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Closed Mindedness

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been exposed to situations where people completely shut their minds to alternative ideas...

Legendary author Leo Tolstoy once said, “Even the strongest current of water cannot add a drop to a cup that is already full and the most difficult subjects can be explained to most slow-witted person if he or she has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent person if they are firmly persuaded that they already know, without a shadow of a doubt, what is to be laid before them.” 

Really brilliant observation by Tolstoy and so true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been exposed to situations where people completely shut their minds to alternative ideas, and all the while the path they’re on is completely off the rails. 

In the late great author and motivational speaker, Stephen’s Covey’s best-selling book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” he tells a story pertaining to the 7th Habit which is called “Sharpening the Saw.” Covey says, “Imagine that you’re walking through a forest, and you come upon a man sawing down a tree. You ask what he’s doing. “Sawing down a tree” he replies.”  You ask how long he’s been at it.  “Several hours.  But I’m making progress” as sweat is dripping off his face. “Your saw looks dull,” you tell him.  And then you suggest he takes a break to sharpen it. His reply “I can’t, you idiot.  I’m too busy sawing.” Covey goes on to say, “We all know who the real idiot is here... if the guy were to take a fifteen-minute break to sharpen the saw, he’d probably finish three times faster.”

We’ve all seen this phenomenon play out, where someone, a group, or an entire organization is doggedly determined to stay the course, no matter the cost. It has been my experience that the person whose mind remains open tends to identify and remedy a problem much faster than a closed-minded person. In fact, a closed mind is a limited mind, a dying mind. Where a fertile mind is alive and full of possibilities, but it’s only as good as the spinal fortitude that accompanies the ability to adapt to the circumstances at hand. And possibly admitting you may be wrong. Tolstoy also said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” Something to think about. 

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