Stop Dissing the Thinkers

The title on my business card — and in many places, my short bio — reads “Freelance Thinker.” But you know what? Nobody has ever asked to hire me to do some thinking for them. (A real shame, if you ask me.) No matter what “deliverables” I offer a client, the most important thing behind them is my expertise, my insight, my thinking. I could call myself a “problem solver” or “philosopher” or any of a number of similar things, but I doubt it would change anything because people tend to assume they can think for themselves. Truth be told, most people undervalue thinking. Oh, it’s not that they don’t want others to think before they act, or think before they speak — but that’s normally a common-sense level of thinking. What I’m talking about is bigger-picture, structural, or philosophical thinking. The “diss” I’m talking about is exemplified in aphoristic advice like these:

Don’t just think about it, do it.

Be a doer, not just a thinker.

And there’s nothing wrong with doing. Doing makes stuff happen. Doing is important. What I’m saying is that thinking is important too, including the kind of thinking where people look and say, “Well, he’s not doing much, is he?” or, “Yeah, but what’s he actually accomplished?” Thinking is too important to say such disrespectful things about it. Thinking is too important to devalue this way. Want to know who some thinkers were?

Homer, Pythagorus, Confucious, Euclid, Aristotle, da Vinci, Galileo, Descartes, Locke, Newton, Voltaire, Kierkegaard, Machiavelli, Tolstoy, Orwell, Archimedes, Plato, Einstein, Hawking, Socrates, Kepler, Kant, Copernicus, Goethe, Planck, Neitzche, Hippocrates, Edison, Turing, Luther, Heisenberg, Faraday, Euripedes, Pascal, Euripides, Buddha, Freud, Hobbes, Gandhi, Jung, (ML) King, Pasteur, Edison, Tesla, Keynes, Chomsky, Camus, and Proust — in no particular order.

There are a great many thinkers of our contemporary age as well, besides the few included on this list. You may object to some or all of this list because I’ve forgotten Sun Tzu, George Washington, Richard Rorty, or Washington, Lincoln, Madison, Jefferson, Dawkins, Havel, Eco, Friedman, Kennedy, Sachs, Klein, Posner, Lessig, or any one of a thousand others, but this is just illustrative. I have to stop somewhere. You may also object because I’ve include people who are not “just” thinkers, but poets, playwrights, authors, artists, politicians, lawyers, and inventors. But that’s just the thing. It’s the thinking that’s important for all of these people — where do you imagine all of the other stuff came from? It’s the thinking — all that other stuff is just ways of sharing the thought. Without the thought contributions of all of these people, we would today be nowhere worth being.

Don’t diss thinking. Don’t diss the thinkers.