"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity." - Gilda Radner
It was a lovely late summer day and I was doing some research for an article I was writing about education. I went to all my familiar source and read a lot of stuff that I fully agreed with and that all seemed to agree with each other. Then I came across a well known quote by General George S. Patton which said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." And it hit me like a bat to the head. That somebody was me.
Have you ever gotten so use to thinking in a certain way that you really stop thinking and just accept things as they are? This does not mean that the things you were thinking are wrong, that may be or they may not be, the point is whether or not you even bother to think about it anymore. In my case, I found that on some issues I have been either thinking as I have been directed to think or just not thinking at all.
Here is the good news, this discovery of mine started a process that would change everything for me. It got me to think. I am always amazed how God seems to move in our lives when we least expect it and many times, do not even notice we need it. The fact that I was so blindly willing to accept what I was told was shocking to me. For most of us, we trust and believe people we think are smarter than we are. We turn to the experts for guidance and advice. Nothing wrong with that by the way. What we also do, and this is the mistake, we allow them to think for us. Funny thing is that so many of them believe they should think for us and are expecting our blind obedience.
I am reminded of a statement made by Harper Lee, author of the classic book, To Kill A Mocking Bird. Lee said, "The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think." That goes for people, classes, programs and all sources of information. It is good to get all the knowledge you can from good reliable sources. However, a good source of knowledge will get you to think more than just tell you what to think.
Many years ago I served in the Salvation Army. I was a new Christian and had a desire to serve God by serving His people. I worked in a corps in Rutland, Vermont under an old Brigadier, Thelma Bassett. She had spent her whole life in the Salvation Army and was on in years when I met her. The Brigadier, as we called her, and I fought all the time. It seemed that whatever I said or believed she would question. This was most common when it came to matters of faith. Even if I knew she agreed with me, she would question it. At first it made me crazy, but as I grew and gained some maturity myself, I saw what she was doing. Brigadier got me to think. She taught me a lesson I have cherished to this day. Never believe something just because someone said you should. Know why you believe what you believe. Think!
There are two great misconceptions about re-thinking that cause people to back away from it. One is that others who are more educated, more successful, more powerful, older, richer or have more authority know what is best and therefore should not be questioned. The other is that you do not have the smarts, information or energy to figure these things out for yourself. Let's take a moment and look at these.
First we need to understand that just because someone says they know something or have a degree in a subject does not mean they do know it any better than you. There are a lot of fools with PhD's running around. Look at the mess this world is in. Believe me, it was not the thinking of the average person that got us here. Besides, many educated people only know what they were told. A degree does not mean you are capable of thinking.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not anti-education. I believe in getting as much education as you can and learning every day. However, I do agree with the host of the TV program, Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe, who said, "Not all knowledge comes from college." Your greatest education will come from outside the class room not in it. Taking a formal class is great and I encourage it, but taking a class does not let you off the hook from thinking.
Here is an easy action step that will pay off every time you use it. Question Everything! Do your own research and get the facts. Think and ask yourself rich, powerful questions that lead to rich and powerful answers. Read books, listen to others who have knowledge of the subject, put it together and think it through. You may very well come up with the same conclusion as you were taught. Wonderful! Then again, you may find something different. You may add to that knowledge you are taught and make a new discovery.
Think of it this way. Orville and Wilber Wright did not discover the laws of aerodynamics. Those laws were always there. What they did is study the knowledge that was available and by thinking and testing they expanded it. In the end, they achieved flight. Orville once said, "Isn't it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them!" The laws that made that happen were always there, they just use their thinking to discover it. You can do that as well. If you study the life of Orville and Wilber Wright you will see they were ordinary people. Not great brains and highly educated. These were men with a dream - like you - who did not accept what they were told but used their thinking to make a difference. As Orville said, "If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advance."
The same is true for others who thought "they knew best". History is filled with stories of people of power and position who told common, everyday men and women who had a dream that it could not be done. But these men and women did it anyway. They thought for themselves and figured it out. If it was not for those who re-think what others believe to be true, we would still be living in huts. I love the thinking of a man who did the impossible over and over again, Walt Disney, who said, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
The other battle in the one fought from the inside. It is hard to fight the forces from without that tell you it can't be done or that they know the truth and you do not. It is harder to fight that battle with the person inside your head. The only talk that really can hurt you is self talk. The thinking that tells yourself you do not have what it takes to succeed or to figure things out. You start to believe that you cannot think on the level of others. You question your education, your finances, your ability, everything but question the thinking that gets you here.
Again, I encourage you to study the lives of great achievers. You will find them to be ordinary people who believed they could do extraordinary things. You can too. You have all the ability you need to fulfill your dreams and to accomplish your goals in life. You can - and must - make a difference. Author and speaker, Zig Ziglar put it this way, "You don't have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great."
Use what you have available to you right now and start to learn, grow and think. You have more resources at your fingertips today than Galileo, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson or Isaac Newton had in their life time - combined. Today we can search on line and find materials, studies, papers and books that others have never even dream were possible. It is sad that with the increase in available knowledge we have a decrease in usage.
Let me bring up one more self inflicted issue that is also very common and that is laziness. Many times people do not think for themselves simply because it is hard work. I will be honest and tell you it is very hard work to question and seek out answers. Thinking is not for the weak and unwilling. It takes years to make discoveries and many, many hours of hard work. However, the person who invests the time and energy to thinking through problems is rewarded with wonderful answers.
You hold the power to your knowledge. You are the one who will determine your destiny. Will you settle for what others tell you or will you make your own discoveries? Will you allow what you have learned to be a stepping stone to more learning or will you allow that stone to seal your tomb? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.