Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats: On Thought

1. Thought is the most rapid agency in the universe. It can travel to Sirius and return in an instant. Nothing is too small for it to grasp; nothing to great. It can go in and out of itself–now focusing on reality and now on itself. It will flow like water; it may become stable as stone. You must familiarize yourself with some of the possibilities of that extraordinary agent we call thought. Learn its uses and how to use it. Your test will always be–results; for real thinking brings real results. Thinking is an art, a science of magnificent possibilities.

2. Many people believe that when they are reading in a book or listen to someone’s discourse, they are necessarily thinking; but it does not necessarily follow. The best that reading and listening can do is to stimulate you to think your own thoughts, but, nine times out of ten, you are thinking the other man’s thoughts, not your own. What occurs is like an echo, a reflection; it is not the real thing. You must carefully and watchfully discriminate between pseudo-thinking and real thinking. Pseudo-thinking is always imitative, real thinking is always creative. You cannot create unless you think and you cannot truly think without creating in consequence.

3. The first thing upon which you must bend your mind is, to learn to think seriously, accurately, methodically, persistently, thoroughly and fearlessly. Never doubt the powers of your own mind, for they are there, waiting for you to discover them, to know them, to use them. You will not learn in printed books how to think this way, but you will find it in the great open book of life about you.

4. So, first, learn to think, then, learn to act. When you learn to think organically you will act organically. But do not be ashamed to begin in a small way. Everything begins in a small way. Make sure, only, that it is the right way. Seek to learn something of your own nature–your aptitudes, your powers, your limitations. Strive to increase the powers, to remove the limitations. You cannot hope to know your powers until you test them with the force of will and the backing of character to overcome obstacles. Its almost folly to talk of the limitations of the mind: leave that to idlers. The so-called average mind has vastly greater powers, immeasurably greater possibilities of development than is generally supposed.

5. But you cannot do this in a day, in a week, in a year. It must be for you a life-work, a long steady, continuous endeavor. The more you think, the more you will delight in thinking; the more you contemplate, the more you will delight in contemplation; the more you act, the more you will delight in action. Bear in mind that you are not to think merely on occasions, as a sort of ceremonial, but daily, hourly, all the time–it must become your fixed and natural habit of mind. So will your thinking steadily grow in power, clearness, flexibility and grace; and you will ever thereafter feel what the spirit of independence and self-control truly means.

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3 Responses to Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats: On Thought

  1. John, Yes! It is these intense virtuous cycles building on themselves in intensity, then branching out and expanding with seeming no limit to their efflorescence and generative power, that gives his thought, his prose, his architecture it’s exuberant quality which is his signature.

  2. John Gillis says:

    “The more you think, the more you will delight in thinking; the more you contemplate, the more you will delight in contemplation; the more you act, the more you will delight in action.”
    This is the virtuous circle as opposed to the vicious circle. Louis specialized in virtuous circles in his thought and his architecture and his ornament.

  3. Aneel says:

    Best one yet.

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