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:

All Business is Personal

The GodfatherThe Godfather is the I-Ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom.” — Joe Fox (Tom Hanks’ character in You’ve Got Mail).

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the phrase “nothing personal — just business” has entered the business lexicon over the years since 1972 when the movie adaptation of Mario Puzo’s 1962 novel The Godfather. Funny thing is, the movie gives you the wrong impression. I’ve read the novel, and Mario Puzo explains that the phrase is not a sentiment with which Don Corleone would agree. In fact in the novel, only Don Vito Corleone (and later, Don Michael Corleone) seem to properly understand the intersection between what is business and what is personal. The movie places the quote on Michael’s lips, but only if you’d read the book would you understand Micheal’s words to be merely intended to placate his brother Sonny and Tom Hagen, who are separating the two in the discussion about their response to the attempted murder of their father. If you only saw the movie, you’d think this was the philosophy espoused by the Don. It isn’t.