There is a scene in my favourite movie Dead Poets Society that I think about regularly.
For quite a few weeks now, I have turned to the same book every Sunday afternoon to switch off from my busy corporate life. The book is Walden by Henry James Thoreau. The book where that famous quote came from.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived“. Thoreau
But there is a much less well known quote hidden in the first few pages of the book that stopped me in my tracks and made me think.
“I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about“. Henry David Thoreau, Walden
This made me realise three things.
- Regularly having downtime just to think by yourself is vastly under-rated.
- We don’t always need to look to people older and wiser than we are for advice.
- There is a lot of news that will still be there when we get back from wherever we go to – and still hardly any of us will have made sense of it – so doing yourself a huge favour by retiring somewhere remote every so often to make sense of things will always be time well spent.
You don’t necessarily need to escape and build yourself a log cabin by a pond like Thoreau did, but I do think we could all do with a little more minimalism in our lives. And more time to think…