Problem Solving


A logical fallacy is reasoning that contains a flaw.

Many logical fallacies rely on false premises:

  • Appeal to nature - claiming something is good because it is "natural". Some natural things, like cyanide, is very bad for you.
  • False dilemma - a limited number of options are presented as mutually exclusive or as the only options.
  • The appeal to novelty - when something is assumed good because it is new.
  • The argument from incredulity - someone concludes that because they can't believe something is true, then it must be false.
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Problem Solving

A false premise

... is a faulty assumption that becomes the basis of an argument and makes it logically unsound. For example, all birds can fly. Penguins can't fly. Therefore, penguins aren't birds. The premise that all birds can fly is false since some birds can't fly.

A false premise underpins many logical fallacies, making it essential to understand them.

  • An explicit premise is when a premise is mentioned directly as part of an argument.
  • An implicit premise means that the premise is hinted at and used as part of the argument.

Someone might choose to rely on a particular implicit premise because it is evident to all participants. Or, someone might decide to rely on an implicit false premise while giving a speech because it will be harder for listeners to notice problems with it.

When you respond to the use of false premises, you should generally call them out as false, explain why they're false, and how them being false invalidates the argument.

  • False premises can be implicit rather than explicit.
  • It can also be helpful to ask the person who relied on the false premise to support it.
  • However, remember that a false premise that makes an argument logically unsound doesn't mean its conclusion is wrong.
  • Ensure that you're aware of all the premises your argument is based on and that you know that your premises are true.
  • You can engage in self-distancing by treating your arguments as if they're presented by someone else. This can help you rationally consider your views.
  • If you make an argument, the proof is on you to support your premises.
  • Learn about common fallacies associated with false premises. Then you are more sure to avoid them.

From early on, chefs and cooks are trained in the art of mise-en-place. In preparation for a particular dish, every single item needed is in front of them before they even turn the water to a boil. They know what ingredients need to be added first and which utensil to use. They always know what step they're working on and never confused about what comes next.

We can make projects feel like a recipe where we move through the work step-by-step, starting with the end in sight.

Overcoming project fatigue on long projects

Working on a project with no visible end in sight is like running a race without knowing where the finish line is.

Even if one can pick off small tasks, one can still feel weary. However, we can build resilience in progressing on these projects by following the principles of mise-en-place or translated "put in place."

At a start of a big project, it can be difficult to split up the work. You may not have all the information you need to define the steps.

How to get the necessary information to break down a big project:

  • Call on colleagues who have worked on a similar project, and ask for their advice.
  • Revisit previous projects. How did you break up the project?
  • Ask your manager if you're feeling stuck.
  • Look to templates. Sometimes the recipe already exists.

Any subject can be learned with some practice and patience. Some subjects may appear harder because of the speed at which they are taught.

To fix this problem, you may need to put in more work. If you can't see everything at once, it just means you need to practice more of the pieces, so your mind does not have to juggle so many ideas simultaneously.

Being smart changes how you learn things

Intelligence is likely associated with a better generalised working memory.

A working memory is the ability to hold multiple ideas in your head at the same time. Those who are smarter have a bigger capacity to hold multiple ideas.

Intelligence is partly heritable, but there are ways to improve it in a general capacity. The best way to improve your working memory is to simply learn a lot. Learning creates chunks, which allows you to deal with more complex ideas.

The downside of learning is that it tends to be narrow, while intelligence is general.

Because we can increase our working memory within a subject, we can create new chunks and master very complicated ideas. The perceived difficulty is often the way subjects are taught. Only the smarter students will remain, the higher you go in maths or science. This leads teachers to skip over "trivial" steps, leading you feeling like you can't master it.

Solutions are for teachers to slow down the class or for the student to slow down the class using, for example, the Feynman Technique.

Some subjects feel like they require more intelligence. If understanding an idea requires you to take different ideas into account, it may be more challenging to keep track with a lower working memory. e.g. mathematical proofs.

Conversely, if a subject requires a large volume of memory, but each fact or idea is separate, it may require lots of practice and less working memory. E.g. history or law.


Note-taking will always be at the core of learning and education. We are often encouraged to take notes during lectures to have a record of the knowledge being shared by our teachers and gain a sense of familiarity with the subject.

There are many note-taking systems such as outlining, guided notes, and the famous Cornell notes. However, they do not result well when being recalled. No studies suggest that Cornell note-taking improves a student's performance better than free-flow writing.

To make good notes, you must take note of these three things:

  • Rephrase the original idea and translate it into your own. Use your own words to distill it in your mind better.
  • Connect ideas together. Create links between your ideas for better understanding and recall.
  • Build upon the ideas. Add your own examples, own questions, and other ideas related to it.

In summary, actively engage with your notes. There are great methods such as mind mapping, digital gardening, and the Zettelkasten method.

The biggest difference between the two is that the former is easier to forget than the latter.

With note-making, it is easier to understand and remember because of the generation effect - the phenomenon wherein information is better remembered if it is actively created from your own mind rather than simple read in a passive way.


  • Usually done while listening
  • Fast-paced
  • Uses the author's original language


  • Commonly done while reading
  • Self-paced
  • Uses our own language and understanding of the material
  • Step 1: Pick something you want to learn. Spend time with the idea until you have internalized it as best you can.
  • Step 2: From memory, write everything down that you know about the subject in a way that a child can understand. Write the items down that you don't remember and find answers for those items.
  • Step 3: Question every line you have written down. Some things you will understand, but at some point, you will write things down that you don't know. Then find the answers to these new topics.
  • Step 4: Repeat step 3 until the questioning adds no incremental value. Reorganize the various information you found interesting. Then question your own information to see if there are more gaps in your understanding.
What to focus on when learning something

People can fool themselves into believing they understand something more deeply than they really do. It often comes from being focused on learning the wrong thing, such as the name of something instead of what it really is.

We have to learn when we know, when we don't know, what it is we know, and what it is we don't know.

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