What Does “Think Out of the Box” Really Mean?

SPOILER ALERT: The solution to the puzzle appears farther down, so don’t scroll until you’re ready.

The concept of Think Out of the Box was created by Mike Vance over 30 years ago, and stems from a simple pencil and paper game.

The objective is to connect all nine of the dots shown with just four straight lines without lifting your pencil from the page. Begin at any dot, but once the point touches down, you can’t lift it until all nine dots are covered. 4 straight lines.Outside the Box Puzzle

Hint: Think out of the box

The cover of my guide to live young and sexy as long as possible, available in Print and Kindle from Amazon, is place here as a spacer so you don’t accidentally scroll down to the puzzle’s solution. It’s also an unabashed advertisement. Did I mention it’s available at Amazon?

Nutritional Leverage


Okay, back to the point at hand. Here’s the solution. Place your pencil at point (a) and follow the arrows.

Solution to Thinking Outside the Box

And from this simple mind game, grew Mr. Vance’s greatest notoriety, although, having been privileged to attend one of his lectures back in the ‘90s, he had a lot more to contribute than just this thought.

However, if I can be so bold, let me point out something that may be lost in the model.

Mosst of outside the box is the box

Of the space within the new figure created by the four lines, 80% is still within the box.

Thinking “outside” does not mean that well established writing principles—this is a blog about writing—can be abandoned. Grammar, punctuation, character development, description, plot synthesis must all prevail. Meandering outside the lines to experiment with new methods is where you grow.

Harry Potter and Fifty Shades are wildly different. Rowling is a consummate story teller, and James, well, not so much. Both reached out and garnered broad readerships and commercial success by experimenting in areas that had not been tried. Candidly, I think Fifty Shades is an abysmal and poorly written book that’s a sociological fluke, but by comparing how many people know her work versus mine… who’s the fool?

I admonish you to learn your trade, understand the tools, and master conventional writing first; you can’t break the rules until you know them. Still, got a wild idea? Work on it. Work it hard. Maybe you can get a million women to read your book in the bathtub.


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