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:

The Benefit of Failure

J.K. Rowling at Harvard Commencement Via TED’s Best of the Web Talks, I discovered J.K. Rowling‘s Harvard Commencement Address in June 2008 on The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination. The subject brings up an important concept — the fact that although we list only successes on our CVs, it is typically the failures that teach us more. Comparatively, success perhaps teaches us very little. When was the last time you judged someone as qualified because of the lessons learned in their last failure? Granted, this might not be the single best criteria, but someone who’s never failed may well be an underachiever stuck within the constraints of mediocre thinking.

J.K. Rowling:

Setting A Book Free

Sometimes a book needs to be set free. tribes_cover When I received my second copy of Seth Godin‘s Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, it was with the proviso that it be passed along. Anyone who pre-ordered the book and joined Triiibes (as I did, though I don’t hang there much) was sent a second copy of the book as a gift and told to pass it along to someone who needed to start a tribe.

I did this, and it’s a good example on Seth’s part of giving something for free in the interest (at least partially) of increasing sales. More exposure to your message, even for free, in the short term will mean more ongoing sales in the long term. It’s Seth Godin putting his money where his mouth is (before the fact), and I agree with him on this one. Apparently, so did his publisher.