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:
This is a sign of an active mind. Lincoln, Einstein, Freud, all geniuses who drew inspiration from chaos in their environs. Without Andrew Fleming’s reluctance to wash petrie dishes, the world wouldn’t have penicillin, would it?
Sherlock Holmes, in the television series Elementary, on the state of his apartment.
For his part, Albert Einstein is quoted as saying,
If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?
Now there’s a study to confirm this thinking: “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” the researchers concluded. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”
Classic 1997 Ad by TBWA\Chiat\Day.
I was watching Francis Ford Coppola’s classic adaptation of Mario Puzzo’s The Godfather the other day, and was again reminded of one of the lines that should be quoted more often than it is, especially for business owners. Early in the film, Tom Hagen goes to see the film producer Woltz to ask him to give Johnny Fontaine a part in his upcoming film. Woltz is holding a grudge against Fontaine, and doesn’t respond well to Hagen’s request. When he gives Hagen his final answer, Tom Hagen requests that his car take him directly to the airport. “Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on receiving bad news immediately.Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on receiving bad news immediately,” he explains. The scene occurs just before the famous horse head scene: astute aficionados have noted the bowl of oranges on the table during their dinner together at Woltz’s home.
So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one had a mind to do.
–Quoted by John Kay in Obliquity: Why our goals are best achieved indirectly. Kay refers to this hindsight rationalization as “Franklin’s Gambit”.
I recently saw the performance by Kseniya Simonova from Ukraine’s Got Talent (2009), which she won with her performances of sand stories. This one is the telling of a story from World War II, which you can see in the video was very moving for those in attendance. The video is simply riveting.