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Mary-Helen Rossi
Mary-Helen Rossi
I almost graduated from George Washington University and went on to learn from life. I am currently co-visionary and director at Merge Education, disseminating the Rossi Arts Mentoring (Creative Education) Approach


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Posted in Arts / Music / Blues

Just What is Best Thinking, Anyway?

Mar. 23, 2012 3:54 pm
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<p>Just what is best thinking, anyway?</p>

Ask that question today, and you’ll consistently get answers like “well ordered, systematic, linear, rational”. Most Americans applaud the thinking process of an academician and disparage anything else as being out of it, ditzy, or (God forbid) fuzzy thinking.

Of course, most of us have a combination of thinking styles – sometimes sharp, sometimes fuzzy, often in between – the problem is that our society lauds the one extreme and derides the other.

If you were ever told your thinking wasn’t up to par, you probably felt you were somehow odd – different from everyone else. But here’s an interesting point: Albert Einstein’s professors called him a “lazy dog” and refused to write him letters of recommendation after graduation – all because he didn’t think or act like them. Albert Einstein just didn’t snap to grid; Einstein was (gasp) different.

Are we missing out on most of our brilliant thinkers?

Okay, maybe all creative thinkers aren’t as brilliant as Einstein (although who’s to tell - few have the opportunity to develop), but what I find really exciting today is that for the first time since I can remember, creativity is being lauded. Why? Mostly because the U.S. is falling behind as a nation and corporations are recognizing our lack of creativity as a major reason.

It’s a funny conundrum of sorts – our increasingly regimented, lock-step, listen-to-the-experts-they-know-better mindset fostered by corporate America and the public school system is on the verge of falling apart largely due to one of its natural byproducts: the dumbing down and psychological bleaching of our citizenry.

Maybe it’s time to try a new way of thinking? Perhaps I’m just crazy optimistic, but I think it might be starting to crack open. I sure see that as good news, because although I’m one of those people who can learn lock-step I have rarely found learning that way to be satisfying, and I know countless others who feel the same way.

Now that I understand this and no longer believe that the way I learn or think is a problem, I’ve also realized that I had a lot of “knowledge” thrust at me during my education which was in no way relevant to my life. We all innately know what we need – we’re hard wired to learn what we need to know to find our intrinsic path in life – we just need to be given the right opportunities.

So where does creativity come in to play in all of this? Creativity is the oxygen in learning. It’s what moves each of us along in the direction we need to go – it’s what shows us the next step on our unique path.

And it’s never too late! When I married my jazz pianist/educator husband over 25 years ago I would have laughed derisively at this post – but now, I’m writing it. Suffice it to say I’ve learned a lot about myself and life, and in the process found a life worth living.

So what is Creativity, and how does it work?

We talk a lot about it at our site. But what strikes me hardest about creativity is that it can be really demanding.

It requires that we go into places in ourselves that can feel pretty insecure – and in a culture where everyone wants to be an esteemed expert, that’s not an admired place to be.

Creativity also requires us to slow down – to go inside ourselves, listen for what bubbles up, then follow the ideas. Oh, and lest I forget, it involves a lot of risks taking.

One of the most unnerving aspects of creativity, for me, is that when I want to understand something it can seem to take eons before an answer becomes clear. That can mean hanging out in not knowing for a VERY long time.

Okay, what else? Creativity requires us to be spontaneous (which feels nerdy, at first); to make mistakes (best to think of these as “first takes”); and show happiness with simplicity, which can make a person feel like a little kid (which, until you get comfortable with it, can feel frightening.)

The ultimate demand of creativity is that it requires you to authentically be who you really are. In a society where we’re taught to look like or sound like or be like someone else, how can we possibly do that? The beautiful and amazing thing with creativity is that in the process – in the creative process – creativity also helps you discover who you are.

So sure, creativity requires a lot. But it gives even more than it demands. For my way of thinking, it’s well worth it.

Mary-Helen Rossi, Business Director Merge Education, Inc. 484.887.0377

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