Often times when friends sit around chatting and having a good visit, someone will ask the latest brain teaser they heard. For instance, recently someone asked: if you put a coin into an empty bottle and insert a cork into the neck. How can you remove the coin without pulling the cork out or breaking the bottle?

I found out that the answer does not depend on whether you are looking at it as an optimist or pessimist, but whether or not you are ready to opt for unconventional thinking instead of conventional thinking. In other words, your attitude in solving this mystery is more dependent on whether it’s important enough for you to try and figure it out.

Let me explain. A conventional thinker habitually follows the accepted standards in solving puzzles. This is based upon a general agreement among the majority of people that has been established by general consent or accepted usage after having been randomly determined. We see this today displayed in national polls on various subjects or ideas, especially politics. In other words, it doesn’t depend on what you think, but what most people think that influences your decision.

On the other hand, unconventional thinking requires going outside the box of cultural norms. For instance, a lady who decided to donate to a different charity every day for a year instead of giving once to the United Fund – that’s unconventional giving. Or a travel fanatic who spent years visiting countries abroad who just published a book on how to eat cheaply and enjoy staying at home. Such things are not meant to draw attention nor to offend because of the joy and notoriety that comes with it. Rather, it is an effort to find an answer to some challenge that is not being solved by customary means. This is the basis for invention.

That’s why we call people who take time to find unconventional answers as being inventive. But to be inventive means to risk being wrong from time to time. And that’s the fear that keeps many people from tackling questions or problems for which there is no quick established solution. Such individuals think that if they just throw up their hands and walk away it will somehow take care of itself. When asked why they quit trying to figure it out they’ll often say, “Well, at least I tried!”

Had the inventors of the wheel, electricity, the automobile, the telephone, polio vaccine, computers and the internet taken that same kind of attitude, you can only imagine where we’d be today in our social and civic development. But believe it or not, there may be some among your acquaintances that are exactly in that situation. They have not tried anything new since they were in their teens! So the next time you run into a difficulty that cannot be resolved in the old fashion way, don’t be afraid of getting it wrong the first or second time, try being inventive.

By the way, to answer the brain teaser we started out with is this: Push the cork into the bottle and let the coin fall out on its own when you turn the bottle upside down. – Dr. Robert R. Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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