Ok…so I’m sure that there are many people (most people) in my life that might say that I’m a little hard to follow at times. I’d like to think that some of it is because of the erudite nature of what I want to discuss, but I can easily recognize that it stems from the sheer number of words I may use to make a point and the fact that, frequently, my brain moves faster than my mouth. I’m working on it…I swear.
That being said, I do deeply appreciate those individuals that have truly sought to understand what I’m blabbering on about and provide a person to bounce ideas off of. What I mean by that is that I find these interactions more valuable than just exchanges of factual information (i.e., Where is the subway?). Instead it delves into more complex, more nuanced areas which require more effort and diligence in order to discuss, understand each other, respect each other and ultimately help each other.
In other words, I love to share and discuss opinions. I can get facts from the Interwebs. Opinions abound too, but discussing and being open to the opinions of others not so much (in fact, I think it’s one area where online discussion falls way short). But ideas and opinions to me are important. In fact, per usual, Ta-Nehisi Coates captures it almost perfectly when describing how to be a political opinion journalist…but I think his advice to “exercise one’s intellect” with others is something which applies to everyone, not just writers. He states:
If you spend your time raging at the weakest arguments, or your most hysterical opponents, expect your own intellect to suffer. The intellect is a muscle; it must be exercised…
…Do not limit yourself to fighting with people who are alive. Fight with some of the intellectual greats. Fight with historians, scientists, and academics. And then after you fight with them, have the decency to admit when they’ve kicked your ass…Getting your ass kicked is an essential part of growing your intellectual muscle.
To do all of that, you have to actually be curious. You have to not just want to be heard, but want to listen.
Most of the time, I actually like to exercise my intellect because it’s an admission that I don’t have the answer to something I’m mulling over in my head. But it’s also because I enjoy the process (I was told when I was younger I should be a lawyer on more than one occasion), it helps me to clarify my own thoughts, demonstrates where my gaps in thinking are, and helps me gain perspective for new thoughts. And I hope that I have the same effect on others. Raising new questions and challenging commonly held or personally held beliefs is, to me, one of the greatest things that one can do for oneself and others. It leads to innovation, new truths and better solutions. Which are then replaced by new innovations, newer truths and even better solutions. It is a creativity in motion and a force for change that I, for one, seek voraciously.
For instance, just this week alone, I’ve bounced ideas off of people and gotten great, opionated feedback related to topics as wide ranging as
- How best to defend a pick and roll
- How to market my burgeoning business
- How to avoid elitism in locavore movements
- How to bring about “better” economies and more collective societies
- How to deal with loss
- How to find “home”
- How to increase investment in sustainable businesses
- How men should approach being allies to women
- How and why to avoid using terms such as “should”
And to TNC’s point, that’s just with living individuals…
What’s great to me is that these may all seem somewhat random, some for fun, some for work, and some for… who know’s why? But I can unequivocally say that all of these opportunities to bounce ideas off of people share something in common and that is that they make me a better person.
And I am grateful to those who patiently and diligently provide me with that opportunity. Here’s to hoping there’s more to come!