Nurture Your Young Thinkers

Dec. 21, 2004
At any age, they are vital to your success.

Young thinkers are capable of some truly remarkable contributions to our culture. That long-haired, kooky-looking kid named Al Einstein, for example, mastered the works of Euclid, Newton, and Spinoza by the time he was 15. Charles Darwin formulated his theory of evolution by the age of 27. Pascal wrote a book on geometry by the age of 16 and invented the adding machine by the time he was 19. Michelangelo sculpted his "Battle of the Centaurs" at 17 and created his remarkable "Pieta" before the age of 26. Mozart began writing musical compositions at the age of 4, wrote his first sonata at the age of 7, and completed his first symphony by the time he was 8. Thinking young often means thinking daringly, imaginatively, and differently. Young people think daringly because they rarely know that what they are trying to do has never been done before. But thinking young also means thinking creatively, using what you have learned over time in new and different ways. The point is that you don't have to be young to think young. Some of the youngest thinkers have made startling contributions to our culture well after the age of 65. Pablo Picasso, Albert Schweitzer, Armand Hammer, Giusseppe Verdi, and Mother Teresa, for examples, made major contributions after they turned 80. Peter Drucker is a young thinker at the age of 89. He was born in Vienna in 1909. He was educated in Austria and England. In 1929, he became a newspaper correspondent and economist for an international bank in London. Since 1937, he has lived and worked in the United States, first as an economist for a group of British banks and insurance companies, and later as a management consultant to several of this country's largest and most prestigious companies. There are three ways to be a young thinker. The first is to amass knowledge. The second is to share it. And the third is to apply your acquired knowledge to new problems, new situations, new technologies, and new challenges. And it doesn't matter how old you are. Thinking young is often the lifeblood of a company. It keeps a company young, contemporary, and competitive. When people sign on with a company, they spend their early years moving through the channels that lead to higher levels of importance, influence, and income, then suddenly they find there is no room at the top. So what happens to those aspiring to opportunities that no longer exist? If they are young thinkers, they are rarely content to just hang around in a crowd and wait for opportunity to come to them. They go where opportunity is. If you don't have opportunity at your company, the young thinkers will leave, taking their knowledge wealth with them. Others will start their own companies using the knowledge you helped pay for. Young thinkers, regardless of their age, see achievement as a vital need. They also want recognition. Positive images rarely survive when the stimuli that created them die. Young thinkers with nothing to think about lose their sense of purpose, their sense of performance, their sense of anticipation, and their sense of belonging. When young thinkers are repressed, they become depressed. Young thinkers need goals, causes, challenges, and purpose, no matter how young or old they are. These needs are synonymous with survival and achievement, characteristics as important to 65-year-olds as they are to 35-year-olds.

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