The great Earl Nightingale once described the mind as "a gold mine." It's a place filled with riches and wonders. Sadly, too often, people waste years, and even entire lifetimes, neglecting it. And that can keep them from ever standing out from the crowd or succeeding much in life.
Consider this: the brain is the only resource capable of exploring itself. Yet most of the time, we don't. Why? I think there are two reasons: laziness and distraction. Thinking deeply requires exertion...and we naturally find side roads like TV and social media more relaxing and diverting. We'd rather be laughing and taking it easy than spending quiet time, thinking deeply.
"Just Following" is Easier
There's an earnestness in people that causes them to believe in the merit and knowledge of others, and that's admirable. But when it's accompanied by a complacency that causes them to just amble down follow paths already trampled flat by those ahead of them, rather than blazing their own fresh ones, they've surrendered to herd mentality. It's easy to recognize the ones who have adopted that mindset when you look at posts in social media that refer to certain notions as if they're established fact, when they're really just reconstituted ideas passed from person to person until everyone accepts them as established fact.
Taking the Time to Stop, and Think
When people spend all their time in diversion and entertainment, lathing their minds in content and viewpoints that come from others, something really precious is lost. Individuality. People begin to all think alike, talk alike, behave alike. They take the same approaches to problem solving. They draw the same conclusions and have the same attitudes. That's not surprising. It's easier. It's less work. It's the path of least resistance.
It is NOT the path to the greatest success.
What I'm going to propose today is something that takes us beyond that, and it doesn't require a profound name. Let's just call it this:
Amazing things happen when you quiet yourself down, and just.......think. Thinking is a completely analog process...it requires nothing digital, Put away. (not just down, but away) your phone. Close your laptop.
In order for "thinking time" to be beneficial, it needs to be something we look forward to, so we actually do it consistently. Find a quiet place. I like my bed, in the morning before anyone's up, coffee by my side.
Now explore your mind. Start with a germ...just the seed of an idea or topic, and expand it out. A good starting point is to ponder some problem or issue, goal or purpose, and look for ways to solve or attain it. Go with that.
It's a good idea to take notes, otherwise our thoughts can tend to be fleeting...and we don't always remember them. I don't recommend taking your notes using your portable device or computer. Stay analog, so you're not tempted to veer back to checking your messages or somebody's timeline. Grab a pencil and a legal pad, and start scribbling down your thoughts on real, honest-to-goodness paper.
The Creative Power of Independent Thought
At first, because of how conditioned we are by other peoples' ideas, or traditional solutions, our brains will flee to those. It's natural. Don't be discouraged by that. But don't stop there. They're a departure point. Where you go next is the interesting and exciting part!
Be patient. As you keep thinking and scribbling notes, you'll notice your brain starts doing something remarkable. It begins branching out in new directions and thinking for itself. Questions prompt new questions. New ideas come to you. New solutions present themselves. You begin to ask things like:
I wonder how...
I wonder why...
Isn't there another way to...
How can I...
What if I...
What would happen if...
Give your mind the freedom to explore possibilities, but if you find you're drifting into completely different subject matter, such as a conflict you're having with a co-worker, or what to have for dinner, draw yourself back to the topic before you. That drift is natural too, and will become less over time as you are able to focus more fully on the subject at hand. It's a workout...an exercise...and you'll improve at it over time.
The Most Important Workout
The problem with any exercise like this is that it can quickly become like every other kind of exercise. Neglected...abandoned. Exercise of any sort requires discipline and consistency to do the most good, which is more than most humans are able to lock into. That's why basements are full of dusty rowing machines and NordicTracks. In the same way, mental exercise can easily be neglected because it requires discipline and at least a little regular time devoted to it.
It's too bad, too, because mental exercise is even more important than physical exercise. Why? Well, let consider for a moment: Which is more important? You, or your car? Your body is a precious and valuable thing, but ultimately, it's just what you drive around in. Your mind is...you! Surely, if we can find the time to do at least routine physical exercise, which is roughly akin to doing automobile maintenance, we can invest some time in advancing and enhancing the driver of the car!
Applying All This to Real Life
When we walk, run, or lift weights, we become stronger, healthier, and feel better. We can see the results in the mirror. When we exercise our minds, the results are ideas, goals, step-by-step plans, and the desire to grow and learn more. The fruit of it can be that we become a better husband, wife, parent, grandparent, employer, employee, entrepreneur, a more effective provider for our family, a more highly-skilled artist or tradesman, a person resolved to become more effective in life, or more devoted to God. So much good can come out of these quiet, thinking times.
The Creative Power of Independent Thought.
The benefit of creative thinking is independence, and vice versa. The more time we spend thinking independently, the more creative we become in our approach to life's challenges and opportunities. The more creatively we think, the more independent we become.
We start to lose the herd mentality. We're no longer always looking to see how others do things. We begin dreaming up our own solutions and approaches. Initial ideas lead to other ideas, then to plans, then to projects, then to actual accomplishments.
As we step out from the crowd, we should not be surprised if we begin to rise above it. Nor should it be surprising that the crowd will object. They might call you unorthodox, unconventional, or as one poster recently called me, "a piece of work." We can rise above that too. The more we think deeply, and plan, and consider, and grow, the less seriously we need to take the objections of the "but that's not how it's done" crowd.
Where it Can All Lead
A little over a year ago, I started creating a series of videos I called "HeadSlappers." You might have wondered what they were about. HeadSlappers are direct fruit from "Thinking Time." They grew out of "I wonder" and "what if" and "how can I?" They blossomed into techniques I began using on Fiverr which have contributed significantly to the hundreds of thousands of dollars I've earned on that platform.
Free, deep thinking can lead us in many fascinating directions. In my own case, in addition to HeadSlappers, it lead to the creation of the Gig Doctor service and GoldenTones website. To a children's audiobook series called Storybook Classics.
Dreaming up and developing my own methods prompted my 20-part Voiceover Mythbusters series, explaining in example after example why following the crowd as a voiceover artist is sometimes less than a good idea.
The Strangest Secret
I started my blog mentioning Earl Nightingale, and I'll end with him. In 1956, he recorded a half hour long message called "The Strangest Secret," which resonates as well today as it did 65 years ago. I challenge you to put aside distractions and just listen for 30 minutes, and see how you can apply it to your life. You might be surprised where it takes you!
There's so much you and I can do together to improve your gig's performance. Schedule your Gig Doctor appointment by hitting the Gig Checkup link at the top of this page for an inexpensive personalized checkup and consultation!
For those of you who do voiceovers, or who are interested in entering that fun profession, I can help there too. Check out my voiceover coaching services.