How to Think

How to Think: Reviewed

How to Think

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (buy), by Alan Jacobs, is not directly about corporate governance. It is more about learning more from your engagements with those who do not share your views. Corporate Governance (#corpgov on Twitter) has not been immune from incivility. How to Think could help us all to better diagnose forces that keep us from thinking, while helping us to acknowledge that it is impossible to “think for yourself.”

I’ll post a few of my takeaways from How to Think below. If you only have time to scan a couple of pages in your local bookstore, turn to “The Thinking Person’s Checklist” on pp 155-156. Hopefully, that will hook you in and you’ll buy it and read the entire 157 pages. There’s much more in How to Think than a checklist or a few takeaways.

Thinking is integral to life, so the book is more about establishing good habits, centered around how to communicate with others. It would be nice if everyone read “How to Think” before getting a Twitter account. I will try to apply a few of these and other lessons in future #corpgov posts and responses on Twitter.

  • Faced with provocation, take a walk before responding. “Get your body involved; your body knows the rhythms to live by, and if your mind falls into your body’s rhythm, you’ll have a better chance of thinking.”duty calls
  • “Value learning over debating. Don’t ‘talk for victory.'” How to think requires more listening and reflection.
  • Avoid people focused on fanning flames.
  • You don’t have to respond to every significant social media post to signal your virtue.
  • Repugnant cultural other (RCO) – Learn to approach interactions as an anthropologist, willing to put yourself in the other’s world view.
  • You can’t literally think for yourself, since thinking is inherently social. “Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought and said.”
  • Thought must be joined with feelings to produce meaningful action. Real thinking requires the whole person to be engaged, with all the faculties present. Rational thinking requires taking into account feelings and our constant relations to and with others.
  • Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer is loyal to the institution (church, party, state) not to individuals because being loyal to individuals is possible only in a relatively free society.
  • Increasing violence of language might be explained by distribution technologies that enable people who have never met each other are more likely to neglect their common humanity than they would be in person. (provides great example of Thomas More’s attacks on Martin Luther.)
  • Learning to feel is as helpful as learning to think. Associate with people based not just on their beliefs but on their dispositions, especially how they treat those who disagree with them.
  • Vocabulary not only calls attention but also hides. The most dangerous metaphors and myths are those we do not recognize as metaphors and myths.
  • G.K. Chesterton: “the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” We change our mind only when we find something more nourishing. Just as for investors and poker players, “sunk costs” have a disproportionate influence on our thinking and decision making. investors who don’t learn that go broke.
  • Be more concerned with working toward the truth than about your social position.

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