The Art of Clear Thinking - Deepstash
The Art of Clear Thinking

Julian 's Key Ideas from The Art of Clear Thinking
by Hasard Lee

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19 ideas


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Learning from Aviation

We sometimes forget to appreciate that there are a lot of effort to keep an aircraft flying, which is invisible to us, let alone the relentless pursuits to keep the overall industry safe.

When something is not working as planned, a series of decisions and actions will determine the fate of the flight. An ability to think clearly under such situation is something we can learn.


1.11K reads


“To make an aircraft fly is a constant struggle against physics. An airliner traveling six hundred miles per hour at thirty thousand feet is not something that happens naturally. It’s not a fail-safe act, meaning the default is to crash—it’s up to our ingenuity and decision-making to prevent it from happening.”



864 reads

3 Steps of Decision Making

Making decision as a fighter pilot involves 3 steps known as the ACE Helix:

  • Assess the problem
  • Choose correct course of action
  • Execute

It’s like a helix because each decision may require us to make second and even third order of decision spiraling down the line.


676 reads


“Knowledge is only useful to the degree that it can be drawn on when it’s needed.”



869 reads

Impact of Clear Thinking

A fighter pilot needs to make decision with incomplete information and lives on the line.

Clear thinking often beats talent. It’s better to exercise judgment to avoid situations that would require superior technical skills.

In today’s complex and interconnected world, a decision can directly impact many others. This is further amplified by technology.

The difference between good and bad decision is enormous.


760 reads

Power Law

Our minds are biased toward linear thinking. However, many things in life are nonlinear.

Power Law governs systems where a change in one aspect can lead to a very large change in another, regardless of starting conditions.

There are 3 common types:

  1. Exponential growth (population, virus infection, compound interest)
  2. Diminishing returns (satisfaction, manpower, ad spend)
  3. Long tail (income distribution, social media following, book sales)


508 reads


“We are naturally programmed to view the world in a linear way. For much of history, mistakenly identifying a power law as a linear relationship wasn’t a big deal because the world wasn’t nearly as leveraged. Today, though, our decisions are greatly leveraged by technology. Each decision we make is amplified to produce a far greater outcome than we could produce on our own.”



444 reads

Honing Decision Making Skill

A fighter pilot must be able to make decision quickly until it becomes instinctual.

There is hard limit on how many times they can fly and engage in real combat, so learning process is critical.

Some strategies:

  • Concepts over facts. Understand cause and effect relationship and develop robust mental framework.
  • Choose the best and most experienced pilot as the instructor. No option to turn down the position.
  • Use combat simulation. Pilots are required to solve a mission like in real world.
  • Take debrief seriously. Gain lessons learned from each simulation and real combat to refine our thinking.


229 reads


“No one is born a good pilot. In fact, most fighter pilots show up to pilot training with zero flight experience.”



231 reads


“For each mission, I would write down the top lessons I had learned in a small notebook that I always kept in my flight suit pocket. Before each flight, I would review similar missions and strive to repeat what I had done well and not make mistakes that I had made in the past.”



206 reads

Utilize Heuristics

Heuristics are rule-of-thumb strategies designed to shorter the time it takes to solve complex problem and decide next course of action. It’s a mental shortcut.

Some examples

  • Line of sight. How an object align to certain position in the windshield.
  • Good-idea cutoff line. During planning, everyone can give ideas, but after two thirds of planning session, no more new ideas allowed to avoid delay and confusion.


197 reads

How To Conduct Effective Debrief

To maximize learning from debrief session, apply the following ideas:

  • Put aside ranks. Everyone must be allowed to point out mistakes. Everyone is open to criticism.
  • Own mistakes. Encourage everyone to first look inward for failure, starting from the mission commander and highest ranking pilots.
  • Structure the session. Debrief session typically consists of (1) recollection of all mission data and study them personally, (2) reconstruct the mission using everyone’s data to get the god’s eye view, (3) choose debrief focus points, (4) analyze contributing factors, and (5) formulate new instructions.


166 reads


“Debriefing is one of the most powerful tools to improve decision-making. By understanding the cause and effect of the choices we make, we can build an understanding of the world around us.”



174 reads


A fighter pilot must be able to make quick decision during critical situation by evaluating options, calculate its rough probability and approximate the expected value of each decision. This is an ability called fast-forecasting.

Fast-forecasting allows us to create rough solutions that make sense. Precision is not the goal. The thought process is largely driven by logic and reason, cultivating our mental framework that we’ve accumulated in our life.


107 reads


“The real world is complex, and decisions always come with some amount of uncertainty. Fast-forecasting is effective in this environment because it prioritizes accuracy over precision by integrating our hard-earned intuition into the solution.”



96 reads

Effects-Based Operations

In modern days, war is planned based on the desired effects or outcomes rather than the available resources. Starting at the end goal and then working backward.

This type of planning is better than focusing on traditional medium for certain attack, we can select and combine the most appropriate tools to get the desired end state, whether by using tanks, helicopters, drones, or even cyber attack.

Creativity can help us connecting things in unexpected ways and it’s such critical resource that can give exponential advantage.


83 reads

Mental Toughness

No plan survives first contact of the enemy. In real combat, there is always element of fear involved. Ability to manage stress and remain calm are critical to think clearly in any situation.

Beside training and experience, there are several techniques that can be used, such as breathing slowly, reframing our thinking, and visualizing the upcoming events.


84 reads

Making Priority

Eisenhower made one of the best decision in history during World War 2. In large part, it was due to his ability to prioritize.

He introduced the famous Eisenhower matrix, a 2x2 matrix which can help us to prioritize our tasks based on urgency and importance.

We should spend most of our time to focus on important things before it becomes urgent. We must reduce anything that is not important.

Spare some mental capacity to make decision that matters.


77 reads


“The ability to clearly assess a problem, generate potential courses of action, assess expected value, and then execute is a universal skill that everyone can learn and improve upon.”



92 reads



Lifelong learner and content creator. Helping you to find joy at work, get more things done, and be your best self.


This book is written based on the author’s real experiences as fighter pilot and trainer. Many of the lessons are quite practical and useful in critical situations.

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