Random Thoughts…Part 1

I had an idea for this blog post. I was going to borrow a technique from one of the most impressive people I have ever encountered, Thomas Sowell. Doctor Sowell is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. To say he is brilliant understates the fact.

He is a renowned author on topics related to economics and culture. For many years he was also a widely read columnist, and on occasion he wrote delightful columns he called Random Thoughts. They were usually just two or three sentences per paragraph that made some point that either amused me or made me reflect, and often both.

My first idea was to take his Random Thoughts model and see if I could write a few brief insights on leadership and culture that you would find interesting and worthwhile. In preparing for that writing exercise, I thought it wise to go back and read just a few Random Thoughts columns that Dr. Sowell had written. Well, 45 minutes later (it is hard to stop reading Sowell once you start) I again realized just how fantastic Sowell is to read, so I changed course and decided I would instead share a sample with you today from Dr. Sowell. I do so for two reasons. First, his insight and wit are just flat-out compelling. Second, if you have not read Sowell, I would very much like to introduce you to someone who it is always worth taking time to read. Just trust me on this, you’ll come out smarter for the investment in yourself.

Here’s just a tiny sample of random thoughts from a brilliant man. You’re welcome!

  • One of the problems with being a pessimist is that you can never celebrate when you are proven right.
  • You can fail to achieve any of the things you planned and still live a happy and fulfilled life, because of opportunities that come along that you never planned for. But these opportunities can be missed if you stick doggedly to your preconceived blueprint.
  • There are people who can neither find happiness in their own lives nor permit those around them to be happy. The best you can do is get such people out of your life.
  • It may be expecting too much to expect most intellectuals to have common sense, when their whole life is based on their being uncommon—that is, saying things that are different from what everyone else is saying. There is only so much genuine originality in anyone. After that, being uncommon means indulging in pointless eccentricities or clever attempts to mock or shock.
  • As I try to clear out the paper jungle in my office, my wife has suggested using dynamite. But I am saving that as Plan B.
  • Everything depends on what you are used to. There is a story about a man from Los Angeles who went up to a mountaintop, took a deep breath of the clear fresh air and said: “What’s that funny smell?”
  • My computer operating system is so out of date that people don’t even write viruses for it anymore.
  • What is called an educated person is often someone who has had a dangerously superficial exposure to a wide spectrum of subjects.
  • My favorite New Year’s resolution was to stop trying to reason with unreasonable people. This has reduced both my correspondence and my blood pressure.
  • Why do actors—people whose main talent is faking emotions—think that their opinions should be directing the course of political events in the real world? Yet it is a mistake that they have been making as far back as John Wilkes Booth.
  • While it is true that you learn with age, the downside is that what you learn is often what a damn fool you were before.
  • It is amazing how many people seem to think that the government exists to turn their prejudices into laws.
  • The people I feel sorry for are those who do 90 percent of what it takes to succeed.
  • Trust is one of those things that is much easier to maintain than it is to repair.
  • Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don’t know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields.
  • Of life’s many surprises, encountering an old flame, years later, is in a class by itself.
  • People used to say, “Ignorance is no excuse.” Today, ignorance is no problem. Our schools promote so much self-esteem that people confidently spout off about all sorts of things that they know nothing about.
  • One of the sure signs of full employment is bad service.
  • If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win.
  • People who send me letters or e-mails containing belligerent personal attacks probably have no idea how reassuring their messages are, for they show that critics seldom have any rational arguments to offer.
  • You know you have a lot of junk when there is not enough room to park one car in a three-car garage.
  • The first time I flew into London, I was stirred by the thought that, in these skies during World War II, a thousand men of the Royal Air Force saved Western civilization. Today, I wonder how many of our young people have any idea what that was all about, given how little time our schools devote to history.
  • How anyone can argue in favor of being non-judgmental is beyond me. To say that being non-judgmental is better than being judgmental is itself a judgment, and therefore a violation of the principle.
  • Don’t you get tired of seeing so many “non-conformists” with the same non-conformist look?
  • Why do some people use a fancy mathematical term like “parameters” when all that they really mean is boundaries?
  • Neither the depth of despondency nor the height of euphoria tells you how long either will last.
  • Considering how often throughout history even intelligent people have been proved to be wrong, it is amazing that there are still people who are convinced that the only reason anyone could possibly say something different from what they believe is stupidity, dishonesty, or evil.
  • If there is anything worse than outliving your money, it is outliving all your loved ones.