Tuesday, 11 October 2011


My favourite cartoon from years ago was of a guy walking downstairs with a blank expression and a thought bubble from his head saying “What do I think today?” He picks up the Daily Mail from the doormat. The headline screams “It’s a disgrace!” His face breaks into a thunderous frown. “It’s a disgrace!” he cries.

My thesis is that like Mr Daily Mail reader we’ve stopped thinking for ourselves. And some of us have stopped thinking altogether. Melvyn Bragg, one of whose heroes is Isaac Newton, speaks in awe of Newton’s alleged ability to sit and think for hours, days and weeks at a time. Melvyn says he can do three minutes before he has to make a cup of tea to break the monotony. Marcus du Sautoy who is Professor of Mathematics at Oxford says he can only think about maths for an hour or so because it hurts to do it any longer. So we shouldn’t be ashamed at finding thinking hard.

But there’s so much going on now that we do need to think about it….for our own peace of mind.
About sovereign debt, about the Human Rights Act, about our holding the European title for largest % of the population imprisoned, about the level of and justification for top salaries, about English Rugby, about our state educational system, about our likely economic prospects, about what we are going to spend money on this Christmas….

None of these are trivial and all deserve some thought. Just try exploring the pluses and minuses of all of them. Take the last one – only 75 shopping days left. And apparently the fate of the British Economy lies in us emptying our wallets on stuff that we don’t really need or want. So take a long, creative think about how you’d make this Christmas more fun, worthwhile and memorable.

Example: think about those financial instruments none of us understand (but then again that’s because we’ve never tried to.) Let what Hercule Poirot called his “little grey cells” get to work. Think about what’s really going on.

You may not save the world by doing this but you might save you sanity and your career. Because we all need people who can really think right now rather than just reading those headlines.


Anonymous said...

I am guilty, even though I believe myself to have a healthy level of skepticism, I am still guilty. There is talk of a small global community, which may be true, but I can tell you my world has been getting smaller. Scanning articles instead of reading them is a small but relevant example of unconsciously making my world even smaller.

Richard Hall said...


We all do speed everything – speed eat, speed read, speed interview, speed talk…some of this is good - speed meetings very good - and some not so good – like speed thinking.

Looking at a screen instead of gazing thoughtfully at the horizon has turned us into myopic and impulsive. All we do is do. Instead of a “ready, aim, fire” world we’re creating a “quickly, fire, aim” world. Slow down.

Just try it - take a deep breath and think deeply and you know what?

A Big Miracle could happen.