Independent Thinking

A note on independent thinking.

Logical perspective is called upon us everyday while making critical decisions. However, the noise around us makes it very difficult to separate out fact from opinion. Liberal arts and humanity is not given the same importance as math and science in higher education today. It should be a reminder for us all that we are molded by our way of thinking. In that case, you can bet the decay of society will start accelerating if there is a broader decay of independent thinking. Expressing clear thoughts with logical perspective should be everyone's goal.

We live in a very noisy world. We are constantly bombarded with new information, day in and day out, via our smart phones, our browsers, advertisements, digital news, and more. Take a look around you and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a data overload, but a drought of original thought. We take opinions as facts and as a single source of truth. It even seems at times like we have forgotten how to question and reason.

Unfortunately, in our society thinking from the fundamentals or the source material, is rare. We instead form conclusions after taking in layers and layers of overlapping information and opinions, without basing our reasoning on those essential fundamentals. Also rare is a deep, multi-faceted education, which contains a breadth of learning.

This is not to say there are no clever people in the modern world though, there certainly are. But, remember that high IQ scores do not necessarily make for independent thinkers.

Independent thinking matters because it differentiates you from the crowd. It trains you to think outside of the constrains that modern educations systems, and the onslaught of data here in the age of information impose upon you.

Are you an independent thinker? If not, don’t blame yourself, after all, shortcuts are easy and fun while acquiring wisdom can be a hard and daunting task! Learning to think independently can be scary at first, but remember, anything is simple when it’s broken down into smaller pieces. Let’s look at an easy way to start:

Firstly, do not jump to conclusions. Secondly, use mental models to ask the right questions. You’ll learn to disassemble and reassemble ideas in such a way that they form something new from something old. Address and assess differing views as a means to form your own conclusions. You can use the mental model list as a guide book to your learning, rather than as a rule book.

Read widely and deeply, drawing lines between many disciplines and concepts so that the principles that apply to one can benefit you in another. For example, engineering principles can be applied to economics and vice versa. Independent thinkers approach a high-level of abstract thinking that allows them to draw upon their breadth of learning and reach their own novel solutions and ideas.

It is easy to pay homage to Charlie Munger’s widely-lauded latticework of mental models, but when you live it, you’ll see why he is right. Knowing the key drivers and major ideas from a variety of fields is a huge source of leverage. It is difficult to study broadly and deeply, but the two are not mutually exclusive.

We need to teach that doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know” and question everything, because that is when the independent thinkers inherent in all of us can rise.