Category Archives: How to Think Like a Genius

My Theory On Common Sense

It’s self-evident that the majority of human beings aren’t geniuses. If you’ve ever worked in the food service or retail industries, you probably feel surrounded by idiots who lack basic common sense. On the micro level, this can make one’s personal life infuriatingly stressful. On the macro level, if humanity doesn’t raise its intellectual bar across the board, it’s only a matter of time before we exterminate ourselves. So what is common sense, and how does one achieve the first step in the path to enlightenment? To begin answering these questions, we need to go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole of definitions.

 

Common sense refers to plain, self-evident truths or conventional wisdom that one needs no sophistication to grasp and no proof to accept precisely because they accorded so well with the basic (common sense) intellectual capacities and experiences of the whole social body”

 

Street sign that reads, "Don't walk in front of moving traffic"

 

In other words, common sense is having a basic understanding of reality, and analyzing it logically to draw accurate conclusions. This is similar to “intuition:”

 

Intuition is the ability to (seemingly) acquire knowledge without proof, evidence, or conscious reasoning, or without understanding how the knowledge was acquired. Different writers give the word “intuition” a great variety of different meanings, ranging from direct access to unconscious knowledge, unconscious cognition, inner sensing, inner insight to unconscious pattern-recognition and the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning. 

 

I added the word “seemingly,” because knowledge and reasoning don’t come from a magic hole in your head. Your brain is a cosmic supercomputer capable of putting two and two together without your full conscious attention. You don’t have to ponder if it’s safe to walk in front of moving traffic. Your brain can use common sense to solve that problem instantly and give you the answer.

The two common denominators between “common sense” and “intuition” are that they’re both dependent on an accurate perception of reality and rational thinking.

 

Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. Reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible.”

 

Rationality is the quality or state of being rational – that is, being based on or agreeable to reason. Rationality implies the conformity of one’s beliefs with one’s reasons to believe, and of one’s actions with one’s reasons for action. To determine what behavior is the most rational, one needs to make several key assumptions, and also needs a quantifiable formulation of the problem. When the goal or problem involves making a decision, rationality factors in all information that is available (e.g. complete or incomplete knowledge). Collectively, the formulation and background assumptions are the model within which rationality applies.”

 

Notice that “reality” + “rationality” = “sanity.”

 

Sanity refers to the soundness, rationality and healthiness of the human mind, as opposed to insanity.

Psychologist Erich Fromm proposed that, not just individuals, but entire societies “may be lacking in sanity”. Fromm argued that one of the most deceptive features of social life involves ‘consensual validation’: ‘It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth… Just as there is a folie à deux there is a folie à millions. The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.'”

 

If you know what is true, and you combine factual premises logically, you can calculate true conclusions. When you do this subconsciously, you’re using common sense. This means the opposite of common sense lies somewhere between “irrationality,” “superstition,” and “delusion,” all of which fit the definition of “thought disorders…” or, in other words, insanity.

 

Irrationality is cognition, thinking, talking, or acting without inclusion of rationality. It is more specifically described as an action or opinion given through inadequate use of reason, or through emotional distress or cognitive deficiency. The term is used, usually pejoratively, to describe thinking and actions that are, or appear to be, less useful, or more illogical than other more rational alternatives.

 

Superstition is a pejorative term for any belief or practice that is irrational – i.e., it arises from ignorance, a misunderstanding of science or causality, a positive belief in fate or magic, or fear of that which is unknown. ‘Superstition’ also refers to religious beliefs or actions arising from irrationality.”

 

“A delusion is a mistaken belief that is held with strong conviction even when presented with superior evidence to the contrary. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or some other misleading effects of perception. Although non-specific concepts of madness have been around for several thousand years, the psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers was the first to define the three main criteria for a belief to be considered delusional in his 1913 book General Psychopathology. These criteria are:

1: certainty (held with absolute conviction)
2: incorrigibility (not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary)
3: impossibility or falsity of content (implausible, bizarre, or patently untrue)”

 

Thought disorder  refers to disorganized thinking as evidenced by disorganized speech. Specific thought disorders include derailment, poverty of speech, tangentiality, illogicality, perseveration, and thought blocking.

 

When you put all these definitions together, “common sense” equates to the most basic level of cognitive requirements necessary to constitute sanity. People who lack common sense haven’t put in the minimum effort to developing a healthy, rational mind.

If these statements are true, then the steps to achieving the highest level of sanity are the same for achieving genius. I’ve already covered those steps in my post, “10 Steps To Becoming A Genius,” but I’ll summarize the basics into seven steps.

 

1: Be curious, and learn as much as you can.

The less you know, the less information you can draw on to make logical conclusions. The amount of knowledge you’ll horde by the end of your life will be proportional to your desire to learn. If you don’t thirst for knowledge and wisdom, you simply won’t pick it up. You’ll fill your time making irrational decisions, defending delusional beliefs, and suffering the consequences.

 

 

2: Assume you’re ignorant and illogical.

Before you start patting yourself on the back for being genius enough to stay out of traffic, understand that nobody is omnipotent or perfectly rational. Even if you could memorize every Wikipedia article, our brains are hardwired to take subconscious mental shortcuts based on generalizations. These often lead to conclusions and actions that seem logical in the short-term, but are counterproductive in the grander scheme. We can resist these inclinations, but first you need the humility to admit your ignorance.

Click the picture below to enlarge it.

list of cognitive biases

 

3: Value objective truth over subjective desire.

Some truths are subjective, but most are objective and can be confirmed by evidence and logic.  Even religion isn’t a mere matter of personal choice. When put to the test, most, if not all, religions fit the definition of mythology. Ignoring the evidence is delusional. The more emotionally you deny the evidence, the more you exhibit symptoms of insanity.

You can’t complete the process of arriving at objective truth if you value your subjective desires more than objective evidence. This makes respect for the scientific method a prerequisite to sanity and common sense.

 

The scientific method: 1. make observations 2. think of questions 3. formulate hypothesis 4. develop testable predictions 5. gather data to test predictions 6. develop general theories

 

4: Use rules to think rationally.

The Scientific Method wasn’t invented by evil Atheists who were tricked by the Devil into misleading humanity from truth. It was invented by people (including religious and non-religious ones) looking for a way to determine, verify, and refine truth. Over the centuries, humans have discovered a slew of logic and critical thinking skills you can must use to separate truth from falsity.

 

 

5: Always ask, “why?”

The one simple trick to mastering sanity is: THOUSANDS OF HOURS OF HARD WORK. If that seems like a lot to wrap your brain around, the least you can do is make a habit of asking, “why?” When you experience something you don’t understand, ask why it happened. If someone tells you something, ask why it’s true. Ask why it’s false. If you never stop asking, “why?” then you will never stop finding answers and moving closer to truth.

 

 

6: Always question your sources. 

In my opinion, the biggest reason the world is so full of irrational, delusional people isn’t because they lack access to information or the tools necessary to make sense of it all. The problem lies in the popularity of the belief that faith in authority is more valuable than skepticism and evidence. If you believe what you’re told, you’ll end up defending beliefs that serve the people who fed you their doctrine. If you don’t question everyone, you’ll believe anyone, and that will not lead you to truth or sanity.

 

 

7: Always question your answers.

As finite as our minds are, it’s inevitable that you’ll be led astray by good-sounding arguments that are ultimately false. Even if you don’t catch them coming in, you can still correct them by questioning your assumptions, thinking processes, and conclusions.

 

 

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How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning

Wise Sloth Video List: How To Think Like A Genius

I prefer watching educational videos on YouTube more than watching television, but it’s tedious digging for good content, and I’ve already seen most of the good stuff while searching for videos to put in my blogs. In case anyone else is looking for entertaining educational videos on YouTube, I made a series of posts with all the ones I’ve used on The Wise Sloth, organized by topic, with links to the posts they appear in. You’re bound to be enlightentained, and if you need help exploring the 600+ essays on The Wise Sloth, these video lists offer a quick overview that practically summarize my philosophies.

This list comes from my essays on philosophy and focuses on how to think like a genius.

8 steps to becoming a genius

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enlightenment through logic

 

 

The map of everything

 

 

10 steps to winning an argument

 

 

 

How to solve a problem with a team

 

 

 

Creativity is logic, not magic.

 

 

 

 

Wisdom I learned working in IT: Nothing is magical

 

 

Wisdom I learned working in IT: Answers come from questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Approach To Thinking/Problem Solving

 

This guide details the steps I use to solve problems. It’s also an excerpt from my first book, “Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life.”  This isn’t the only way to solve problems, but it’s a good place to start.

1: Ask a question.

2: Gather data

3: Identify the variables you have.

4: Identify the variables you don’t have.

5: Sort the data.

6: Apply formulas.

7: Ask sub-questions.

8: Question your answer.

9: Apply the solution.

STEP 1: ASK A QUESTION

The first step in this process is deceptively simple. Anyone can ask a question; the skill lies in knowing which questions to ask, and, once you’ve picked a question, knowing how to ask it.

In your finite lifespan, there are an infinite number of questions to ask and thus an infinite number of answers to learn. So which questions should you ask? You could try to answer as many of them as possible, but that would be futile. You could focus on trying to answer the hardest ones, but that would be foolish because the hardest questions aren’t always the most important.

You need to answer the most important questions first, and if you have time after that you can answer whatever questions you want. Otherwise, you’ll waste your life fretting over inconsequential issues while ignoring the questions that truly matter and have the biggest impact on your life and potentially every other living creature.

So whenever you ask a question you should also ask yourself if there’s a more important question you could be asking instead. And at some point, you should decide what the most important questions in life are. Then you should systematically answer them in descending order. Obviously, the most important question you can ever ask is, what is the meaning of life?

Once you find an important question to ask you need to make sure you’re asking the right question to address the heart of the issue. Psychologists, doctors, and mechanics have to excel at looking past the symptoms of a problem and identifying/addressing the root cause/s. If you’ve ever been married you’ve probably had arguments that could have been resolved much quicker if you could/would have just addressed the real reason you were angry at each other.

Politicians face this problem every day as well. You can’t eliminate crime by asking, “Should the death penalty be legal?” or “How many times should you be arrested before you’re sent to jail for life?” Sure, those questions address crime, but they don’t address the heart of the issue. So to focus on them is to hack away at the branches of the problem but never touch the trunk. To end crime you first need to ask, “What is crime?” Then you need to ask, “What causes people to commit crime?” Then you focus on that/those cause/s.

 

STEP 2: GATHER DATA

The second step of the problem-solving process is to gather data (a.k.a. variables). This isn’t just a good idea or something that’ll help when you get stuck in a rut. You have to do it. If you don’t articulate the data then you don’t have any information to deduce the answer from. So you don’t actually have an equation at all.

Intelligent investors know this well. They would never buy stock in a company without knowing as many variables about the company as possible. You wouldn’t marry someone without knowing as much about them as possible. A jury wouldn’t pass a verdict on a defendant without knowing as much about the case as possible. If you’ve ever bought a used car that turned out to be a lemon you definitely know the value of gathering variables before coming to a conclusion.

Sometimes we refuse to even try to find any variables or we refuse to acknowledge the variables that are right in front of us. This is why people say not to talk about religion or politics. It’s common knowledge that people have already made up their minds on these topics and refuse to think about them. So discussing them (analyzing the variables) is futile.

Half-heartedly identifying the variables in an equation can ultimately be just as bad as not identifying any of them. Just missing a piece of the puzzle can cause you to hit a dead end or make a wrong decision. This is easily exemplified in war. A general can know everything about military strategy, but if the enemy has one secret weapon or launches one surprise attack the tide of the war can change. Rocket scientists are no stranger to this fact either. When you send a spacecraft to another planet you have to calculate every equation perfectly or years of work and millions of dollars worth of research and design are going to end in disaster, which has actually happened.

The principle applies just as much to everyday questions as it does with rocket science. If you’re only half-heartedly articulating the variables in the questions you ask then you’re only half-heartedly thinking, and that will get you half-hearted answer, and that will either produce a wrong answer or no answer at all.

 

STEP 2A: GATHER THE DATA YOU HAVE

When you’re solving an algebra problem in a textbook you’ll sometimes be given a few of the missing variables to plug into the equation. In real life, you’ll also usually be able to identify a few of the variables of a problem immediately, but inevitably you’ll realize you’re missing variables. If you weren’t missing any variables there wouldn’t be a question to ask. You would just see the answer.

To be successful at solving real-world problems you need to be acutely aware of this fact. After you ask a question, the next thing you need to do is articulate the variables you have while keeping in mind that you probably don’t know all of them.

Lawyers, auditors, and consultants all pay special attention to this step in the problem-solving process. When they’re faced with a new job they immediately try to gather all the information about the issue at hand. They know that they won’t have anything to do if they don’t gather all the data available. Then, only once that data is collected will they be able to find holes or areas of improvement on the data system they’re working with.

What’s the first thing a detective does after arriving at the scene of the crime? He analyzes the crime scene to gather any readily available data. When the murderer is standing over the victim with blood on his hands the detective doesn’t have to think any further to solve the problem, but if the culprit has fled the scene the detective has a missing variable on his hands.

 

STEP 2B: GATHER THE DATA YOU DON’T HAVE

Sometimes you don’t have all the data at hand though. In that case, you have to try to gather the data you don’t have.

Imagine you’re cleaning your house, trying to put everything where it should be, and you see a dirty sock lying next to the hamper. No big deal. You know all the variables to the equation of “What should I do with this sock?” You practically unconsciously pick it up and put it in the hamper. But suppose you saw a gun lying next to the hamper. Then there would probably be some variables missing from the equation that you would need to identify before taking actions, such as “Is it loaded?” “How did it get there?” “Where is a safe place I can put this?” etc.

What if, when you found the gun lying next to your hamper, you didn’t try to identify the missing variables before taking action? What if you assumed you knew them? You might end up shooting yourself or someone else. You might leave it in a place that a child will find it. The burglar who dropped it might still be in the house. Never assume you already know everything.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office with an arrogant manager knows the consequences of answering questions without trying to identify the unseen variables. Many businesses have been bankrupt by managers who assumed they knew everything and consequently made faulty decisions. Even in businesses that don’t go bankrupt, an arrogant and ignorant boss can make life a living hell for the employees who have to cope with his poor decision-making skills on a daily basis. Socrates would have made an excellent manager because he believed, “I know that I don’t know.” Or “I know that I know nothing.” (Depending on the translation)

If you’re humble and wise enough to try to identify the variables you’re missing there are countless ways you can go about doing it. Detectives extrapolate clues from the variables they already have to point to the variables they don’t have. Inexperienced small business owners who want their business to grow recruit marketing firms who already know the variables involved in increasing sales to tell them what variables they’re missing. Students writing term papers just have to study their topic to death until they learn what they didn’t know they needed to know. How successful you are at identifying the variables you don’t know depends on how creatively and persistently you search for them.

Inevitably though, you’ll have to make many decisions without knowing all the facts. That’s life. All you can do is minimize the risk of making an incorrect decision by identifying as many variables as possible. Then, after the decision is made you should be mindful of your ignorance and be ready to jump back into the problem-solving process if it becomes obvious you did, in fact, make the wrong decision because you didn’t take enough variables into consideration. If you can’t identify enough variables it might be wisest to abandon the whole situation altogether. If you’re a politician who wants to invade a country that you know very little about the wisest course of action is probably to just leave it alone.

 

STEP 3: SORT THE DATA

So you’ve asked a question and identified as many of the variables as possible. That information is only good for regurgitating until you make sense of the data. In algebra, this means finding meaningful relationships between the variables. If somebody told you that A=B and B=C then you could easily see the relationship between A and C. They’re the same. In the real world, you also need to sort data by finding meaningful relationships between variables. But don’t worry. It’s not always that cryptic.

Suppose you just got promoted to assistant manager at your high school job. One of your new duties is to make the work schedule for all the employees. You’ve identified who works at the business, what shifts need to be filled, who has asked for days off, and who has any other conflicting schedules. Now all you need to do is to determine the relationships between each of the variables to determine who should work when.

Answering the question of who should work each shift should be easy if you have all the information at hand. However, sometimes the data set you’re working with is much more complex than that. In those cases, you need a more powerful tool to sort the data.

 

STEP 3A: APPLY FORMULAS

A formula is defined as:

“a statement, especially of an equation, of a fact, rule, principle, or other logical relation.”

Every field of study has its own facts, rules, and principles for making sense out of data. The reason for this is because every data set has patterns whether you’re talking about math, farming, psychology, interior design, engineering, biology, chemistry, dating, raising pets, cooking, fixing a computer, or anything else.

Without patterns, data sets are just chaos. Very rarely in life do you ever find complete chaos. So anytime you’re trying to solve a problem try to identify patterns and figure out rules to explain these patterns. If you’re lucky, somebody out there will have already identified the rules you’re looking for.

If you want to find a mate there are patterns and rules for dating. “Rules of the Game” and “The Rules” are books about dating based on formulas (though their accuracy is debatable). There are definitely patterns and rules for making money. The book, “The Intelligent Investor” is one big formula. There are patterns and rules for making music. It’s called music theory. Social skills are merely formulas for interacting with people. You might want to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” There are even patterns and rules for everyday living. Collectively, they’re called wisdom. Religions and self-help books are little more than formulas people have developed by analyzing the patterns in life.

There are also formulas for thinking. This whole chapter is a formula for thinking, but there are countless more sub-formulas. The more of those you can find or create the better of a thinker you’ll be. Here are a few examples of formulas related specifically to solving problems:

The simplest way to make the broadest changes in a system is to change the basics.

If you don’t know which direction to take when solving a problem then just shoot out in any direction, and eventually, you’ll find a pattern to follow or a clue to point you in the right direction.

Make as general and as vague of an answer as you can and then slowly get more and more specific. This way you can always reference your more specific answers against your vague ones to make sure they’re in line with your overall goal.

Consider the unlikely.

The first step to finding the solution is finding where to look.

Find a parallel or analogy of your problem.  Seeing the problem in a different setting may give you a better perspective to see an answer.

Consider the extremes. They’ll help you put the problem in perspective.

Ask if the problem you are trying to solve is one among many that stems from a more basic problem.  If you can solve the basic problem then you can solve a slew of other problems in the process.  Maybe the basic problem is one stem of an even more basic problem.  Keep tracing back.

A sign of higher-level thinking is being able to think in multiple dimensions.

Another sign of higher-level thinking is being able to associate facts.  A sign of still higher-level thinking is being able to associate facts from distant sources.

A complex problem often has multiple causes, which would require multiple solutions.

There are always at least three solutions to any problem, and if you can find three solutions you can find more.

Formulas are an indispensable way of making sense of mathematical and real-world data. Undoubtedly you already use thousands of formulas in your life to identify patterns in real-world data sets without even realizing it, but once you do you can consciously and systematically develop them. When you do you’ll be a much more powerful thinker, and as a result, you’ll enjoy a much more successful life.

A word of warning though, many of the formulas people use to help them understand the world they live in and subsequently act upon are wrong. Surely you have a friend who is always asking, “Why do I keep dating bad people?” Your friend is probably using a bad formula for choosing partners. Countless people have lost fortunes in the stock market using faulty formulas. Wars are lost and governments crumble because of inaccurate formulas. So if you find that bad things are always happening to you it’s probably not because you’re the most unlucky person in the world. Realistically, it’s probably because you’re using bad formulas. You should humbly and brutally reevaluate your formulas.

 

STEP 3B: ASK SUB-QUESTIONS

This step is where you’re going to do the bulk of your actual work. The easiest way to explain it is to start with an illustration and go from there.

What’s the answer to the problem, 12X34? Work out this problem on a sheet of paper, and you’ll realize that in doing so you had to solve the equations 4X2, 4X1, 3X2, 3X1, 8+0, 6+4, and 3+1. You had to ask seven sub-questions to answer the one question you really wanted to know.

When you think about it every step in an algebra problem is asking another question. The same is true with solving real-world problems. If you’re not asking more questions then you’re not getting any closer to answering the first question. So if you can’t get any further on a problem you’re working on then you need to ask yourself, “What questions have I asked?” “What questions haven’t I asked?” “What questions do I need to ask?” etc. You might realize that you haven’t asked any questions at all, in which case it’s no wonder you haven’t found an answer.

If a detective is trying to solve the overall problem of “who done it” then the sub-questions would be, “What is the motive? What evidence is at the scene of the crime? Who was the victim close too? etc.” A computer technician will ask himself a series of sub-questions when trying to figure out why a computer doesn’t work. “Was there an error message? If so, what was it? Is the problem hardware or software related? Have any changes been made to the system lately? Is the computer turned on? etc.” If your question is, “Which couch should I buy?” you might ask yourself sub-questions like, “How much money do I have to spend on a couch? How much room do I have? What colors match the room I’m going to put it in? etc.”

Each sub-question can even have sub-questions of its own. The better you can get at finding the right sub-questions for the type of issue you’re working with then the better you’ll be at solving problems.

 

STEP 4: QUESTION YOUR ANSWERS

The next step in the problem-solving process is to prove your answer (or anybody else’s answer for that matter). If you get the wrong answer on a math test you might have to take the class over. Getting the wrong answers in life can cause misery, insanity, injustice, financial loss, war, etc.

A lot of times we don’t want to prove our answer. We get the answer we want to hear and stick with it, but all this really does is create a fantasy world that keeps us from perceiving reality correctly, which causes us to answer more questions wrong because we’re stuck calculating future questions using incorrect variables. This results in the illusion of a rosy world, but in reality, it only propagates a dystopian society.

This is why it’s important to be objective about your answers. If you’re not objective about your answers then you’re not a thinker, and all your answers are going to be wrong.

“Objective” is defined as:

“Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices. 2. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually”

On paper that sounds great. Nobody would say, “I prefer to base my decisions on emotional or personal prejudices rather than on observable facts.” But everybody does it. People go to mind-bending lengths to conform observable facts to their emotional and personal prejudices even if it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes we do it loudly, and sometimes we do it quietly in the back of our minds.

Take this two question test.

1: What do you believe strongest in?

2: How often do you deliberately doubt and challenge the validity of that belief?

Ironically, the stronger we believe in something the less likely we are to question it. This type of stubborn faith is often praised as a virtue, but the less likely we are to question our beliefs the more likely we are not to take into account all the variables. The fewer variables we take into consideration the more likely we are to be wrong about it. So the stronger we believe in something the more likely we are to be wrong about it.

Furthermore, when you tell someone to have faith in something and that they shouldn’t brutally analyze it you’re really telling them it’s good to be uninformed. You’re being the enemy of truth. And for what? If we question an idea we’re not going to hurt its feelings. It’s not going to get back at us for cheating on it. All that can happen is we increase our knowledge and perceive truth more clearly. Whereas if we don’t question our beliefs all that can happen is we increase the likelihood that we’re wrong. When that happens there’s no end to the pain we can and will inflict on ourselves and others. There’s also no end to how much control we can give other people over our lives.

How many people do you think have read this and said to themselves, “I’m not one those people. I wouldn’t sell out truth for emotions or personal prejudices. I wouldn’t think less about the things I believe the strongest.” The people who say they won’t sell out truth are the most likely to do it. If you truly believe you wouldn’t then you won’t guard yourself against it. On the other hand, if you admit to yourself that you have and/or will sell out logic for a selfish answer you’ll be cautious not to let it happen again.

In fact, a wise person wants, yearns, begs to be proven wrong, because if you learn that you’ve been wrong about something then you can become right, and thus you’ll have gained. If you refuse to be proven wrong then you might keep your pride, but at the end of the day you’ll still be ignorant and will continue to make faulty decisions to the detriment of yourself and everyone else in your sphere of influence.

 

STEP 5: APPLY THE SOLUTION

 

On a math test when you solve a problem you simply write down the answer and wait to see if the teacher tells you that you got it right. In life applying the answer can be as easy as putting on the socks you’ve chosen to wear today or as complex as writing a book about the meaning of life. It can be as rewarding as choosing which foods you want at a buffet or as perilous as choosing whether or not to use lethal force against an attacker. The only advice there is to give for this step is to make sure your answer is correct before applying it. If you’re unsure whether or not to act or you don’t have the courage to act then you obviously don’t understand the situation well enough. If you did there would be no debate left. There would only be action.

 

THE LIFESTYLE OF A THINKER

Learning how to think doesn’t make you a thinker any more than knowing how to shoot makes you a soldier. Being a thinker is a lifestyle, and it’s not a lifestyle that’s only useful to a few people like the lifestyle of a soldier is only useful to a few people. It’s not even just a skill that can be useful to everybody in the sense that, for example, cooking is a skill that can be useful to everybody, but you don’t necessarily have to be good at it. Thinking is the way to be a successful, self-actualized person. It’s vital for everybody to master.

Why do some people make a lifestyle out of thinking and some people don’t? The answer isn’t genetics. It’s motivation. Either external circumstances forced them to come to a clearer understanding of life or they figured it out on their own. Either way, every thinker has come to some version of the same conclusion:

We’re thrown into this life with no warning and no preparation. We’re born lost. In fact, we’re so lost most people never even realize they’re lost, and nobody even tells us that. If anything, we’re encouraged to just accept the world for what it is and to not ask questions.

To make things more confusing for us, the few explanations and instructions we are given differ from source to source. It’s like trying to play a game you don’t know the rules to and where everybody you ask tells you something different. The result is that we spend our lives bewildered and in a daze. And in the end, all we have to look back on is chaos and anxiety.

But there’s hope. If we can make sense of the world we won’t be at the mercy of our environment. In fact, we can take control of our lives. How? We can perceive truth and empower ourselves using logic.

Being a thinker means realizing this and deliberately and consistently trying to make sense of the world you’ve been thrust into. It means the frustration of being lost and powerless fuels your curiosity to learn as much as you can. But this doesn’t just mean reading as many books as possible and cataloging the information in your brain. It means constantly looking at the world around you and questioning it. A curious person wants to know how everything works because the more you understand the more empowered you’ll be. So thinking isn’t a chore. It’s a never-ending opportunity to become more powerful.

The better you understand that the more you’ll want to think. Thus, the more you will think. The more you think the smarter, stronger, and happier you’ll be. The less you think the dumber, weaker, and sadder you’ll be.

 

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The Meaning of Life
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Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

How To Solve A Problem With A Team

My collaborative problem-solving process:

1: Pick a speaker. The first person who volunteers gets to be the speaker. They receive the Speaker badge. They now act like a dungeon master of the group. He has the final say on who gets to speak and how long they get to speak. He is the authority that tells people what to do, when and why. The speaker can give the position to anyone at any time. A 50% vote can remove the speaker. The speaker’s seat cannot be vacant. The speaker draws his authority from the consensual agreement all players made by sitting down at the game and putting their piece on the board. Any member can leave at any time for any reason. The speaker is also the primary point of contact for receiving and conveying information between other groups and the public. But any member can speak to anyone whenever and about whatever they want.

2: Once all the players are the board and have placed their avatar on the board the speaker asks a question.: He says, “What is the question we’re here to ask?”

3: Each player provides an answer. Every player can take broad liberties in how they answer the question, but the question must be clear.

4: When everyone has submitted their final answer the group gets to see everyone’s answer.

5: The group identifies as many patterns in their answers as they can and turns in their answers to the host.

6: Everyone gets to look at everyone’s answers.

7: The process is repeated until an agreement on the answer is achieved.

8: When consensus is achieved the host will refine the answer into a written statement and will seek the turn-based agreement to refine the final answer.

9: When a final answer has been agreed upon and written down one of the team members will design a symbol for the question. One of the team members will make a piece for the symbol and put it on the center of the board. The question’s symbol piece on the board solidifies each member’s resolve to be a part of the problem-solving process and to do their best to work as a team member to accomplish a shared goal.

10: Once the question’s symbol piece has been put on the board and everyone has acknowledged the significance of the event, the host will ask the following question: “What are the variables in the equation.”

11: Each member will make a list of every variable in the equation they can think of.

12: They turn in their final answers to the host.

13: Everyone analyzes everyone else’s answers and looks for patterns and holes in the analysis.

14: The host refines everyone’s answers in a turn-based manner until everyone is in agreement on a final answer.

15: They make pieces symbolizing each of the fundamental aspects of the problem.

16: The host asks, “How do we solve this problem?”

17: Every member writes down answers and hands them to the host.

18: Everyone looks at everyone else’s answers.

19: Everyone looks for patterns and holes in the answers.

20: The host refines everyone’s answers in a turn-based manner until everyone is in agreement on a final answer.

21: The host asks, “What questions aren’t we asking?”

22: Everyone writes down their answers, turns them in and everyone looks at them. This goes around until everyone is in agreement to move forward.

23: They create a symbol and a piece for their call to action to solve the problem.

24: The host asks, “What part will each of you play in solving the problem?”

25: Everyone submits their answer to be analyzed using the turn-based method.

26: The host asks, “What is the first thing you are going to do to solve the problem.

27: Everyone submits their answers to be analyzed using the turn-based method.

28: After everyone has submitted their final answer the team breaks, and each player does not return to the board until they have completed their quest.

29: The process repeats itself until the final goal is accomplished.

Other useful videos on systematic problem-solving:

 

 

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The Relationship Between Sanity, Reality, Truth, Science And Religion

REALITY = that which is true.

SANITY = thoughts and behavior based on true premises.

 

“Sanity” is defined: “having or showing reason, sound judgment, or good sense.” But how do you know when someone has or shows reason, sound judgment or good sense? The key is, “truth.” The definition of both “truth” and “reality” can be said to be, “that which is.” Once you understand what is true and real you can make accurate assessments of the world and base your decisions and perceptions accordingly.

 

 

So in order to be sane, you have to know the truth about what is real. If you hold perceptions or beliefs that aren’t real then you’re insane. This means that psychology alone can’t bring you to full mental health. Psychology can help you understand the motives, developmental factors and other critical aspects of the human psyche, but it doesn’t provide a tool to distinguish reality from fantasy. Therefore, any good psychological treatment will also include training and exercises in critical thinking and science.

Think about it. How do you determine the difference between reality and fantasy, that which truly is and that which truly isn’t? For example, how do you know you exist? How do you know your parents are really your parents? How do you know the universe didn’t begin the day you were born? How can you trust the version of history you’ve been told is real? What makes a fact, a fact?

The determining factor is supporting evidence. Our entire society is based on this principle. You can’t be tried for a crime without supporting evidence because it’s the supporting evidence that establishes fact. You can’t write an article in an academic journal unless your propositions are based on supporting evidence. You can’t make a claim about the nature of the physical universe without supporting evidence. You won’t be considered mentally healthy unless your perceptions and beliefs are based on supporting evidence.

When you start making exceptions and saying, “Oh, I don’t need supporting evidence for this one little thing.” or start cooking your answers to fit your preconceived beliefs or flat-out falsifying information you set off down the path of insanity because your perceptions and beliefs are no longer supported by independently and consistently verifiable evidence.

 

Scientific thinking = basing conclusions on evidence.

Faith-based thinking = ignoring evidence that disproves your conclusion.

 

This is the crux of the disconnect between science and religion. Science demands evidence and rejects taboos. It would be an understatement to say that science (as well as proper philosophy) accepts doubt. Science demands doubt because doubt is the wedge that divides truth from fantasy.

 

Diagram showing how scientific and faith-based thought works. Basically, scientific thought uses a rigorous method to test for truth. Faith ignores evidence to support a preconceived conclusion.

 

There’s a classic story about a scientist who built his career on a scientific theory he’d come up with. Late in life, his theory was disproven by a young scientist just out of college. When the elder scientist learned he had been proven wrong he thanked the younger scientist for showing him the truth.

To a scientist, there’s no joy in the world greater than being proven wrong because there’s no joy or reward in the world greater than truth, and that’s worth giving up your pride for. You can accuse scientists of a lot of things, but you’d be wrong to deny that the underlying principle behind science is the humble search for truth.

However, physical science doesn’t answer every question there is to ask. It doesn’t answer, “Why are we here?” “Who am I?” “What is love?” or “Why shouldn’t we hurt each other?”

This is where philosophy and the social sciences come in. They acknowledge there are theoretical questions outside the realm of physical matter, and even though these questions don’t have physical supporting evidence, you can still use systematic logic to deduce, infer and extrapolate reasonable answers to these questions. Just like hard science, social science uses doubt to separate truth from fantasy.

Religion is the opposite. Religion starts from a position that isn’t backed up by physical evidence or logical deductions. Often times religion actively contradicts the evidence such as in the case of creation stories and the effectiveness of prayer. Its theoretical answers are based on the subjective cultures that produced each religion, and it reverse engineers warped, illogical explanations to support its conclusions. Often times it will even flat-out falsify information. The study of apologetics is systematic cognitive dissonance.

Religion claims it has a monopoly on truth, but all the real evidence contradicts this claim. Religion employs every tool of deception and delusion. It teaches techniques such as faith, fear, and dogma to undermine truth for its own purposes.

Religion claims to be humble but refuses to admit or even consider if/when it’s wrong. Science, on the other hand, sets the bar for humility. Thus it sets the bar for truth, and in the end, it sets the bar for sanity.

 

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What Is Wisdom?

Knowledge is having the right answer to a question. Wisdom is figuring out the right answer to the right question.

The more you know, the wiser you can become, but until you use a piece of knowledge in a question, it’s just inert information in a data set waiting to be queried. You have to ask yourself questions and use the knowledge in your brain as the variables in the equations in order for your knowledge to serve a purpose.

The more important the question, the more valuable it, and the knowledge required to answer it, becomes, but tallying the sum total of your knowledge is futile. The only thing that really matters is you came up with the best answer to the best question to have the most positive effect on your life. If you’re doing that, then you’re moving forward in life and shouldn’t have time to rest on your laurels anyway.

You can appear wise if you happen to know the right answer to a lot of random questions, but if the question is unimportant, then the only people who would praise you for mastering futility are fools. That’s not the definition of genius. That’s the definition of insanity.

 

 

Ask the right questions.

Nobody will ever ask you all the most important questions in life. You’re the only one who can do that for you. If you don’t make a habit out of asking yourself, “What is the most important question I can ask?” then you’re a ship lost at sea, not because you can’t sail, but because you don’t.

Wise people appear to be two steps ahead of everyone else because they’ve already asked themselves the most important questions before they came up, and they’re focused and driven because it doesn’t take external motivation to do what’s most important to you. Far from needing a push, you’ll make excuses to justify doing what’s really most important to you. It takes motivation to act against your beliefs. That’s why there are so many backsliding religious people. Religion is hard to do because it requires a lot of cognitive dissonance to believe in something that fails the test of truth.

Since thinkers have already taken it upon themselves to thoroughly question what’s logically most important in life, they’re more likely to be working towards a logical end goal. People who don’t make a habit of asking themselves, “What’s most important in life?” are unlikely to be toiling towards or defending a logical goal. That’s ultimately how you measure the difference between wisdom and foolishness: by the value of the end goal. You can accomplish everything you set out to by being clever as a fox, but if your goals are unimportant, then you’re just the world’s sharpest fool.

So ask yourself, “What’s the most important question I can ask?” Think about that for the rest of your life. While you’re doing it, bear in mind, the only way to answer a question is to ask more questions, and the more skilled you are at asking questions, the better answers you can deduce. So initially, the most important question you can ask yourself is, “How do you ask a question?” Like most questions, there are a lot of answers, and some are more useful than others. If you need a place to start, I wrote a guide which offers one perspective, and there are thousands more on Amazon.

 

 

Question your answers.

Our brains trip us up with schemas, biases, logical fallacies, and all sorts of other reasons to be irrational. To make enlightenment more difficult, many of life’s questions have multiple right answers. Some questions have answers that can’t be proven but have to be asked anyway. And the most important question you can ask right now may not be the same as anyone else. Plus, no matter how much we learn about life, our understanding will always be at least 99.9% incomplete.

We’re all lost on our own seemingly futile journey customized to our lives, but we’re also all in the same boat. We’re studying the same data set and sharing the stakes. So a lot of our goals/questions will line up. Sometimes corroborating your answers with someone else is proof you’re on the right track. Other times it’s a sign we’re all making the same mistake.

One thing most of us can agree on is, if a lion is charging at you, then the most important question you can ask yourself is, “How do I not get eaten by this lion?” because if you die, then you’re out of the game. So to the extent that life is valuable, it’s important for you to ask yourself, “Am I about to die?” If the answer is “yes,” then the next most important question you can ask is, “How can I prevent that?” If the answer to the first question was “no,” then the next question you need to ask is, “Are other people about to die, and if so, how can I prevent that without getting myself killed in the process?”

You may be a murderous psychopath who views other humans as soulless piles of atoms, or you may be a sociopath who measures the value of others by how you can use them to get what you want. You may be a religious zealot who measures the value of other people by how many of your favorite prophet’s rules they break, or you may be an abused, broken child in an adult’s body, who hates the world for everything it’s done to you. No matter what you think of anyone else, the bigger picture is that we’re all in this together. It takes a collaborative effort to advance humanity. The more people die, the fewer allies we have to accomplish mankind’s long-term goals. We can’t survive, let alone colonize new planets with utopian village theme parks if we don’t work together, but first, we have to save each other.

 

 

We all need to survive, and right now the sky is looming with apocalyptic threats so obvious you can’t take your eyes off them. The answer to the question, “Is something coming to kill us?” is “Yes.”

I’ll save you some time decoding the matrix of problems strangling the world. The lynchpin of the world’s problems is poverty. Understand that and everything else will fall into perspective. Fix it, and all its satellite problems will fall away.

But what happens after we fix all the world’s problems and establish utopian settlements on Mars? What’s the next most important question we should ask ourselves then? We’ll see when we get there, but one question we should be prepared to ask is, “What’s the greatest threat to the perfect world?”

It would be logical to prepare ahead of time for an asteroid or futuristic Hitler, but the root of all evil is ignorance. If you build a perfect city and fill it with fools, the first thing they’d do is tear it all down with sincerely good intentions. We’ll never live in anything resembling utopia until everyone is wise. That doesn’t mean we all agree on the same answers, just that we’re all talented, self-driven question-askers who are asking ourselves the most important questions.

Before we become wise enough to live in utopia though, we have become wise enough to create it. Plus, if we all became as genius as possible, we wouldn’t even need to solve half the world’s problems, because we’d be smart enough to not do those stupid things in the first place. This means the most important thing we can do to create and protect utopia is to learn new things and ask new questions today. The better learning resources we have, the faster and further we can improve ourselves.

This means it’s of paramount importance everyone does something to improve education. There are some free online schools, that could use donations, but every nation in the world should be putting money in a single fund to create one online school with the budget of a small country. If your politician isn’t talking about something like that, you should tell them to start or replace them with someone who does.

With or without the perfect education tool, it’s still up to the individual to decide to teach themselves by any means necessary. It’s a moral imperative everyone asks themselves every day, “What’s the most important thing I can teach myself today?” because you won’t grow until you do, and when you don’t grow, the world doesn’t either. The less you grow, the more the world is full of idiots.

 

Scumbag Steve Meme with the caption, "Expects us to live in a Utopian society. Doesn't read."

 

What do you do after solving the big problems?

It’s worth speculating what would you do if you became an uberman and all the world’s problems were solved. What’s the most important question you can ask when there’s no threat to distract you… or when death is unavoidable? You’re here, and you’re going to die eventually. There’s more to life than just surviving and preparing. If you only live for tomorrow, you put off living indefinitely. There’s value in the moment, and there’s value to who you are independent of what you can do for society.

Whoever you become is who you have to live with. Who you are is how you experience reality right now, and for the rest of the fleeting moments in your life regardless of anything going on anywhere outside your skin. There’s no point training to be the perfect problem solver, student, worker, artist, citizen or parent if you’re not becoming the perfect you. I could be wrong, but sooner or later, the most important question you can ask yourself may be, “How do I become more me?”

 

"If everything I am is who I am, then I should understand and improve who I am."

 

Well, if you can be your favorite you in the present moment, then afterward, you’ll have the perfect past to look back on. Everything I’ve said up to this point may feel more like a guilt trip than an inspirational speech. Nobody can just jump up, become an ubermensch and build an intergalactic empire, but I’m not begging or demanding you to carry a burden. I’m pointing out what an opportunity life is. Every question you ask is a step forward, and the more steps you take, the farther you get. Climbing that mountain yields at least three rewards: the experience of the journey, getting to see above the clouds and being able to say you did it. That’s life, and it doesn’t happen on accident.`

 

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How To Become An Expert At Anything

1. State your goals.

The more specifically you identify your goal the more specifically you can focus on it. Saying your goal out loud or writing it down will help you refine your goal and stay focused. However, telling other people your goals can give your brain a false sense of achievement that will deduce your motivation to complete them.

 

 

2. Study other people’s research and mistakes, and do it efficiently.

Whatever you’re trying to do has probably already been mastered by someone else. Learn from their research and mistakes. Go read a book about it. Read every book you can find on the subject. Take a class on it. The more external help you can to get the less you have to reinvent the wheel.

 

 

3. Practice.

No matter how much you read up on a subject or listen to lectures, that’s only going to help you understand the theory. Take for example the simple skill of rolling a cigarette. I can fully explain everything there is to know about rolling a cigarette in one or two pages, but even if you memorize those instructions word for word you’re not going to be able to roll quality cigarettes quickly and consistently until you’ve rolled at least 200 cigarettes yourself.

Every time you do something the neural pathways your brain responsible for processing that action will grow stronger. The stronger those pathways become the more second-nature the thing you’re doing will become.

Not only that, but throughout your life, you’ve developed a unique and extensive list of good habits, bad habits and different predispositions to ways of thinking and acting. All of these factors influence everything you do. Nobody else knows what all of those factors are. So nobody else’s instructions will be tailor-made for you. The only way for you to understand how your predispositions affect what you’re trying to do is by doing the thing you want to do.

As you practice you’ll come to understand not only your strengths and weaknesses but also the subtle nuances of the task you’re trying to accomplish, and by giving yourself hands-on experience with the task you’ll fully understand why these nuances exist, how to fix/exploit them and eventually how to change them. But those subtleties can only be teased out through hands-on experience.

The point of practicing is to understand the logic of the system better. The more logically and systematically you understand the logic of the system the better you’ll be able to master the system. As you practice, break down the system into its component parts and write a how-to manual for how to do the thing. It doesn’t matter if anyone else will ever read it. It will force you to fully articulate how to do what you’re doing and allow you to take a step back and look at what you know and find the holes in it.

Also, practice all the time. You can’t get good at anything if you only do it once a month. In between practice sessions you’ll forget everything you learned last time and the neural pathways you’ve strengthened in your brain through practice will atrophy. It’s a common misconception that some people are born experts. Mozart and Beethoven are often cited as examples, but in reality, they only appeared to be child prodigies because they devoted their entire childhood to practicing constantly. If you want to master something then practice it every day, preferably several times a day. If you can, devote your whole day to it every day.

 

 

4. Learn from your mistakes.

It’s human nature to feel bad when you fail or make mistakes. We tend to beat ourselves up real bad for it, but you never hear about baseball or basketball players beating themselves up for missing swings or throws. That’s because, in their line of work, it’s obvious that the only way to practice is by failing. This is true in any walk of life. It’s simply impossible to master a skill without failing, because failing is practicing, and practicing is the path to success.

 

 

5. Constantly ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

If you have to force yourself to practice then you’re not doing something you’re passionate about. Oh, you may be passionate about achieving the end goal of becoming rich and famous, but you’re not passionate about the task. So performing the task makes you miserable, and your brain constantly tells you to stop. You can push yourself through that wall for a while, but you’re not going to be able to keep pushing yourself against your will for the decades it’s going to take to master a skill. If you hate practicing them do yourself the biggest favor of your life and quit whatever it is you’re doing, and find something you enjoy doing.

You should want to practice several times a day every day. You should want desperately to cut other time-consuming activities out of your life to give you more time to do what you really want to do: practice. If you’re not like a crack addict going through withdrawals when you can’t practice then you’ve set the wrong goal. Find the thing you can’t live without and practice that, because if you do something you’re not passionate about enough to master it, you’re likely going to grow to hate it and become miserable.

If nothing else, life is short. You’re running out of time to follow your real dream…the dream you would do just for the sake of doing it regardless of whether or not you’ll ever master it.

 

 

6. Make crap.

What do you think Leonardo Da Vinci’s first picture looked like? What do you think Mozart’s first song sounded like? I guarantee you it was crap. The road to perfection is paved with crap. Rolling crappy cigarettes is discouraging. Every crappy cigarette you roll is proof that you’ll never be able to roll a perfect cigarette. Even if that’s true, you should keep rolling crappy cigarettes not because your goal is to become a master cigarette roller but because you want to roll cigarettes, and you enjoy the crappy cigarettes you’ve rolled until one day they start coming out perfect, and that day will come quicker than you expected because you weren’t constantly stressing about becoming a master. You were just doing what you want to do and enjoying yourself and learning along the way without measuring success by the end product.

 

 

7. Constantly ask yourself, “Should I be doing this?”

Maybe you want to learn how to roll cigarettes perfectly. It’s great that you have a goal, but you picked the wrong goal. All cigarettes do is get you addicted to poison and then kill you slowly and painfully. Life is short (especially if you smoke). Are you making the most of your time? Are the things you’re getting better at really important? Are they worth the time and stress? Are they contributing to your demise or the demise of society at large? Are they a waste of time? If you’re not asking yourself these questions then you might be wasting your life mastering a counter-productive skill.

 

 

8. Break the rules and cheat.

Here’s a motto you can live by, “By definition, the quickest and most efficient way to do anything is to cheat.” By “cheat” I mean break the rules. What are the rules anyway? They’re just the standard way of doing things that the people before you established. They’re not written in the fabric of space/time. They’re not like the laws of physics. They’re not even moral imperatives. Rules are just words people said. In order to do something better, you have to do it differently. That means you have to change the rules, and in order to change the rules, you have to break them.

 

 

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10 Steps to Winning An Argument

"Wow, that internet argument completely changed my fundamental belief system," said no one, ever.

 

Step 1:

When someone tells you something you disagree with, recognize the fact that you’ve been wrong before. Regardless of how absurd their idea is, remember how confidently you once believed the things you now know you were wrong about. The same thing could very well be happening again.

Step 2:

Assume that if this person believes what they’re saying, then they must have a compelling reason to. You might find in the end that it’s not logical, but since it’s strong enough to influence them, there must be something to it. Find out their reasons for believing what they’re saying before you disagree with them. Press them to keep talking. Find out everything there is to know about the topic before criticizing it.

Step 3:

Don’t respond yet. Tell the person, “Give me a few minutes to think about this.” or better yet, “Let me sleep on it. We’ll continue this conversation tomorrow.”

Step 4:

Assume/pretend the other person is right. Block out your beliefs for a time and look at the world through his eyes. Imagine living a life where you walk around believing what you were just told.

Step 5

Consider their arguments objectively. Imagine that you’re a scientist in a laboratory where ideas can be stored in Petri dishes. In one dish is their argument. In another is yours. Take your argument and put it on a shelf. Then take their argument and put it under a microscope. Use logic to dissect it and study it independent of how it relates to your ideas.

Put your initial hypothesis about the outcome out of your mind. This is a clinical study where scientific truth is more important than winning. In fact, the only way to truly win is to arrive at the truth. Furthermore, disregard the source of the idea you’re studying. Just because the idea came from a source you don’t trust, doesn’t mean it can’t be true. The source has nothing to do with the idea. So separate the two for the time being.

 

 

 

Step 6:

Take the results of your scientific dissection and file them away. Then take your own ideas and put them under the microscope. Even if you’ve studied them before, the fact that they’re being challenged means there’s a chance you might have missed something. Consider where your ideas came from. Did you really adopt them because you’d done all the math and arrived at the conclusion this is the correct answer yourself, or did somebody else tell you it was true? Dissect your arguments with the scalpel of logic again. Be brutal about it. Get angry at your ideas. Hate them. Tear them apart with the fury of a lover who just found out your soul mate has been cheating on you.

Step 7:

Compare the results from both of your studies, understanding that the goal of the study isn’t to determine who is right or wrong. Arguments are almost never black and white. You could both be right about some aspects of the topic and wrong about others. The goal of the study is to take the good and bad of both arguments and mix them together to create the real truth. If at the end of the study you accept or reject the opposing idea completely, you probably did your math wrong. If you do find fault on either side, don’t throw the whole petri dish away. If an idea has flaws, then fix them.

Step 8:

If you want, you can present your findings to the person you argued with, but this isn’t necessary. This whole process was never a battle between people. It was really an internal battle in your personal search for truth. Whether or not you can convince the other person of your findings is irrelevant.

Step 9:

If you do decide to continue the argument with the other person, don’t worry about winning. Simply explain your findings to them, and if they don’t like it, then end the conversation. Winning an argument won’t do anything for you except stroke your ego, which is pointless. Only proceed if the other person is willing to learn.

Step 10:

Watch for personal attacks. Once either side throws a personal attack, the conversation is over. Dialogue has broken down, and neither side is listening objectively anymore. So you may as well quit. If you draw first blood, you’re probably the more closed-minded person. If you had logical reasons for your argument you’d be using them instead of calling the other person names. The more you make fun of the other person, the more of a case you build that you either can’t handle the truth or just like to fight.

 

 

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The Map Of Everything

Line drawing of a gear with an 8-pointed star inside, with every point connected by a straight line

 

Life is an absurd existential dilemma. There’s no map or instructions to tell us where we should be going or what we should be doing. The universe doesn’t have a center, and if it did, there’s no reason to go there. There’s no cosmic rule which says anyone has to be anywhere. We’re born lost. We live our lives so lost that we don’t even know we’re lost, and we’re destined to die lost never knowing for sure if anything we do matters from the cosmic perspective.

So while there’s no map to tell us where to go and what to do, I have a philosophy that provides some guidance. I call this philosophy “The Map of Everything.” It’s represented by a circle with 8 points evenly spaced along its perimeter. Every point is connected directly to every other point by a straight line. This “map” is a simplified 2D version of an impossible graphic where the circle is a sphere that has every possible point connected to every other point.

The 8-pointed circle represents an observation about the nature of the universe. There isn’t a physical line drawn between every atom in the universe, but every point in time and space are logically connected directly and indirectly, and every logical relationship between everything that exists can be traced and extrapolated. If you study the connections between the objects and events in the universe, you’ll find patterns in the behavior of everything. Chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, logic, and psychology are merely the study of patterns. Once you understand those patterns you can follow them, learn from them, and use them to find a way to logically orientate yourself and direct your actions. Then, instead of being tossed around aimlessly by the forces around you, you’ll be able to harness those forces to help you get where you want to go.

When you were born, you couldn’t see any of the lines connecting the objects and events in your life, but the more you learn the more you’ll see those connections. Still, you’ll never know everything. So you’ll never be able to see all the lines.  If bad things keep happening to you, it’s probably because you’re missing connections and patterns.  It’s like trying to find where you’re going with half a map. Your ignorance is the root of your problems, and the solution is to find the connections and patterns you’re missing.

As you’re going through life, if you ever get discouraged by the fact that you’re wandering in an open maze and it seems like you’re not getting anywhere, you can look at the Map of Everything and remind yourself that everything is connected. Everything is part of the same whole. You are a part of the whole. So wherever you go, and whatever you do, you’ll never be truly alone. From one perspective you’ll never be lost either. This universe is your home. This is where you belong.

 

 

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Enlightenment Through Logic

Line drawing of an Om inside a gear

 

Throughout my life, I’ve taken a keen interest in meditation and the concept of achieving enlightenment through reaching the ideal mental state. I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, which on a whole confused me more than they helped me reach Nirvana. I quickly discovered that no matter what method you used to reach this state you’d find someone who would disagree with your approach. Some would even say that the more you try to reach enlightenment the farther away you’ll get because the only way to reach enlightenment is to let go of all desire and ambition until you’re left in a state of immediate stillness and clarity.

I can’t argue with any of these self-proclaimed authorities, because arguing about what enlightenment truly is…is like arguing about what a party or a lover truly is. You can define any concept however you want and argue until you’re blue in the face about what the true meaning of a word is, and nobody can say who is more correct.

Despite the elusiveness of enlightenment, there’s something in the concept worth exploring. There’s value in the theory that an ideal mental state exists which can be achieved through some kind of mental feat (or the lack thereof). If an ideal mental state doesn’t exist then it doesn’t matter if you spend your life watching cheap sitcoms and reality television; it doesn’t matter if you go to school or think or don’t think about any topic in particular. Everything is equal.

But it does matter what you think. What you think defines who you are, and who you are defines what society is and where society is going. If there were no mental standards, then there would be no laws, religions, leadership courses, degrees or awards; we would live in anarchy. And on a personal level, we wouldn’t have any goals to strive for.

Some people would say this is a good thing; that our ambitions are chains that tie us to the vulgar world, and the only way to achieve true enlightenment is to let go of those anchors and simply exist in the here and now free from ego or wants. I’ve looked at life from that point of view, and I can see the value in it. At some point, you have to just stop and smell the roses and wallow in the grandeur of existence in its purest form. If you can’t do that, then what are we doing here? We’re just chasing after goals that are going to be rendered useless by time.

Still, every generation of humans has been faced with colossal questions and problems. If we made it a categorical imperative that every human being should spend their entire life escaping thought, then we’d still be living in caves and pooping in bushes. It’s only because of the conscious, ambitious, logical, scientific thoughts that humans have cracked the mystery of the Periodic Table of Elements, The Red Shift or the Big Bang. Without logical thought, we wouldn’t have invented fertilizer, antibiotics, stitches, hearing aids, refrigeration, human rights, legal processes or any other inventions or concepts that solve the problems of life.

If we hadn’t discovered these insights into life through rigorous, scientific thought, we’d still be worshiping the sun and sacrificing humans to appease the thunder gods. So I can’t make a moral imperative out of the idea that humans should abandon logical thought in favor of pure experience… until we’ve solved the problems that hurt us and force us to waste our lives toiling away just to survive.

I can’t empirically prove what “enlightenment” is, but I know what truth is. Truth is that which is, and scientific thought tells us what is true. So my theory (at this point in my life) is that in order to understand truth and live in reality you need to follow the path of scientific thought. Once you understand the scientific nature of the universe and master the art of reason then you’ll see reality as clearly as possible. Then, after you solve the immediate problems that cause you and the people around you suffering then you can relax and soak up the grandeur of existence in stillness. But until you know who, why, what, where, when and why you are, and until you’ve solved the very real, very tragic problems in front of you than sitting around mentally masturbating is inherently irresponsible.

That’s why I hold the philosophy that enlightenment is achieved through logic.

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

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