I’m nearly done reading the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I tried reading them when I was a kid, and couldn’t really get into them. Now I find them fascinating, engaging, and most importantly, educational! I’m not claiming the main characters are paragons of virtue, no one would, however they have much to offer. Here are some of the things I’ve found in these classic tales.
How best to rest
When they are tired from their adventures, or tired from being bored, Watson and Holmes rarely sit idle. They rest by doing other things. Even when taking long walks, they usually have some other objective. For instance, in one story they go off to a little cottage by the seashore. Though they are there for a rest, they spend their days studying ruins left by the Neolithic Celts and researching their linguistic roots. They are both certainly active and thinking, but they are not doing the things they did in the city. At the beginning of Doyle’s tales, Holmes said that idleness tires him more than activity.
Study the world around you
Over and over, both Holmes and Watson are portrayed as being interested in a variety of subjects. Holmes, for example, has a great interest in classical music, in archaeology, in art, in various subjects of science, handwriting analysis, chemistry, and many other things. Neither Holmes nor Watson waste an opportunity to observe and learn, although there are some things that Holmes admits he doesn’t need to know. Holmes is famous for deducing facts from careful observation, a feat that is only possible with knowledge about many varying subjects.
When you are stuck on a problem, put it aside for a while
When he’s having trouble solving a case, Holmes is frequently seen distracting himself. Though Watson has difficulty with this, Holmes is famous for setting his troubles aside and throwing himself deeply into some recreation such as music or his latest manuscript.
Don’t give up
Holmes often stays with a case, even when circumstances might indicate otherwise. He usually knows when there’s something to be found. Though he might stop and think for a time, or try different things, he doesn’t give up. He keeps questioning, gathering information, and research both likely and unlikely possibilities till he solves the mystery. This tenacity is something to be admired and emulated.
Do your job for passion rather than for fame
Though this sometimes frustrates Watson, Holmes usually solves his cases for the pure satisfaction of doing so. He enjoys the mental puzzle, the chase itself is the reward. When he’s on a really difficult case, he’s always full of energy. That’s true for anyone who has a true vocation, be it a hobby or a job. If you find that work you are most suited to, you will see similar effects.
Holmes and Watson are both very patient, though Watson is less so. So long as he knows he’s “on the scent,” Holmes is endlessly patient – he is prepared to wait all night in a dark room, or creep around in the bushes in search of clues. Once, he even went without food and drink for three days so he could catch a criminal. Sure, it’s a fictional account, but it’s a great demonstration of what patience truly means.
Focus on facts rather than feelings
In the Holmes stories, facts are king. Even when others claim that a particular mystery is supernatural in origin, and everyone believes it, Holmes exhausts all mundane options first. It’s not that he says supernatural things are possible, but he makes sure there aren’t any more mundane possibilities. He doesn’t assume anything, and doesn’t let emotion or belief suffice when logic will serve better.
Be kind to your friends
Even though Holmes is famous for his dispassionate demeanor, he is still polite, courtly towards women, and good to his friends. He doesn’t let his unemotionalism make him bitter or overly cold.