It may be difficult to see what Sherlock Holmes was getting at when he said this, but if you conjure an image of the famous detective sitting, apparently idle, deep in thought you can start to understand. You see, Holmes was a thinker in a world of ‘doers’. Many of us fall into the trap of being doers because society is constructed to create these sorts of people. We are not typically encouraged to think of the why before we think of the how.
What is the importance of being a thinker? Many of us travel through life ticking boxes and being the content doer without considering why we are doing it. We are given this checklist by society when we go through our schooling. School -> university -> job -> marriage -> children -> taxes -> die. Not driven by the observation as to the why of the system.
The modern schooling system was created during the Industrial Revolution due to the need for better educated workers operating what was considered complex machinery. The factory owners certainly didn’t put their own children in that schooling system, opting instead for private tutors. The system was created quite literally to put people on the path of modern indentured servitude, not to promote personal growth.
As society developed, we continued to pursue schooling as the key to perceived success. In the modern day, we continue to follow that path of blind obedience without ever questioning why. Laughably, we criticise those with blind faith in invisible gods but we don’t laugh at ourselves for putting blind faith in a system that wasn’t developed for the betterment of the masses but rather for profit of the few. Some people will see this and think ‘what an entitled fuckwit, believing he doesn’t have to grind like the rest of us!’.
I did follow a career driven path, joining the military at 17 then becoming a diplomat at 28. I started in Engineer Corps and eventually transferred to Intelligence Corps, somewhat due to the feeling that I was a thinker not a doer. This transfer was approved as my superiors recognised that I was better suited to the intelligence role. I enjoyed the things I learned and benefited greatly from that experience, but I finally asked myself ‘so what?’. This is a question used in intelligence work to validate the worth of a piece of information and it should be asked to validate many things in our lives. When I asked ‘so what?’ I realised I wasn’t content in continuing a conventional career path.
Many thinkers get sidelined in this world of doers. Some parents are so against those that ask why, believing their children should follow a similar path that they end up ostracising their own offspring. This is because most people see but do not observe. It is rather stupid and short sighted to believe that success can only be defined by one path. Where is freedom of choice and happiness?
I understand more than most that some people do not get the luxury of choice. Not everyone has the resources to immediately follow their life vision. I didn’t either, coming from a very middle class household I was rarely afforded the same opportunities as my peers. So, I made a plan to get to a place that I wanted to be. I found the opportunity to get the required resources, which absolutely anyone can do. Unfortunately, as doers, most people get caught in the resource trap believing they must always acquire more.
It is important to recognise that there must be a balance. We can’t just be a thinker, as the thinker without action gets nothing done. Holmes always acted decisively and correctly after a period of consideration. The cycle of action should start with consideration rather than action, as with no consideration our actions can be fundamentally flawed.
Start observing life instead of just seeing. Don’t believe in a structure that you inherited just because you are told to. In the digital age, we have the opportunity for self-development unlike any generation before us. You can learn, think and do in your own time in your own space without restriction and become the person you want to be. With infinite access to knowledge we can be the beginning of a new generation of thinkers that consider before we do.