The Mihir Chronicles

Rationalizing Independent Thinking

January 01, 2018

Why strive for independent thinking?

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

Unfortunately, in our society, thinking from the fundamentals or the source material is rare. You instead form conclusions after taking in layers and layers of overlapping information and opinions without basing your 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 the constraints of the modern education system and the onslaught of data here in the age of information imposed 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 a mental model checklist as a guidebook 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 you can rise.