Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part II)


Looking Upwards

Looking Upwards

“For everyone of us that succeeds, it’s because there’s somebody there to show you the way out” Oprah Winfrey

There are many ways that people show others the way, both directly and indirectly. And, many people have allowed others to stand on their shoulders, sometimes even without knowing, simply by teaching others what they know or by documenting their observations, thoughts, insights and discoveries for others to read.

A quick way for us to stand on the shoulders of giants is to examine what’s been done before by reading about and listening to the experiences and lives of those we value and respect. You never know what bright idea you could come across, or what problem could be solved now because the time is right and the technology now exists.

A review of several books on creativity, inventions, discoveries and great thinkers and scientists who have changed the world, books such as Discover Your Genius, Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas, The Art of Thought, The Art of Thinking, The 100 Greatest Inventions of All Time, 100 Discoveries: The Greatest Breakthroughs in History, suggest that great thinkers have certain traits in common.

Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Gutenberg, Copernicus, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie and Alexander Fleming, a few of the great thinkers who made discoveries, and/or created products that influenced/changed the world, had the unique knack to do many of the following:

  • Reflect
  • Open to experiment
  • Keep record of research
  • Steely determination: impossible was not an answer
  • Open minded
  • Childlike sense of play
  • Curious
  • Voracious reader
  • Read/study broadly
  • Observe, detect and collect facts
  • Think independently
  • Take breaks to reenergize
  • Total absorption in subject
  • Have imagination 
  • Have vision
  • Didn’t reinvent the wheel – built on present and past knowledge
  • Look at the limitations of old inventions and devise a solution
  • Modify present technologies for other uses
  • Make connections between two different things
  • Combine theoretical knowledge with practical skills
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Give vital ideas the opportunity to take root and grow

How many of these traits do you have? And how many could you acquire with concerted effort? If you re-read yesterday’s blog post you will notice that some of the above traits are similar to some of the activities mentioned by survey respondents.

All of us are capable of generating our own great ideas. Read widely, reflect on life, travel to places that you’ve never been before, eat foods from different cultures, interact with nature, think about problems that need solving and work on ways to solve those problems. Immerse yourself in many activities and create new experiences for yourself. We can learn from the experiences of others, and we can use the words of others as Invisible Mentors to help us make progress in life. We can stand on the shoulders of giants!

What are your thoughts? How can you build on this concept?

Related Post: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part I)

Photo Credits: Avil Beckford


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One Response to “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part II)”

  1. Fred Says:

    I like your thoughts in this and your last post. I’ve been reading a book on how physics scientists have been working out the theories of quantum physics and it is interesting how important back and forth dialog with folks you respect can help keep creative thoughts moving forward.

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