For those of us who don’t exchange a product (e.g. food, insurance, clothes) or provide a tangible service like (Hairdressing; healthcare; hospitality etc.) for money what we essentially sell is ideas in exchange for an income. Those in the business of selling “ideas” can testify that sometimes this task can be a daunting one because you don’t necessarily have something tangible that you can convince people about all the time.

What makes the exchange of ideas also more difficult is that, those who consume and engage with them have their own subjective biases. I will give an example about the latter point. I was in a meeting recently and the Sponsor of the project was not impressed with the proposal we had submitted. When he was giving us his feedback, I felt like I was in high school with all the red pen marks that he made on almost every page. Post that meeting, the old me would have left that room distraught and would have felt down and made the comments about me (the thinker) and not the proposal (the thought). My ability to be mature about such matters came a while back when I was reading the book of Proverbs. As I was reading the writer shared the below commentary:

“Mental Sharpness comes from being around good people. And a meeting of minds can help people see their ideas with new clarity, refine them and shape them into brilliant insights. This requires partners who can challenge one another and stimulate thought- people who focus on the idea without involving their egos in the discussion; people who know how to attack the thought and not the thinker. Two friends who bring their ideas together can help each other become sharper.” Unknown

I was completely blown away by this statement “know how to attack the thought and not the thinker.” The ability to be able to separate what you DO and WHO YOU ARE is truly an extraordinary accomplishment.

We need to get comfortable with our ideas being challenged because the more they are challenged, the more refined an idea becomes. Sometimes one’s perception of your “ideas” or “your work” may have nothing to do with you. What we must remember is that when we come together in our various social settings, we come as individuals fully loaded with all sorts of prejudices and convictions about the world.

We need to get comfortable with this philosophy of the attack the thought not the thinker because we live in a society where people have brilliant ideas, but they never vocalise them for fear of what people may think about them.

We need to create spaces for people to feel completely comfortable to share their thoughts, knowing that they will not be made to feel stupid or silly but rather an opportunity to further refine that idea for the betterment of whatever outcome they may be intending to achieve.