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Creative Career Path

Having an Original Thought2011.11.30

    What makes for an original thought ? From where do our thoughts and ideas actually originate ? A closer look reveals that they originate with us far less often than we'd like to believe.


    It is estimated that there is more information in a single day's edition of The New York Times, than would have been read by a person in 17th century England in a lifetime. And that doesn't even include the information on which we routinely gorge ourselves through television, radio, the Internet, and social media. It is a wonder that we are not overwhelmed in the deluge.


    Many people have found ways to accept only prepackaged packets of information that are easy to digest. Like supplements or baby food, information pablum does not require chewing, and goes down the hatch without question. Others simply shut it out, and feed on an unbalanced diet of information snack food, which suits their taste but is not nourishing or healthy.


    Sponsored media is big business, and people often voluntarily allow themselves to be fed this information intravenously, without questioning it's value or veracity. The media feeds us so much and so fast, that we have become one-way consumers of information, seldom stopping long enough to digest it, much less produce original information or observations of our own.


    Deepak Chopra observed that, “We have approximately 60,000 thoughts in a day. Unfortunately, 95% of them are thoughts we had the day before.” This is reflected in the often quoted Biblical wisdom that, (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 NIV) "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."


    This tendency to be full of our own stale thoughts is shown in the wonderful story of Zen Master Nan-in, who poured tea for a professor of philosophy to the point where his cup was overflowing. The professor begged him to stop, but he replied, "How can I show you Zen, unless you first empty your cup ?"


    However, this is extraordinarily difficult to do. Few people are willing to spend the hours and years required to empty their cup through meditation. While that could be the better way for those who can do it, perhaps there is an easier way for the average person. The problem is how to cultivate an original thought stream, one which is not entirely fed by other people's thoughts and opinions.


    The first step is to slow down the torrent of unoriginal thoughts, an this can be done by regularly recording your better thoughts on paper. Writing down your thoughts forces you both to select significant thoughts from the stream, and to digest them well enough to paraphrase them in your own words.


    The longer you continue the process, the more effective it is in giving you an original stream of thoughts and insights. From Leonardo da Vinci to Thomas Edison, the great geniuses of history have kept copious and illustrated notes of their thoughts. Writing down and illustrating your thoughts makes them visible, and helps you organize, recombine, and articulate them better. There are many tools for helping record your ideas, digitally or on paper, but continuity is the essential point in benefitting from the process.


    Many people are discouraged at first when writing down their thoughts day after day, feeling that they don't seem to have any original thoughts worth sharing. However, it doesn't take long before the stream of thought begins to take direction and yield valuable original ideas that would otherwise have slipped by unnoticed, had they not been fished from the stream. These real thoughts are in contrast to the recycled thoughts which usually flood our mind.


    People who live on recycled thoughts are fair game for advertisers, politicians, and other experts of subliminal persuasion. The news contains ample reporting on those who have fallen victim to the schemes of others, often because they believed what they were told, and bought what they were sold.


    It is very instructive to study the lives of people you admire in history, particularly how they formed the worldview which they were willing to live by or die for. Your worldview is your primary thought filter. It is worth examining, so that you know what you are getting, and where it comes from. Of course this view will change with maturity and experience. Hopefully it will evolve into something that represents your unique gifts and talents, the original you, and not a copy or clone. Capturing your thoughts is the first step to influencing your future and realizing your dreams.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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