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The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson


Innovation Is About Mindset and Lifestyle

How a bottle of retsina provided a reminder

Published: Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 16:48

A few years ago, a friend of mine returned from visiting her family in Greece. Knowing that I loved to try new wines, she brought me a bottle that she said was her parents’ favorite. She told me it was called retsina.

It was a white wine and I was anxious to try it. After letting it chill, I opened the bottle and gave it a sniff. It had a pleasant aroma of crushed pine needles. I then poured a small amount in a glass, swirled it, sniffed again, and took a generous quaff. My taste buds reacted violently. It was horrible. I rushed to the sink and spit it out.

My first thought was that the wine had gone bad, but as I thought more about it, I realized it did not taste like vinegar (which would indicate that it had spoiled). Instead, it tasted like paint remover.

The label was in Greek, so I couldn’t read it. I called a friend who is a wine expert and said, “I’ve been given a bottle of retsina wine from Greece.” He immediately replied, “Tastes like turpentine, doesn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said. “Has it gone bad?”

He laughed. “No, it’s supposed to taste that way,” he replied. “It’s flavored with pine pitch.”

My next inclination was to dump the whole thing down the kitchen sink, but I hesitated. I recalled my friend saying that it was her parents’ favorite. That meant it couldn’t be all bad. I then remembered how often I tell people that to think like an innovator, you have to open your mind to new things.

Thinking that I should practice what I preach, I decided to give the wine another shot—and that’s exactly what I did. I drank it one shot at time. Every few days, I would drink a very small glass. That bottle lasted nearly a month. By the time I reached the end of the bottle, it no longer tasted repulsive; it was merely unique. Now, whenever I eat in a Greek restaurant, I’ll order a glass of retsina wine. I’ve got to say, it tastes much better with food.

Thinking like an innovator means exposing yourself to unusual things, new experiences, and different points of view. It’s a lifestyle that sets the stage for creative thinking. New concepts generally come from synthesizing two or more existing ideas. The more diverse your knowledge, the more concepts you have available to combine into something new.

The Greek idea of adding pine resin to wine, according to my friend the wine expert, was the result of some creative thinking under duress. When the Romans invaded Greece in 146 B.C., they looted all the valuables, including wine. Prior to the invention of oak wine barrels, the Greeks would store and preserve their wine in crockery sealed with pine pitch, which inevitably flavored it. At the time of the invasion, most Greeks had upgraded to using barrels, although some still stored it the old-fashioned way. No surprise to me, the Romans didn’t care for the wine sealed with pine resin, so they didn’t take it. To keep the Romans from plundering any more wine, the Greeks started adding it to all their wines. Over the years the Greeks came to love the unique flavor of retsina wine, so they have continued the practice of adding pine resin to some of their wines.

When you experience new things, you generate new information and data that you store in your brain. Each new experience literally opens new neural pathways—electrical connections—between the brain cells. To think creatively, you need a variety of knowledge from which to draw.

The more comfortable you become with exposure to new things, the more unique combinations will automatically occur to you as you go through life. Seeing new ways of doing things is a mindset you’ll develop as you live the innovator’s lifestyle.

Try something new today, perhaps a glass of turpentine wine—oops, I mean retsina.


About The Author

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Robert Evans Wilson Jr. is an author, humorist, and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Wilson is also the author of the humorous children’s book The Annoying Ghost Kid, which was self-published in 2011. For more information on Wilson, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.