some focused time and he took over the world…at least until Apple’s iPod Revolution firmly caught our attention.)

Intriguing, isn’t it?

I thought so too. The idea of shutting out the noise of the world for a couple of days and spending the time quietly looking at your business and absorbing new information from research, mentors, e-mentors and even your competition provides a new perspective on your direction. It gives you the ability to discover what “rings true” to you.

The Lesson? Learning is Great for Your Business.

Learning and expanding your expertise and worldview is one of the best things you can do for your business. But as with all things, it’s important to carefully choose the materials, authors and people of influence you look to for guidance.

All of this information – including the people you spend time and surround yourself with – is what leads to how successful you will become

You Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Hurricane!

My advice: don’t wait for the next power-robbing storm for some ‘business growth strategy-planning downtime.’ Make the time and take all of that information you’ve been collecting into a quiet room – you never know where all those minds will take you, or how they’ll inspire you!

Who are some of the thinkers and doers you follow? How have they helped you develop your business?