Have you ever wondered what it feels like check-in at Bates Motel? Or to wander the dark corridors of Dracula’s castle on a stormy night? Earlier this year, I got a taste of it. Allow me to share with you a strange, creepy, and maybe even slightly embarrassing personal creative story, and explain how it connects to one of our innovation methods.
Last September, we launched Thinkergy US, a network of licensed Thinkergy innovation trainers to help spread our innovation methods across North America. It was my last day in Minneapolis after eight days of highly intensive —and successful— train-the-trainer workshops. All I longed for was a drink and a comfy bed for the night before flying on to New York the next morning.
Unfortunately, the hotel I had stayed at all week was fully booked on my final day. I needed a five-star hotel close to the airport. Kevin Ehlinger, my host and local business partner, hadn’t booked a hotel yet, but with over 200 four- and five-star hotels in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, we foresaw no problem.
We checked out all the four and five-star hotels near the airport. All were fully booked. We widened our search online and no luck. The only place with a vacancy was a country club close to Kevin’s home at Lake Minnetonka. “I know the place,” he told me. “Let’s bring you there for the night.”
As we drove towards Lake Minnetonka, the sky darkened. Night was falling fast. Thunder rolled in the distance. A tremendous thunderstorm was about to break lose. Five miles later, a torrential rain set in. We had to manoeuvre around large puddles and storm-tossed trees. “It seems I’m doomed”, I remarked. Finally, the outline of a large mansion emerged. “Here we are. This is the country club you’re staying tonight”, said Kevin. The building lay in complete darkness. A line from the Eagles’ song “Hotel California” entered my mind: “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
We parked the car under the roof terrace and entered a dark hotel lobby. “Sorry, we have a brownout,” was the receptionist’s welcome message: “Probably some trees crashed on the electric cables.”
“How long does it take to bring the power back,” I asked.
“Maybe an hour or two. Maybe the whole night. But we have a flashlight for each guest to take to their rooms.”
Kevin comes in: “We’ll take one room for my guest. Here is my credit card.”
“Sorry, Sir, we can’t do a check-in now as the computers are down. Here’s the key to the room on the third floor. Sorry the elevators don’t work, so please take the stairs.”
Like the thunder, my gut rumbled: “This all feels bad.” But Kevin had already taken one of my bags. I grabbed the other one and followed him upstairs. Reaching the third floor, we pushed open a heavy wooden door. A loud, creaking noise reverberated. My room was right opposite. I entered the pitch dark room and dropped my bags. In the flashlight the room looked luxurious, but my gut was now rebelling and yelling: “Don’t stay here.”
I followed Kevin back to the lobby. I had a really uneasy feeling. We had a quick chat on our pick-up arrangement for the next morning. Suddenly, four firemen, drenched from the storm and armed with heavy axes, entered the lobby. Without a word, they walked upstairs. I commented on the absurdity of the situation: “The Ghostbusters have arrived. Finally!”
Kevin started laughing, but now my gut told me: “Walk away.”
I mastered all my courage and went to the receptionist: “Sorry, Ma’am, may I ask you a stupid question: Is this place haunted?”
She looked at me in surprise: “How did you know?” Then, looking down, she said: “We occasionally have sightings on the third floor, but down here it’s safe.”
“Thanks for your honesty,” I replied. “I can feel it. Sorry, I won’t stay.”
We went back to the room, grabbed my bags, and drove off to Kevin’s apartment. He put out an air mattress on the floor for me. It felt simple, humble and good. Opening my phone to check for messages, I noticed that, by accident, I seemed to have recorded a short video at the time I was in the room at the country club. It showed a door handle repeatedly moving up and down. I deleted it to put the incident out of my mind. Finally, feeling safe and sound, I drifted off into a deep sleep.
So why do I tell you this creepy creative story?
It relates to Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I created for Thinkergy and will publish as a book mid of next year. Genius Journey teaches how to identify and discard disempowering mindsets and action routines and replace them with corresponding empowering mindsets that set you and your creativity free.
On the foundational level, Genius Journey asks you first to stop your doubts, worries and fears. Instead, become a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Now guess how I train candidates on the Genius Journey to fight their fears? I take them through a fake haunted house. Now you’re asking: Why did I chicken out at the country club at Lake Minnetonka?
Creative leaders trained in the Genius Journey method are integrated whole-mind thinkers. They’ve built-up a highly attuned intuitive, creative mind that complements their well-developed rational, scientific mind:
- My rational mind knew that statistically, it’s highly improbable for so many unlikely events occur all at once: my hotel is fully booked on my last day; my host forgot to book another room; all but one of more than 200 hotels are fully booked; a heavy storm knocked out the power to my last-chance hotel; and so on.
- But more importantly, my intuitive mind signaled me that something felt wrong all along. It took real courage to ask if the hotel was haunted. I felt stupid, but it would have been more stupid, even reckless, to ignore my gut feeling.
What would you have done? Stayed the night with a flashlight in a dark room? It all comes back to our beliefs, the starting point of Genius Journey. Personally, I believe in the existence of a higher spiritual force for good that guides and protects me on my path. I also believe in the Yin-Yang principle: Where there is good, there are also dark, evil forces somewhere at work. And I have learned that if trust my inner sense of self and listen to my gut, all things turn out well in the end — and even a strange, creepy creative story will have a happy end.
Happy Holidays to all of you!
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 22 December 2016.