Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Get down to wise up

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." - Albert Einstein

We spend most of our life dashing around, especially during the holiday season. Parties, meetings, errands, and the endless circuit of email to phone to internet to TV and back again. I’m not convinced that this dexterity at multi-tasking is a good thing. Of course, I say this as I eat my lunch, read a magazine, check my email, and write this blog post. There are numerous scientific reports being released now with the theory that multi-tasking is ruining our ability to think clearly.

We look to people like Einstein as a genius, and to be sure, he was. I do not in any way mean to take anything away from him. I am a great admirer of his works, and have read several biographies on him. When I was 18 I wanted to go to Princeton so I could somehow develop my own inner-Einstein in the very place where he did so much important work.

In all of his glory, he has these quotes like the one above that just bowl me over. Was Einstein brilliant because of his enhanced natural ability? He claimed no. He took the time to wrestle with problems and complications in the world around him, and then formulated ways to make sense of them. Literally, when he came across a problem, he sat down (or went on one of his famous walks) and thought. Toward the end of his life, he hired a scribe to follow him on his walks and jot down things he’d mutter to himself so that he could later sit with the notebook and piece together the thoughts.

I’m not suggesting we run out and hire scribes. One, it’s probably prohibitively expensive, and two, it just looks plain weird unless you are some recognized genius like Einstein. What we can do is sit down and breathe. In our rush to do everything quick quick quick, onto the next thing, hurry up, we gotta go, my to-do list is growing every millisecond, etc. we are losing perspective. We are losing our ability to reason and thinking through challenges and choices.
We all have an inner-Einstein. The question is whether or not we will take the time to listen to him.

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