“A penny for your thoughts” can be a nice way to engage a friend in a conversation or pull a loved one closer who seems mentally distant. With social media producing an overabundance of shared thoughts, we may feel that we are overpaying with that penny to know what is going on in the gray matter between the ears of others online. Perhaps we should flip the script and just share a few thoughts on the penny — or a few thoughts from the penny.
In 1787, Benjamin Franklin designed America’s first penny, often referred to as the Fugio cent. Fugio, Latin for “fly,” was stamped on the coin next to an elaborate sundial with a shining sun overhead. The ever-pithy and quick-to-quip Franklin was sending the message that time flies. The more poignant message from the gentleman from Philadelphia was the inscription at the bottom, “Mind your business.” The coin would matter to a business owner, and Franklin thought it important that they mind, or pay attention to, their business.
In my work with executives, leaders and entrepreneurs, I have often added some encouragement and additional dimension to Franklin’s phrase on the penny. I have often taught that you must mind your mind if you want to mind and maximize your business or career. I am a firm and passionate believer in the need to be a lifelong learner.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” Staying engaged mentally is key to keeping sharp and living long. Personal wellness and financial fitness are often dependent upon our commitment to continuous learning.
Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leads one of the largest organizations for women in the world and was the keynote speaker at the fifth annual International Women-in-Diplomacy Day symposium. She told diplomats and business leaders that literacy, education and continuous learning are vital for the health, well-being and success of women and girls around the globe.
President Bingham said, “As the leader of the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I represent seven and a half million women who live in 220 countries around the world.” She noted an important study by Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions in cooperation with Plan International: “The authors of the report call for cooperation among governments, NGOs, the financial community and the private sector. They know and we know that education lifts a person’s vision, broadens their horizons and strengthens their ability to be self-reliant. They understand that the real purpose of education is to light the fire of potential, not fill the pail with knowledge.”
Minding the fire of a young girl’s human, and divine, potential is everyone’s business.
President Bingham continued, “The efforts my church has made to address this issue with our own members who need additional education is one example with which I am very familiar. A few years ago, we began an initiative called ‘Gospel Literacy.’ The program began as an effort to meet the literacy needs of women in some west African nations and will soon expand to some central and south African countries as well as areas in Central and South America and to island nations in the Pacific. The goal of this program is to help women obtain enough skills to be able to assist their own children with their schooling and to be sufficiently educated to serve as a teacher or leader in their local congregations. Participants in the program set aside an hour on Sundays and another hour during the week to study and work with a mentor. Generally, within 24 months these participants are able to read a lesson manual and then teach the material to others. Not surprisingly, those who enroll in the program often see an increase in their income.”
Minding the mind of women, young and old, creates upward economic mobility, which makes cents and sense. The income is important but the impact on families, communities and society is priceless.
Women and men need regular “a penny for your thoughts” reminders to focus on developing their minds. Da Vinci was completely dedicated to constantly learning, inventing, improving, acquiring more knowledge and developing new skills. He also recognized that nothing steals your drive, ambition and energy more than being complacent mentally. One of the greatest threats from continuously scrolling through social media is that it numbs the mind, drains ambition, creates false narratives and undermines self-confidence.
How about a penny for your thoughts on these questions: When was the last time you were excited about a new idea? When have you stopped and said, “Wow, I never knew that!”? When did you last find yourself losing track of time because you were so caught up in exploring a new philosophy or strategy? When was the last time you couldn’t wait to call a friend, loved one or colleague to share something new you had learned or discovered?
One more mind-moment from Franklin’s original penny. On the back of the penny were 13 interconnected circles representing the states. In the middle of the interconnected circles are the words “We are one.” This was not E Pluribus Unum, “Out of many, one,” but a much stronger, active declaration that “we” are one. Choosing to come together is one of the most powerful forces for good in the world.
“Time flies,” “mind your business” and “we are one” — all worth a pretty penny and worthy of your thoughts.