“A new thinker when studied closely, is merely a man who does not know what other people have thought” – F.M. Colby
How many thoughts do you have a day that are your original thoughts? Consider for a moment all of the information (thoughts of others) that you are exposed to in a given day. Consider all of the thoughts of others that you have learned and accepted over the years of your life. It is amazing how many of our thoughts are a product of someone else’s thoughts.
In the movie “A Beautiful Mind” when fellow classmates challenge the mathematical genius John Nash as to why he does not attend classes he states “Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity”. John Nash like many other great thinkers spent much of his time in isolation, choosing not to expose himself to the thoughts of others because he intuitively knew that if he was to come up with an original idea that he would have to create that thought within his own mind and by reducing his exposure to the thoughts of others he had a better chance of manifesting original thoughts.
If we are observant when a new person joins a work team or any other type of group endeavor we will often notice that this person will question the tried and true rules, policies and procedures of the group they have joined. It is often in their ignorance of the way things are done that they come up with some brilliant ideas. I call this having “fresh eyes”. Anytime I have hired new people I have always gave them my “fresh eyes” speech and that is that I value their ignorance of the way we do things and I value the questions they will ask that may show me a better way to do things. In other words a new hire often brings a new perspective and through their ignorance they will ask questions that could prompt valuable change. The sad part is that the new person is often answered with “Well this is how we always done it” and they are shut down looked upon as stupid for asking the question. When this happens great opportunities to improve and grow are missed and the new person’s creativity and value our stifled.
It is important that we encourage and nurture original thoughts in ourselves and those whom we touch. It is important that we take time to challenge our thoughts and ask ourselves is this my thought or am I simply parroting the thoughts of other people. Note, some of our thoughts are thoughts of others that we learned at a very young age, accepted as fact and now the thought is so ingrained it feels as if it is a part of us. We may indeed find upon dissection of a thought or string of thoughts that they are now are own thought, however it is important to ask the question, “Is this really what I think or have I accepted the thoughts of others as if they are my own”?
It is important to note that I am not in anyway discounting the thoughts of others. It is important to our growth to expose ourselves to the thoughts of others. It is through the exchange of thoughts that we as individuals and societies are able to grow. It is often the thoughts of others which act as a catalyst for our original thoughts. With this stated if we come to a point where we are not creating original thoughts then we as an individual and as a society will perish for we will become robotic and our ability to grow will cease to exist. We must think for our selves, we must spend some time in isolation and created thought rather than sleepwalk through this leg of our journey simply being a mouth piece for the popular thoughts of others.
The challenge for us today is to think about our thoughts and to strive towards creating original thoughts and owning all of our thoughts.
“Beyond all our actions stands the larger shadow: How are we to choose between what we have been taught to think right and something else which manifestly succeeds?”
- Jacob Bronowski