Sherlock Holmes, an astute and idiosyncratic English detective, was created by Arthur Conan Doyle. He is one of our fictional heroes as a Zen master in disguise. His meticulous methods of detection are most impressive to his intrepid partner Dr. Watson and to the earnest but incompetent investigators from Scotland Yard. In one of the stories, Sherlock Holmes says: "It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important." He notices what others miss and has a deep respect for the mysteries of human nature.
Maria Konnikova writes the "Literally Psyched" column for Scientific American and is currently a doctoral candidate in psychology at Columbia University. She has a firm grasp on the extraordinary mental gifts of Sherlock Holmes and is able to explore and explicate them in the context of 21st century neuroscience and psychology. She thinks he models a way of thinking that opens us to new possibilities.
What can we learn from Sherlock about being a mastermind? Konnikova does a fine job spelling out the importance of mindfulness (focused attention), knowing yourself (tapping into your innate abilities and working with confidence), observation (seeing clearly and discerning the difference between the crucial and the incidental), imagination (taking time to reflect and probe even more), deduction (sticking with what you have observed), and continuous learning (making the most of failure and mistakes). She also discusses Re-training Exercises for the brain.
In 1999, we reviewed Holy Clues: Investigating Life's Mysteries with Sherlock Holmes by Stephen Kendrick on Sherlock Holmes and the great spiritual mysteries of existence. Here Konnikova salutes the famous sleuth's luminous intellect and his science of deduction. Covering many sides of Sherlock's personality and style, these books prove he can be a good mentor, showing how to be more attentive, alive to our senses, and expressive of our creativity.