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The Linear Minded Inn Keeper

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!


         In a previous column, entitled “The Greedy Innkeeper” [Saipan Tribune; Nov 24, 2010], I told the tale of an apartment owner who was so intent on holding out for the maximum financial return from a guest (me), that he lost the entire deal. I judged him as greedy and ended up with a great title and an instructive story to tell.

         However, a wise friend commented:

“You expected him to think at a much higher intellectual capacity than he could.  Some people just have a more linear mind, but that does not make them greedy.  He definitely failed to weigh the benefits and consequences, and it's good that you've analyzed the situation and went elsewhere, once you found that your expectations were not being met.”

        So, I stand corrected. And so, with my apologies to the innkeeper (however, I still like the original title), I’ll proceed to the subject of the day: “what is linear vs non-linear thinking, and how can either help the business owner and passionpreneur?”

If you search the web, you’ll find many definitions and examples of what constitutes linear and non-linear thinking.

Linear thinking:

1. a process of thought or problem-solving following known cycles or step-by-step progression where a response to a step must be elicited before another step is taken.

2. To continue to look at something from one point of view. To take information or observations from one situation, place this data in another situation (usually later), and make a conclusion in the later situation.


You’ll hear the opposite of linear thinking described as “non-linear thinking,” “lateral thinking,” “creative thinking,” and even “systems thinking.”

Non-Linear thinking: a technique of problem solving by approaching problems indirectly at diverse angles instead of concentrating on one approach at length..


Boom! Goes the dynamite!

An example of non-linear (lateral, creative, etc.) thinking in popular culture is the lead character of the Macgyver television series whose strength allowed him to create bombs out of cellophane, twigs and saliva, while a linear-minded counterpart would search for “bombs” in the yellow pages, call them up and make a purchase.

         One example of linear thinking that I found interesting was framed in this way: “Given two otherwise similar job applicants applying for a hotel manager position, whom would you hire: (A)the person with hotel management experience, or (B) the person with experience in an unrelated industry?”

         Of course, there are many factors that one would weigh in any such choice, but the example is used merely to illustrate that a linear thinker would conclude person A’s experience in the hotel management industry to mean they would be more qualified, while a non-linear thinker might “think outside the box” and conclude that Person B might bring a fresh new perspective to the position and might make them even more qualified.

The point is simply that the ability to think outside of and beyond traditional ways of thought can be useful for any business owner.


 Lateral Applied

Of course, the entire process and adventure of turning one’s passion into profit is an ongoing exercise in escaping from linear thinking when it comes to certain basic questions.


How can I earn money?

Linear: get a job, get a salary (that’s why it’s called Linear income!) Non-linear: turn your passion into profit


How can I market my product?

Linear: buy ads, use “interrupt marketing”

Non-Linear: use “word of mouth/mouse,” employ social networks


How can I earn more in my current business?

Linear: charge more, or perhaps charge less!

Non-Linear: charge less or perhaps charge more!

This is a unique question that varies in its applications. It’s been shown, for example, that charging a higher price for a product can sometimes increase its perceived value and result in more sales. For other items, charging less, can also bring a product within the reach of more consumers and you can then, as the saying goes, “make it up in volume.”


Over the course of many years doing business on the web, I’ve had my own linear thinking challenged, and have learned, for instance, that:

- Sometimes the best way to make a lot of money with a book is to give it away for free!

- Sometimes the best way to make more sales is to make the “buy” button harder to find.

- Sometimes the best make a lot of people aware of something is to take pains to make it a secret.


 So back to our innkeeper

To illustrate in previously-used terms, let’s say you are an inn-keeper interested in making a profit. You have a potential client who is a foreigner (and, you know, those foreigners are known to have more money to spend). You think to yourself, “In order to make MORE money, I must charge MORE per day. Then, 30 days multiplied by X dollars per day will equal Y dollars! I’ll be rich!

The non-linear thinking innkeeper next door, on the other hand, thinks about other options, steps back to see the big picture, and thinks, “Well, if I charge too much, I might scare him away. Rather than lose the entire sale and earn $0 for the month, I will charge LESS per day, but still earn a sizable monthly profit which is better than nothing at all. I’ll be rich!”

         So, both innkeepers could be equally greedy—or not—but one, by simply applying a different type of thinking, could achieve the desired outcome.

And back to you

Now, this doesn’t mean that all linear thinking is “bad.” However, since today’s focus is on the non-linear, here’s the question: What traditional, linear ways of thought and action are YOU applying to your life and your business that are not working, and might be challenged by more lateral, creative and non-linear thinking?


I’ll leave you with two quotes to ponder until next we meet:

“Problems cannot be solved by the same level

of thinking that created them.”—Einstein


“If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got, and you'll always feel what you always felt.”—credited to many including Krishna and Einstein



Note: Where will YOUR passion take you? What sort of life would you live if you could? Find out what's possible. Check out my new adventures on


Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that revealed the best things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to!


Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!--Walt

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