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.


“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.

Make A Mess Of It

“The incompetent with nothing to do can
still make a mess of it.” — Laurence J. Peter

Don’t try to do jobs you don’t know how to do. This does not
mean that you don’t try new things or attempt tasks you haven’t done before.
You are interested in extending your knowledge and skills whenever the
opportunity comes along. Rather, it means that you don’t try to do things you
have no reasonable knowledge of or familiarity with. You stay within your known
capacity and expertise. If you are going outside of your personal and
professional limits, you associate with an expert in the new area. You can
learn, can be trained, but don’t act as if you are when you aren’t.

Lend A Hand

“Look up and not down. Look forward and not
back. Look out and not in, and lend a hand.” — Edward Everett Hale

You are seldom too busy or stressed to lend a hand, pitch in, to
help others succeed. This does not mean that you let others intrude on your
personal space or time. Rather, it means that you are usually able and willing
to assist, help when there is an immediate need, do what you can for others,
deal with what needs dealt with.

Pointing At Himself

“When a man points a finger at someone
else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.” –
Louis Nizer

You know to deal with people and problems directly and
assertively. However, you also know that many people in positions of authority
like pointing out that they always place the blame squarely on the person who
did not get the job done. This is, from your point of view, a sure sign that
the person in authority knows nothing about people. When a job doesn’t get done
or doesn’t get done as well as expected, it’s obvious that someone didn’t get
the job done. It’s also frequently easy to see who didn’t get it done. At that
point, the authority junkie is quick to point a finger, “The job didn’t
get done and you are the one who didn’t get it done.”

Here is the glitch. The authority junkie’s approach usually
appears to work. The problem doesn’t recur, performance improves, the job gets
done the next time. At the same time, people become more cautious, less
creative, and more concerned about avoiding the authority junkie’s ire than in
developing better ways to do the job and continuously improving their
performance. “Good enough” becomes the standard, good enough to avoid
the pointing finger of the authority junkie.

For you, the alternative to blaming and finger pointing is
automatic. “This is disappointing. You must be at least as frustrated as I
am about it. Can we see if we can figure out how to get a better outcome next
time? What would help? How can I help?” Sure, enough is enough at times,
even for you. People need to be held accountable and deal with the consequences
of poor performance. The point is that this is a down-the-road eventuality and
never where you start.