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How to Think

Principles for seeking wisdom

  • Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.
  • "I’m not smart enough to figure everything out myself, so I want to master the best of what other people have already figured out."

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How to Think

How to Think

https://fs.blog/2015/01/thinking-about-thinking/

fs.blog

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Key Ideas

Thinking is not IQ

We often make the mistake of thinking that people with high IQs think better. But it's not true. That's not the type of knowledge or brainpower that makes you better at life, happier, or more successful.

Principles for seeking wisdom

  • Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.
  • "I’m not smart enough to figure everything out myself, so I want to master the best of what other people have already figured out."

If you want to think better...

  • Become better at probing other people’s thinking. Ask questions. Simple ones are better. “Why” is the best.
  • Slow down. Make sure you give yourself time to think.
  • Probe yourself. Try and understand if you’re talking about something you really know something about or if you’re just regurgitating something you heard.

Mental models

They are a representation of an external reality inside your head. 

Mental models are concerned with understanding knowledge about the world, they put knowledge in a usable form.

Focus on the big, simple ideas

When learning, we should focus on ideas that change slowly. 

When we chase the latest thing, we’re really jumping into an arms race. Despite our intentions, learning in this way fails to take advantage of cumulative knowledge. We’re not adding, we’re only maintaining.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Mental Models: Out of Box Thinking

Mental models are the various thinking frameworks that are used to understand life, make decisions, and solve problems.

Just raw intelligence is not enough to solve problems. A different or a...

Mental Models: Examples

A mental model is an explanation of how something works. They are beliefs, worldviews or frameworks of thinking. You carry a certain kind of thinking in you to arrive at a solution to a problem.

Some examples:

  • Demand and Supply: to understand the economy
  • Game Theory: to understand trust and relationships
  • Entropy: to understand disorder and decay
Yuval Noah Harari
Yuval Noah Harari

“Scientists generally agree that no theory is 100 percent correct. Thus, the real test of knowledge is not truth, but utility.”

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Mental models

They are chunks of knowledge that can be simplified and applied to better understand the world, by identify what information is relevant in any given situation, and th...

Reasons we fail to make the best decision possible
  • We’re (sometimes) stupid: irrational, tired or distracted;
  • We have the wrong information;
  • We use the wrong model;
  • We fail to learn;
  • We go with what's easy over what's right. 
The Art of Decision-making:
  1. Get 1% smarter every day;
  2. Focus on things that don’t change or change very slowly over t...
Decision-making cascades 

... through everything you do. That's the power of compounding. If you get 1% better at understanding how the world works, how human behavior works, how economic systems function, and understanding your own brain — that 1% improvement impacts everything you do. 

Study things that never change

The best kind of knowledge is not ephemeral junk , that will be useless in a few years, but the core pillars of human knowledge and the major academic disciplines. That knowledge changes very slowly over time  and it’s a core foundation that you can build upon and grow from. 

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First Principle
First Principle

Is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

"… it's important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. We are doing this because it's like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. But with first principles, you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and then reason up from there."

Think like Sherlock Holmes

“What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving a crime. It is an entire way of thinking."

"Holmes provides... an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought...

Engagement
As children, we are remarkably aware to the world around us. This attention wanes over time as we allow more pressing responsibilities to attend to and demands on our minds to address. And as the demands on our attention increase so, too, does our actual attention decrease.

 As it does so, we become less and less able to know or notice our own thought habits and more and more allow our minds to dictate our judgments and decisions, instead of the other way around.

Pitfalls of the Untrained Brain

Daniel Kahneman believes there are two systems for organizing and filtering knowledge: 

  • System one is real-time. This system makes judgments and decisions before our mental apparatus can consciously catch up. 
  • System two, on the other hand, is a slow process of thinking based on critical examination of evidence. Konnikova refers to these as System Watson and System Holmes.

To move from a System Watson- to a System Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation.

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Self Reliance

If you’re waiting for someone to give you the right training to change your job or do something radically different in life you will wait forever. 

It’s up to you to train yourself. I...

Learning to Learn

Learning is not a rigidly formal system of precisely labeled steps.

Learning is messy. It’s trial and error. It’s failing and then failing again and then slowly figuring it out.

Give Up Magical Beliefs

You can’t borrow someone’s motivation. No matter how many books you read or chants you do you won’t become more motivated.

Motivation comes from inside. It comes from you and nowhere else.

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When Studies Are Untrustworthy
When Studies Are Untrustworthy

Many layers of uncertainty along with thinking errors of scientists (blind spots) make the research or evidence untrustworthy about 42 percent of the time, according to a study.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Advice For Reading Scientific Studies

When we read scientific studies, it helps to keep in mind the following:

  1. Scientists are prone to error just like everyone else.
  2. Single source claims are dubious.
  3. There is a lot we don’t know.
  4. We should not be biased towards a particular outcome.
  5. Independent tests of the findings can be done if possible.
  6. Proof of something does not mean it is true, and a lack of proof does not mean it is false.

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Charlie Munger

“The more basic knowledge you have … the less new knowledge you have to get.”

Charlie Munger
Getting to a deeper understanding of a subject
  • Understanding the basics. This is a key element of effective thinking. Understanding a simple idea deeply builds a solid foundation for complex ideas.
  • Build your foundation. Be honest with what you really know by using the Feynman Technique (by teaching others). It will reveal any gaps you have in your knowledge.
  • Obtain the basic mental models from multiple disciplines. You don't need to understand everything on a subject, but you should understand the basic concepts from various disciplines.
  • Understanding the basics allows for a better understanding of second and subsequent order consequences.
The "Lindy effect"

This is just a fancy way to say what has been will continue to be.

Time can predict value. Some things, like books, increase in life expectancy as time goes by. If a book has been in print for forty years, we can expect it to be in print for another forty years.

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Charlie Munger
It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, in..."
Charlie Munger
5 elements of effective thinking
  1. Understand deeply: Be brutally honest about what you know and don’t know. Then see what’s missing, identify the gaps, and fill them in.
  2. Make mistakes: Mistakes are great teachers; they highlight unforeseen opportunities and holes in your understanding.
  3. Raise questions: Constantly create questions to clarify and extend your understanding.
  4. Follow the flow of ideas: Look back to see where ideas came from and then look ahead to discover where those ideas may lead.
  5. Change: You can always improve, grow, and extract more out of your education, yourself, and the way you live your life.
You are the sum of your decisions

A few major decisions determine a good portion of how our lives, careers, and relationships turn out. The outcomes of these decision points will reverberate for years.

Even smal...

Why We Make Poor Decisions
  • We’re not as rational as we think. 
  • We’re not prepared. We don’t understand the invariant ideas — the mental models — of how the world really works. 
  • We don’t gather the information we need. We make decisions based on our “guts” in complex domains that require serious work to gather all the needed data. 
The World Is Multidisciplinary

We live in a society that demands specialization. Being the best means being an expert in something.  A byproduct of this niche focus is that it narrows the ways we think we can apply our knowledge without being called a fraud.

We should apply all the knowledge at our disposal to the problems and challenges we face every day.

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