February 7, 2024


Two months ago, my wife and I were sitting in our living room and we were talking about how dark it was in certain spots of the room with the existing lighting. 🛋️

As we talked about it, I thought, ambient lighting from other areas, could fix that. I turned on lighting from the kitchen and saw the ambient lighting actually helped.

Then, I looked to the hallway adjacent to the living room and thought, if I added two pot lights there, that ambient lighting would illuminate the living room indirectly. 🤔

And it would solve another problem we’ve had since we lived in our home - a very dimly lit hallway. For whatever reason, our main floor hallway only has lighting for HALF of it. I have no idea why. I always wondered why they didn’t extend the run. We lived with this situation for over three years. That was our status quo.

The next thought was, how would we get more pot lights? I figured, maybe I can give it a try. 🤩

When we moved into our home, we had an electrician had an additional electrical junction box to the middle of our living room and it seemed really fast and easy for him.

Because of that, I assumed the wood joists ran parallel and not perpendicular to the wire run I’d need to make to install two more pot lights and figured, why not give it a try myself! 🙌🏻

Here’s the thing. I’m not really a handy person, but being an innovator and having both innovation mindsets and skillsets, I’ve learned I can do pretty much anything. With the caveat of knowing it WILL take longer and learning (aka. making mistakes and failing) WILL happen throughout the process.

I assembled what tools I thought I needed for the job and went for it.

I drilled my first 4” hole in the ceiling and my first learning happened.

  • #1 There’s a perpendicular ceiling joist.
  • #2 Ceiling joists are thicker than I thought.
  • #3 There were TWO particular ceiling joists here

I felt bad. This was a mistake. I knew there was a stud there, but I thought it ran parallel, not perpendicular to the run I had. I wish I hadn’t made the hole, but it was already done. 🥺

I drilled my second 4” hole in the ceiling, where my first potlight would be with no issue, but then my second learning happened.

  • There’s many more perpendicular ceiling joists throughout the entire run I would need to get through.
  • That’s when I realized this would be a much harder job than I realized. It wasn’t going to be an easy thing to do.

I felt discouraged. How was I going to overcome these literal wood roadblocks in my way? How would I fix the extra hole I made in the ceiling? With my existing resources, there was no way I could do this on my own. 😭

I started researching electricians and calling around to see what the prices were to install two pot lights. I learned such a small job wasn’t cheap.

I wasn’t going to hire an electrician at their prices. So, I adopted an innovation mindset, one I call prototype living, to help me move forward. 🏃🏻

You see, I felt paralyzed with stuckness because of the literal roadblocks I encountered. The project felt harder than my skillset. Has that ever happened to you? You’re working on a project and gotten stuck or experienced some kind of setback/roadblock?

The way I got myself UNSTUCK, was framing the problem differently. I thought, if I just treat this like a prototype, and test and learn along the way, I can figure this out. And thinking that way, I realized I needed different tools: a more powerful drill, a camera scope, a fishing wire and a really long drill bit. 🛠️

Sometimes, we use the wrong tools for the problem at hand and we need to switch our toolkit. So, I asked my brother in law to borrow his tools and acquired the ones he didn’t have.

Eventually, I got everything I needed and it was time to try again. By the way, if you don’t know anything about pot lights or wiring, the hardest part is getting the WIRE to where you want your pot lights. Everything after that is pretty easy.

With my prototype living mindset, I knew I was going to see this to the end. I made another hole 4” in the ceiling, for my second potlight location and then It finally struck me. There were FIVE perpendicular ceiling joists that I needed to fish my wires through in order to get this job done. When I started, I thought there were ZERO.

With a more powerful drill in hand and a super long drill bit, it was time to see if I could make the holes. I had to be careful, because since I couldn’t see in the ceiling, I needed to make sure I didn’t drill into existing electrical (that’s why I had a camera scope).

Using my brother-in-law’s drill was a revelation for me. It was so powerful, making a 3/4” through a thick wood joist was effortless. It was like cutting through butter. 🧈 I had made one hole with my drill prior to that and it took a LOT more effort.

 It made me think, sometimes, we’re using the wrong tools to tackle the problems we face and we need to consider alternate ways and tools to solve it. It can make things a LOT easier. In this case, it was a more powerful drill.

Eventually, all the holes were made. The next part, was getting the fish tape through the holes I made. That part was much more challenging than I realized. That’s where my camera scope came into play. 📷

At one point, I was close to giving up because getting the fish tape was more difficult than I thought. But I realized, I made another assumption. Between two of the ceiling joists, there was a smoke detector. I was able to push the junction box a little bit above the ceiling so I could get my camera scope into it, but I never thought I could actually move the junction box out of my way so I could get my hand in there to be able to move wires around.

But since I hit more roadblocks and setbacks, I needed a different approach. I adopted a beginner’s mindset to look at things differently. What did I assume to be true that wasn’t true?

Assumption #1: I assumed the electrical box for my smoke detector couldn’t move. With a bit of work, I moved it completely out of the way.

Assumption #2: I assumed I needed to try and fish the fish tape through all three boards at one time. After addressing assumption #1, I realized, I didn’t have to fish it through all three boards. With the new opening through the smoke detector hole, I could do it through two boards first and then fish it through the final board. I also realized I could fish it in the other direction.

Dropping both these assumptions led me to reaching my solution and eventually the first wire run was done. 🤔

Adopting a beginner’s mind, dropping assumptions, looking at things with a fresh perspective was what ultimately led me getting the first wire run complete. SUCCESS!

The second wire run was a lot easier for me since I had that extra hole (the “mistake”) in the ceiling. Truthfully, I was really glad it was there! I needed that extra hole in the ceiling to learn all the things about my project I didn’t realize at first. It also became a lifeline for me to fish wires easily.

From there, it was simply a matter of connecting the wires and wiring up each potlight.

Finally, it was time for the moment of truth. I had my wife film the process because although I was somewhat confident it would work, I wasn’t entirely sure either. In theory, since all the wire connections were made properly, the lights SHOULD turn on. I told her, I expect this to work and I’m going to say “let there be light” when I flick this switch on. Let’s see what happens.

I flicked the switch on and thankfully, the lights did turn on! It worked!!! I was ECSTATIC. 🙌🏻🥳

I immediately noticed how much BRIGHTER the hallway was with the two new pot lights. I told my wife, “I can’t believe we’ve lived with this dimly lit hallway for over three years. This is SO much better.” “How did we put up with this for so long?” 🤯

Have you ever had that thought? What are you putting up with right now? What could have a reimagined future for you at your work? Or at home?  Possibilities are out there… You can create it. That’s what innovation is. Creating a new future.

I’m actually so happy with how much more light is in that hallway. 😁 I turn that light on all the time now and just leave it on. It has made such a noticeable difference and it has made a huge difference in our dark living room too. The ambient lighting from the pot lights really lightens up our living room.

With the extra hole in my ceiling, it actually wasn’t a big deal to fix it. I put back the drywall I cut out by nailing it in place, used mesh tape and used a lot of drywall compound to finish it. That mistake was the best first step I could have made. 

This story is an example of how having an innovative mindset and skillset enables you to overcome challenges, setbacks and literal roadblocks. It helps you think differently, reframe problems, get past stickiness and create new solutions. 

➡️ Here’s what I want you to think about as I wrap up this article. This will help you adopt an innovation mindset.

  1. What have you settled / lived with that needs reimagining? What’s your version of a dimly lit hallway?
  2. What new future could you create to deal with that pain? What’s your version of adding more pot lights?

  3. Adopt the beginner’s mindset. Check your assumptions. What are you assuming to be true that isn’t actually true? What’s your version of the electrical box?

  4. Drop unnecessary assumptions. Now that you’ve removed unnecessary assumptions, what’s a new way to rethink your problem? Can you try a different perspective? 

  5. When encountering roadblocks or setbacks how could you adopt a prototype living mindset to get past stuckness and challenges? What’s your version of the wood joists that I encountered and how might you get around it?
  6. Learning will happen through the innovation process. We tend to call them mistakes or failures, but remember, it’s just learning. You’ll never know everything there is to know about a project until you get started and get your feet wet. The only way to learn is by trying and seeing what happens.

✍🏻 What are you taking away from this article? Comment and let me know. If you enjoyed it, please give it a like or share it with a friend!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about how to develop your innovation mindset and skillset in your organization, please reach out! Innovation capability is something that CAN be developed, strengthened and nurtured. I’d love to help.

About the Author

Leo is a people and heart-first entrepreneur who believes everyone can be an innovator. An innovator himself, with 55 US patents and over 20 years of experience, Leo has come alongside organizations like Chick-fil-A and guided them to unleash the innovative potential of their employees by transforming them into confident innovators.

Leo’s friendly, joyful and enthusiastic demeanour makes the journey to innovation exciting and attainable. Leo’s also a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® trainer & facilitator who believes unlocking innovation takes new approaches.

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