Hackernoon logoHow to think well by@esperancaJS

How to think well

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@esperancaJSPedro Esperança

This is a collection of the, by far, most effective thinking patterns I most thought of, discussed and worked on over the years.

The effectiveness of how we perceive reality is highly derived from the Operating System our brains are running on.

With this in mind I find it very interesting to constantly question and upgrade my OS.

A funny thing about effectiveness is that it’s infinitely optimizable. Even 100.000 years from now the AIs will still be working on developing better thought patterns. No matter how smart we think we are, there’s always a smarter version of us waiting to be found.

Being Humble

Practicing humbleness is very important in reducing our bias towards how we perceive reality. 
Our ego has an ever present desire to start out by being righteously right on any presented problem and offended by being wrong.

This can be a problem or a great help depending on how it’s handled.
I try to keep track of how I feel when this desire from the ego emerges and use it as an indicator that I’m close to learning I’m wrong about something. 
And since rationally it’s better to be wrong than right, as it’s when you are wrong that you gain new knowledge. We can feed on the frustration from the Ego by converting it into the curiosity of the new information about to come.

Keeping it Simple

Using as little facts as possible makes thinking and expressing and defending ideas a lot simpler.

As a rule of thumb, I try to reduce the core facts to solve any problem to only 3 and never more than 7.

Why 3 ideally?
3 is probably the most beautiful number in nature, but more importantly, because having 3 thoughts in mind simultaneously only requires 3 connections. While 4 thoughts already requires 6 connections, 5 thoughts requires 10 connections and so on, scaling terribly.

And why 7 maximum?
Because it‘s the average amount of things humans can hold in their head simultaneously (proof here).

First Principles

The thought process of breaking things down to what they undeniably are. 
Used by Elon Musk, and by many other great thinkers such as Aristotle, Descartes and the entire Scientific community, as the most direct way to validate theories.

It’s a way of thinking that allows us to see complex things by their small individual parts, that are simple and unbiased when isolated. Parts that are put back together in ways we could not see before, aligned with the problems we want to solve.

We know that we are using basic principles when we don’t need to use analogy to validate our thoughts as they are self evident.

As an example, let’s look at what people saw in the years leading up to the Financial crisis of 2007–2008:

— By Analogy (🐱~🐶) people and economists predicted that:

  • Life quality would keep increasing for everyone,
  • Business would keep booming and
  • Real-Estate Prices would keep steadily rising.

— But someone using First Principles (🐱=🐱) and luck to gather all these pieces:

  • Houses prices are based on what people pay for them,
  • Real-Estate is one of the biggest pillars of the economy (~2.7x 🌎’s GDP 💰),
  • People buy based on what they can get from banks,
  • Banks stops lending when there are credit defaults and
  • People with no credit education were paying for debt with new debt.

Could predict the world economy would eventually crash, opposite to general opinion.

Most popular assumptions are unintuitive to disagree with. But I believe they are all followed by unintuitive but sure ways of thinking that turn them obsolete.
Every time we learn something great, something greater awaits around the corner.

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking allows you to think rationally, unconstrained and with a strong focus on raw facts and other’s criticism/opinions.

It borrows a lot from First Principles, but has a stronger focus on asking other people for their Opinions.

It’s not about simply criticising what others think or current solutions (even though it can lead to that), it’s about thinking clearly and being able to express easy to understand thoughts.

It’s about:

  • going a few levels deeper than the original thoughts,
  • considering other perspectives (even some you disagree with),
  • understanding which facts truly matter and
  • iterating on potential solutions.

This not only allows you to easily defend your ideas as they are now based on very few but strong facts, but more importantly it allows you to think clearly as the amount of facts you must juggle in your mind to formulate solutions are now fewer and stronger.


Thinking by:

  • Being Humble,
  • Keeping it Simple,
  • First Principles and
  • Critical Thinking

Helps us think and communicate clearly with (unintuitively 👽) less effort.

How we think is how we get to perceive and shape reality, it’s a skill that has direct effect on everything we do, so it’s definitely worth being fine tuned at least once in a while.

Keep in touch

I write in the interest of meeting people with whom to have interesting conversations. So I would like nothing more than getting a message from you in the comments or on twitter (@esperancaJS).


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