Thinking Is Hard Work

“Did you ever stop to think, and forget to
start again?” — Winnie the Pooh

The Pooh certainly has a knack for cutting to the chase. Most
people know exactly what he is talking about, although they aren’t usually so
direct. Instead, they say things like, “It just slipped my mind,” or “I got
busy and didn’t have time to get back to it.” Thomas J. Watson had a very
Pooh-like explanation for people’s not thinking, “… men very often resort to
all sorts of devices in order not to think, because thinking is such hard
work.” François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld was even more blunt than The Pooh and
Watson, “Our minds are lazier than our bodies.” When it comes to taxing the
gray cells, the normal response is to avoid it any way possible.

If you want some new excuses other than a lazy mind, you can try
one of G. Behn’s, “Some people get lost in thought because it’s such unfamiliar
territory.” Naturally, you wouldn’t want to find yourself lost, especially due
to hanging around somewhere you’ve never been before. If that doesn’t quite
work for you, Martin H. Fischer went everyone one step better when he said,
“Physiological response to thinking and to pain is the same; and man is not
given to hurting himself.” Sure, thinking is masochistic; and you definitely
aren’t into that sort of thing.

You’re just a regular person; and that ivory tower nonsense
should be reserved for intellectuals and other folks who can’t get real jobs.
H.L. Mencken is obviously one of those types. Can you believe what he said?
“The average man never really thinks from end to end of his life. The mental
activity of such people is only a mouthing of clichés.” Now just where does he
think he gets off?

OK, you aren’t totally against thinking. You’re not into total
brain freeze. It’s only something you don’t want to overdo. George Bernard Shaw
offered a plan that may be worth considering, “Few people think no more than
two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself
by thinking once a week.” What do you think, if that’s not asking too much?

Of course, you’re not a Shaw; but thinking a couple of times a
month might be manageable. If so, that may be enough to qualify you for the
ranks of the thinking elite; and what a treat that would be. As Hume put it,
“What a peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain which we call


“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a
life’s experience.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

As you stop to consider these brief points about interpersonal
excellence, you may be tempted to dismiss them as having nothing to do with
you. You certainly don’t need anymore insight into the people thing. You have
plenty of insight, evidenced by the fact that you don’t experience any
interpersonal glitches worth mentioning.

Well, good for you. In that case, just think of the points as a
new kind of horoscope. They predict how you will handle the people thing
tomorrow. Just how cool is that? It’s down right clairvoyant. It may even be
amazing. As you consider how totally terrific it really is, though, Ann Landers
slipped in a little insight of her own that may serve to assure that you are
considering the points from the most helpful perspective, “Know yourself. Don’t
accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”
Yes, you maybe wonderful and likely are; but it can’t hurt anything to take a
few minutes to stop to consider these brief, new perspectives on old and
well-tested ideas.

In A Snit

“We should be too big to take offense and
too noble to give it.” — Abraham Lincoln

You are generally positive about most people and most
situations. Some people are negative about everything and everyone or
unpredictably negative about things. You can’t tell when or where they are
going to be in a snit about something or someone. Alternatively, the few things
and people about whom you are negative are clearly known and predictable. There
are few surprises.

There is a significant advantage to being generally positive and
predictably negative. Negativity is energy draining and inhibits intuition.
Being mostly positive avoids the downside of being negative. Further, knowing
when and what people and circumstances prompt negativity lessens the emotional
drain and makes it easier to manage the bad vibes so as to minimize the
suppressing affect on intuition. You know that the cost of negativity is too
high to tolerate beyond that which can’t be avoided.


“A master can tell you what he expects of
you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.” — Patricia Neal

Expecting others to do as well as they sometimes do is both
unreasonable and counterproductive. It’s like a twelve-year-old hitting a
homerun and then being told, “I knew you could do it. Now let’s have
another one. You are a homerun hitter.” The problem is, of course, that
there won’t be a homerun every time and now a single is sub-standard performance.
The unspoken or perhaps spoken message is, “You aren’t giving it your best
effort. You should have gotten a homerun.” This applies to a sales person
making an unusually big sale, a scientist making a new discovery, a team
winning the big game, and so on but also applies to less consequential events
and activities. It’s appropriate to expect excellent performance but you know
that expecting exceptional or perfect performance every time is a sure way to
demoralize and frustrate any person.

The Fountains Of Knowledge

“The secret to creativity is knowing
how to hide your sources.” — Albert Einstein

John Locke was perhaps even more skeptical than Einstein when he
said, “All ideas come from sensation or reflection. — Let us then suppose the
mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas;
how comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store, which the
busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless
variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I
answer, in one word, from Experience; in that all our knowledge is founded, and
from that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation, employed either about
external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds,
perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understandings
with all the materials of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge,
from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring.”

If the perspectives of Einstein and Locke are merged, creativity
is a product of “your sources” that are themselves not apparent to others. They
are hidden from view but precede any creative product. What are those sources?
They are either sensations about external objects or reflections about the
internal operations of one’s mind.

This leads to an interesting hypothesis. Few would disagree that
the “internal operation” of the minds of people like Einstein and Locke is
hidden from most everyone else. They hide their mental sources very well. It’s
also true that few would question that they fall in the “genius” category. By
that, the notion is that they have mental sources that most people don’t have.

It would be equally reasonable to conclude that they also have
sensations about external objects that most people don’t have. It’s not simply
that they have higher sensory acuity. They see and hear things that others
don’t see or hear. They experience a fuller and richer reality. That reality
includes “objects” and “experiences” that are not accessible by most people.
What is usually understood as creativity may merely be reports by otherwise
unexceptional people about the hidden reality that is only known to a very few.