My mind often goes back to when I was a kid living in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. During the summer school break, I was often found on the “front porch” (we now call them decks) sitting alone in silence simply lost in my thoughts. There are times now when I am sitting alone on the cottage deck or on the living room couch lost in my thoughts. At times my wife Linda will ask, “What are you thinking about?” I simply reply, “Nothing,” which really isn’t true since I am still known for spending much time in quiet contemplation about life. One time, I remember a late night talk show host asking one of his guests, “What were you thinking?” Based on his guest’s unacceptable behaviour, it was obvious he wasn’t thinking at all. We regularly ask others, “What do you think about this or that?” Now that my two children are finished university, I have often asked them, “Have you given much thought about what you want to do in life?” During brainstorming sessions in our management meetings, we often ask each other the question, “What are your thoughts on this?” 

The ability to think, to express our thoughts, to convert our thoughts into constructive and profitable actions, is a critical component of leading successful lives and successful organizations. In each of my positions as President & CEO of various companies, I protected my time by providing moments when I could give 100% of my thought to the current performance and long term direction of the organization I was leading. I was hired and paid to think! 

Recently, I visited a local Chapters book store with the purpose of evaluating what books were being promoted on leadership. Of course, the list was infinite. But searching through all the titles, I never found one book focused on what I believe is a crucial part of successful leadership. That is the ability to “THINK”. 

When I was in consulting, the number one frustration CEOs I worked with expressed to me was the inability for their management team to think creatively and to present new ideas and solutions to a consistently changing competitive landscape. When companies talk about differentiation, they can no longer simply rely on a product or a service or technology. The most important point of differentiation is the “Thinking Quotient” of their organization. A low “Thinking Quotient” is what causes a company to fail. But a company with a high “Thinking Quotient” will set them apart. For example, Apple exceeds because it has a higher “Thinking Quotient” than its competitors. 

“As a Man Thinketh” 

There is a book written by James Allen with the title “As a Man Thinketh” (here Allen uses “Man” to refer to humanity). The author says, “All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is a direct result of his own thoughts.” 

Quotes from “As a Man Thinketh”

  • Men do not attract what they want, but what they are.
  • A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.
  • Cherish your visions. Cherish your ideals. Cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment, of these, if you but remain true to them your world will at last be built.
  • The soul attracts that which it secretly harbours, that which it loves, and also that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations. It falls to the level of its unchastened desires - and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.
  • Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound.
  • Every action and feeling is preceded by a thought.
  • Right thinking begins with the words we say to ourselves.
  • Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him to himself.
  • You cannot travel within and stand still without.
  • As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking.

James Allen said............

A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind. Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires, so may a man tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts, and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts. By pursuing this process, a man sooner or later discovers that he is the master gardener of his soul, the director of his life. Every thought seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit. 

A recent advertisement in the Economist magazine caught my attention since it was on this very subject matter. The ad simply said:

Few things possess more Power than a Thought
Because a Thought has the potential
To become something significant.
To solve something meaningful.
And to inspire us to achieve great things.
What makes a Thought so powerful
Is it can be created by anybody.
At anytime.
From anywhere.
That’s why Thinking should be encouraged
And nurtured in all its forms.
No matter how small.
Or how impossibly grand.
Because wherever Thinking happens,
Big ideas follow.
Minds become more enlightened.
Knowledge grows.
And people discover new ways to unlock their Potential.
So let’s start Thinking.

(from Qatar ad-Unlocking Human Potential-Economist Magazine April 2010)

As we emerge from the recession, the world around us has changed - it’s the kind of world that needs people with ideas, but more importantly, the skills to execute them successfully. Remember, as CMAs, we are the “ideas” people in business, with the grounding in accounting, management and strategy to make our ideas happen. With this in mind, I hope you have a thoughtful day!