How to Develop Your Thinking Ability by Kenneth Keyes

Summary

  1. Practical techniques to improve your ability to think clearly, creating accurate “verbal maps.” To be happy and successful, we must base our plans on maps that fit the territory. Only an adequate map will have the necessary predictability that will allow us to plan, to choose, to decide what is best for us to do. Clear thinking help you to predict the future. It enables you to make plans that will get you what you want out of life. We can think of all the knowledge and memories we have filed away in our heads as “mental maps.” Truth simply equals a verbal map that represents the territory. However, truth is an elusive sprite that is hard to keep penned up

Key Takeaways

  1. Steps / Tools for clearer thinking
    1. Think in terms of verbal maps – ineffective people attempt to project onto the territory the verbal maps they cook up in their heads. They are unable to open their minds and observe clearly what is before them. They think they know what things are like without checking. What they think they know blocks them from evaluating sanely
      1. Survey the territory for yourself – one look is worth 1,000 reports
        1. Scientific Method – This is what scientists tell us to do – surveying the territory provides predictability that characterize accurate verbal maps. This is the essence of the scientific method. When a scientist tries to find out which verbal map is the most adequate, he looks at the territory. He observes; he uses his sense; he opens his mind and his eyes
    2. Best way to understand/learn is to teach others
    3. Practice in small ways every day
    4. “So far as I know” – nobody knows everything, be open, humble
      1. Those who learn most, fastest are honest of their ignorance
    5. Up to a point – think in terms of degrees
      1. Think along a spectrum, avoid either/or, all/none, binary – “the narrower the mind, the broader the statement”
    6. “To me” – look who’s talking
      1. We see reality through a mirror that partially transmits and partially reflects. We see things that are outside of us, but we see them bathed in “reflections” from our own minds 
    7. The What Index – differences that make a difference
      1. Don’t think in groups, but in individuals
      2. Distance makes for seeing similarities: nearness helps us to see differences (Galilean Relativity)
    8. The When Index – keeping up to date
      1. When was the territory surveyed?
      2. Knowledge keeps no better than fish – Alfred North Whitehead
      3. Old age plants more wrinkles in the mind than in the face – Montaigne 
    9. The Where Index – when environment changes, expect other things to change to
  2. Other
    1. Men are apt to be much more influenced by words than by the actual facts of the surrounding reality – Pavlov
    2. All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience. – Goethe
    3. Little babies cannot fight as well as grownups. A new, baby idea coming into our head cannot compete with the old grown-up ones we have been embracing all our lives. We have to let the new ideas come in, grow, and mature. Frequently, it is necessary to try to understand new ideas for days, weeks, or even years. When we feel we have done our best to understand a new point of view, we should then unleash our old ideas and have a real battle royal…A closed mind is not a mind – it is a machine. It automatically spouts what is already in it

What I got out of it

  1. Really practical book that I’ll reference often as I’m making decisions