Need a breakthrough? Copy Sara Blakely’s fake commute

3 min. read
July 5, 2024

Sara Blakely, the inventor and founder of Spanx, has your next breakthrough ready, and her solution is so simple and obvious that you might get irritated at me for pointing it out.

Blakely told LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman that her best thinking happens in her car, only she ran into a problem. She lived too close to the Spanx office.

Proactive problem-solver that she is, Blakely started getting up an hour earlier to drive “aimlessly” around Atlanta. Her friends called this her “fake commute.”

Get this: the company name, Spanx, came to Blakely during one of those meandering drives.

Now, chances are, your business has some needs and problems. And chances are, you haven’t found a promising enough course of action for some of them. You’re stuck.

How much time do you spend just thinking?

In his book Men and Rubber Firestone founder Harvey S. Firestone says that a CEO’s main job is thinking.

It seems so obvious it’s a little insulting. I can hear some of you proclaiming, in indignation, “How dare you presume, sir, that I’m not thinking enough!”

Well, are you?

I often don’t. I’m running and gunning with my consulting work and Freelance Cake and shunting three kids from one thing to the next. All that frenetic activity creates motion blur. Sometimes, I’m moving too fast for my own breakthroughs to catch up with me.

I know this because when I do slow down, especially during vacations and at my yearly SPACE Retreat, the opposite happens. Inspiration strikes.

I may think I lack clarity. Yet, as soon as I put together enough unscheduled days and answer enough open-ended questions, I can, with great predictability, get the insights I thought I was missing. Insights shows up like raccoons when we leave out cat food.

They were there. They were buried underneath a pile of feelings, opinions from others, and thoughts and impressions half-formed while listening to podcasts, talking to friends, or poking around online.

What I’m saying is that the answers we seek usually do not elude us if we put ourselves in situations where they’re most likely to come.

For me that situation consists of silence, solitude, and slowness, following by some form of structured reflection (either journaling or dialogue with an attentive listener) and perhaps some just-in-time learning.

For example, as I was pondering what the next iteration of the Business Redesign group coaching program could or should be and my thoughts were beginning to coalesce, I was fortunate to have a conversation with Dustin Reichmann and John Meese at Craft + Commerce.

I put myself into a situation where answers could come.

This was the genius of Sara Blakely’s fake commute. She noticed where ideas strike, and she put herself there daily.

Where does your best thinking happen?

And can you intentionally create that time and space?

You’re not as confused and stuck as you think. You just need to schedule thinking time, and keep scheduling it.

Surely it can’t be as simple as that, you say. Well, why not? How many people do you know who do it?

Simple isn’t easy, or popular, which is why it’s often effective.

Schedule your fake commute, you smart dummy. Your next big idea is waiting.

When you’re ready, here are ways I can help you:

  1. Free Money. A pricing and money mindset guide for freelance creatives. If you’re unsure about your freelance pricing, this is the book for you.
  2. Morning Marketing Habit. This course will help you build an “always be marketing” practice, become less dependent on referrals, and proactively build the business you want with the clients you want. My own morning marketing habit has enabled me to consistently make  6 figures as a freelancer.
  3. Custom Business Roadmap. Gain clarity, confidence, and momentum in your freelance or consulting business.
  4. Business Redesign. Raise your effective hourly rate, delegate with confidence, and free up 40 hours a month.
  5. Clarity Session. It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. I've done well over 100 of these 1:1 sessions with founders, solopreneurs, and freelancers who wanted guidance, a second opinion, or help creating a plan.


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info

Austin L Church portrait photo.

About the Author,
Austin L. Church

Austin L. Church is a writer, brand consultant, and freelance coach. He started freelancing in 2009 after finishing his M.A. in Literature and getting laid off from a marketing agency. Freelancing led to mobile apps (Bright Newt), a tech startup (, a children's book (Grabbling), and a branding studio (Balernum). Austin loves teaching freelancers and consultants how to stack up specific advantages for more income, free time, and fun. He and his wife live with their three children in Knoxville, Tennessee.


The only weekly freelancing email you don't want to miss...