Maybe there is no one in the world who is not familiar with the name Sherlock Holmes. You do not need to be versed in all the adventures written by Conan Doyle, yet it is highly probable that you have heard of the Baker Street sleuth or watched a movie about him. In this article we would like to deal with Sherlock’s thinking. We strongly believe that many people are interested in it, and you do not have to be a Holmes fan or a detective story lover to find something useful in this writing. Hopefully we will be able to give helpful advice both for logical thinking and for a happier life. We plan to add new points to the article regularly.
We would like to lay down that our aim is by no means to force our thoughts, opinion and ideas to anyone. We compile the article using accurate and acclaimed sources. We borrowed our title from the fantastic book of Maria Konnikova, this way indicating that it is the guideline of our thoughts. We recommend the book for everyone, it is a practical guide and a pleasureable reading at the same time. Of course we used other great books as well.
Time is one of our greatest treasures. There is no more valuable gift than time passed together valuably and usefully. Sherlock Holmes often races against time so it was necessary for him to learn to map it out. He immediately tells if he catches out in a lie, this way he spares time. For the same reason he ignores people after he got to know what he wanted and thinks they cannot give him more important information. But he gladly spends his time with his friend dr. Watson outside the investigations as well, they talk a lot or go to concerts. Sherlock knows that relationships and the effective gathering of data need time. That is why he expends time on Watson and on broadening his knowledge – just remember that his Baker Street flat serves as a laboratory and a criminal register. You have to learn for a long time to accumulate huge amounts of knowledge.
' They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains,' he remarked with a smile. ' It's a very bad definition, but it does apply to detective work.' (A Study in Scarlet)
You have to know:
- Your time is limited, you have to map it out wisely. You have to believe that you can do it. You can be the master of your time and your life.
- Past is history, future is mystery. You always live in today, in the present. So it is important to focus on the present. You have to learn from your past mistakes and to treasure your good memories, but do not feel guilty because of your faults. By learning the lesson you will not make the same mistakes again. Events in the present are the foundation of your future. Do not fear the future. You build it with your deeds.
- Time is relative. When you are doing something that you love, it seems to fly, while it goes by slowly when your task is not close to your heart.
- Always have time to get to know yourself, others and the events of the world.
- Never hurry. Being nervous causes problems and you waste your time with it.
How can you avoid trepidity? Use your brain and make plans.
Before going to somewhere plan everything carefully. Choose your dress, even your route inside the flat and the things you need to bring with you. Measure the time you need to get ready, and next time include it to the process. Give yourself some extra 5, 10 or 15 minutes. These extra minutes can help avoiding the unexpected without being late. It is useful for you and for those who are waiting for you. Unfortunately many accidents are caused by hurry. When you travel without hurry, your brain has the time to think over important things. Maybe planning takes time, but it woth it – you gain more time and new opportunities in turn.
How to map out your time
The requisite of orderliness is harmony. Your surroundings reflects a certain extent your own inner status. When there is order and harmony inside, it is easier to have order outside. But everybody has a different definition for order. The important thing is to know your way about your things. Good news is that orderliness can be learned and you can improve it with organizing your daily activities. Who keeps his/her things in order is consistent in his/her activities – that is to say, is good at mapping out time.
Using a schedule helps to look through your tasks and at the same time it trains you to orderliness. Meanwhile it is also important to be flexible – you do not have to stick to the timeplan by all means.
List your duties according to their level of importance. This way you do not get lost in them and you can have a better overview.
Always keep in mind that it is not good to take on too much tasks – your schedule remains unspoiled only if you know how to manage your time.
Try to do the consecutive tasks in their proper order to save time and energy.
It is good to know how many tasks you can manage within a certain period of time. It is better to do fewer things as perfect as possible than to start everything but not to finish anything properly.
Try to plan in advance as many things as possible. With this you can check your tasks and it is easier to make modifications.
Concentration is important even at the most trivial things. The tiniest detail can be significant as well.
Always take the time to rest and to do the things you really like.
" If you love life, do not waste your time, because life is time. " - Bruce Lee.
" Holmes was certainly not a difficult man to live
with. He was quiet in his ways, and his habits were
regular. " (Dr Watson - A Study In Scarlet)
In some adaptations Sherlock Holmes is portrayed to be nervous and short-tempered, but this is not really in accordance with his character. Conan Doyle’s hero was basically calm, though he became upset and lethargic when he had no cases to work on. In The Final Problem he tells about himself: „I think that you know me well enough, Watson, to understand that I am by no means a nervous man.” We can mention The Case of Identity, where the detective unveils a man who fools his stepdaughter. When confronted with his acts, he does not feel sorry and even becomes arrogant, so Holmes takes his riding-whip and threatens him with a beating. Watson tells that the sleuth’s face becomes red but he does not hit the man, he lets him run off. Sherlock is moved by the events, but he does not insult the man physically. In the end he laughs at such timorousness. This shows that the detective can limit his passion in tough situations. He is able to let his anger vanish. “Anger is the most impotent of passions. It effects nothing it goes about, and hurts the one who is possessed by it more than the one against whom it is directed.” – wrote American writer Carl Sandburg.
It is mentioned in the Canon that Sherlock likes to watch birds. To do that one has to be patient and calm, and it helps to practice self-discipline. When Holmes retires to Sussex, he keeps and observes bees, which activity also requires patience. (You can read more here: Sherlock Holmes and the bees)
„When you are right, you can allow to stay calm. When you err, you cannot allow to lose your temper.” – said the sage Mahatma Gandhi. He knew very well that who is driven by anger may even deepen his/her problems. „Anger, passion, an insult, an ardent look turns you just the very opposite of your real nature.” – stated famous Hungarian writer Mór Jókai about naturalisms. But we can overcome our instincts if we want to.
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. (…) If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – said the wise Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, who practised patience during his life.
How can we avoid hot-tempered actions?
According to a wise saying it is good to take a deep breath and count from one to ten. Scientists who research the brain demonstrated that it is really an effective remedy. While counting, anger settles and our brain gets time to search for solutions for the actual problems, instead of being upset or giving way to despair.
In Point 1 we mentioned how important is time in our life. Valuable time is the most precious gift we can give to others and ourselves as well. According to the laws of Nature the reactions of the brain take time too. Who gives time for his/her brain gives a chance for him- or herself to evaluate the actual problem efficiently and in many ways – and this is essential for finding the solutions in life.
We must not forget that it is impossible to take back what we have already said. We may say things out of anger and this way we create inconvenient situations. Working out these needs lots of time and energy, and what is more, we even may unintentionally hurt others with our reckless word.
Do not give way to despair. Lethargic people deprive themselves of the possibility of searching for solutions. According to the S.A.S. (a special force of the British Army) the basic rule of surviving is to avoid depression.
British scientists showed that besides causing other problems stress harms the brain as well - it kills brain cells (Source: "Stress: Portrait of a Killer" documentary, National Geographic, and for more information see the following link to the Whitehall Study + other studies.). So keeping calm protects the abilities of the brain. (We listed some advices on how to remain calm in the above point).
Some may say that Sherlock's profession is full of stress and he is often nervous. Both statements are true. But we have to keep in mind that he consciously lessens the amount of stress that affects him. He is his own boss, so he has to adapt to just a few people (policemen, for example). He created his own profession, which is a great achievement, so he is rightly proud of the fact that he is the only consulting detective. He often sees awful crimes, but he knows that there are tragedies in life but he can do a lot to avoid them (Maybe he cannot prevent all crimes, but by catching criminals he can rarefy the incidence of harm and cruelty.). It gives him a certain amount of professional self-confidence and routine that he worked out his rational working methods for himself, that he constantly extends his knowledge and that he is convinced that he is able to solve the mysteries. These things give him a kind of comfort and he feels himself at home while investigating. His profession is not an obligation for him, he is truly interested in it and he really loves his job. In the world every task, every challenge is important. Whether we are cleaning, learning, teaching, selling things, filling out papers, nursing relatives or doing anything else, these all are needed things in the world. As American physicist Michio Kaku said: „Work helps to give us a sense of responsibility and purpose, a concrete focus to our labors and dreams. Work not only gives discipline and structure to our lives, it also provides us with a sense of pride, accomplishment and a framework for fulfillment.”
If someone suffers from the daily routine of his/her profession and has no chance to find another way of living, he/she can make the job in question much more enjoyable by doing his/her tasks with complacency and by improving his/her knowledge. Knowledge gives us power, and work does the same. Greater knowledge may lead to bigger success. Or to say it with a proverb: Live and learn.
According to the law of being a professional it takes ten years of intensive and quality work to a common man to be a professional in his job (In the world of art Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the genius composer is an excellent example. He was extremely talented, his first pieces were great but those of ten years later were even more sophisticated and spellbinding.). To gather knowledge one needs time, sedulity and calmness. According to the great Thomas Alva Edison: „Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
In our article I believe in Sherlock Holmes we already mentioned that the detective is the symbol of hope. We must not forget that his creator, the world famous Conan Doyle had a very tough life and yet he dared to hope. Dr. Joseph Bell (the real-life model for Holmes), or such friends of Arthur Conan Doyle like Harry Houdini or William Gillette all were full of hope. They never gave up, they tried to make the most of even the toughest situations instead. Hope is one of the most noble features of man, it is in unison with such positive things like love or peace. The famous American writer, Stephen King thinks: „Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Or listen to the wise words of Paulo Coelho: „Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.”
It is very important to dare to hope. Another significant thing is not to be afraid of changes in our own life or in the life of our loved ones. It is also natural that our emotions, experiences alter and that our body ages. Change belongs to the laws of nature. One thing that you see today as negative may later transform into something positive and beneficial, because change offers possibilities. Though it is important to begin the change with minor things and to progress gradually. As the great German poet and writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote (Holmes several times quoted from him in the Canon): „Never give up hope, even when your most beautiful dreams are ruined, because the nicest flowers bloom on the top of ruins.”
Sherlock Holmes dares to change his life even in the most tough and difficult situations. After his fight with Moriarty he moves from one place to another in the world, which means he has to adapt to new ways of living and new situations. He does not give way to despair if he has to switch his lifestyle or to restart. Hungarian poet and writer Albert Wass asks: „Leaves sprout in spring, then they fall in autumn. This happens again and again. Flowers bloom and then wither. Spring, summer, autumn and winter come and go after each other. You say that is all natural and could not be otherwise, because this is the course of life. So why are you so upset when you have to build up your life from the beginning?”
Our life is a long chain of decisions. Your own life is largely determined by the decisions and choices you make. It is a fact, whether you accept it or not. Imagine that you are on a railway station with a lot of luggage. You may get on a train to travel to a new country or you may miss it – the decision is up to you. If it takes too much time to choose and the train leaves without you, it is not a surprise – you knew exactly that trains run on schedule, loudspeakers and displays warned you. You had all information to catch the train in time, but you speculated too long and this way you condemned yourself to passivity and had run out of time. German writer and psychologist Ruediger Schache suggests: „Decide! Bring some zest to your life. If you do not make decisions, others will do it instead of you. Your actions open doors to many things. And sometimes not just wishes enter them, but even people who are able to open further doors for you.”
Sherlock Holmes dares to decide. He knows exactly that making decisions energizes his life and in addition it affects the world too. Decisions mean changes – and as we told in Point 4, changes may lead us to a better direction.
Holmes weighs the possibilities up before doing something – with this he reasonably reduces the risk of wrong decisions. Whatever he does, he dares to take the responsibility for his actions, he owns his faults and he is not ashamed of them and is always ready to correct what possible. He notes his errors to not to make them again. As he thinks rationally, he admits that there are situations when one has to wait (for example during an investigation to wait for new clues or facts to turn out).
Imagination and facts are both necessary to a successful deduction. Without the ability to imagine what could have happened you cannot go further with a train of thoughts. It is also important to be neutral - that is to have no prejudice against someone or something. You have to consider the facts and nothing else. Your emotions, may they be positive or negative, are only secondary, and you have to try to overlook them.
It is important to have a pastime or pastimes. Having a hobby gives the feeling of success, especially when your beloved activity allows you to create something (knitting, stitching, decorating, painting and so on). Pastimes urge you to use and broaden your knowledge and please you. Holmes and Dr. Watson also had their own hobbies.
You can find out more about the usefulness of reading here: