American novelist James Lane Allen had long been impressed by the ancient philosophy that a man becomes what he thinks, that a man’s character is the outward expression of his inward thoughts.
He had traced it back to the Upanishads, sacred literature of the Hindus: “Man becomes that of which he thinks.” He had found it eloquently expressed in the writings of Buddha: “The mind is everything, what you think you become,” as well as in the meditations of Marcus Aurelius: “Your life is what your thoughts make it.”
Or another favorite from Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.”
The same fundamental ideas are found in the writings of Confucius, Mohammed, Aristotle, Socrates and scores of others.
These scholars understood that such a seemingly basic function as thinking was one of the most significant activities that controlled their being. Thinking about thinking is a pretty abstract concept. Do great minds really think alike? Where do our thoughts really originate?
But you don’t need to be a philosopher to appreciate the value of thinking.
When I speak to corporate audiences, my first lesson is about how some of the best people spend their most productive time looking out the window. Every organization has people who can see the big picture. They don’t get bogged down with a lot of meaningless meetings and paper shuffling. They’re thinking. It’s the hardest, most valuable task any person performs without question.
Henry Ford once hired an efficiency expert to go through his plant. Ford directed him to find the nonproductive employees and, he said, “I will fire them!”
When the expert finished his evaluation, he reported to Ford that he was particularly concerned with one of his administrators. “Every time I walked by, he was sitting with his feet propped up on the desk. The man never does a thing. I definitely think you should consider getting rid of him!”
Ford was curious to know who was using company time that way. Then the expert identified him, and Ford shook his head. “I can’t fire him. I pay that man to do nothing BUT think, and that’s what he’s doing.”
In other words, he was doing the thinking for others. When you think about it, that’s a pretty daunting task!
Thomas Edison said: “Five percent of the people think; 10 percent of the people think they think; and the other 85 percent would rather die than think.”
That sounds extreme – but I can detect an element of truth to it. Sometimes it’s just easier to let others do the thinking and follow their lead.
If you are starting to wonder which category you fall in, remember, it’s not too late to adjust your thinking. Now is a perfect time to do a little spring cleaning and sweep out the clutter in your mind. Try these ideas:
Mackay’s Moral:You don’t have to be a genius to think great thoughts.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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