A good friend of mine sent me an article published by Farnam Street over the weekend called How to Think: The Skill You’ve Never Been Taught. The gist of the article was that we can all become better thinkers. The article noted that “Good decisions create time, bad ones consume it. Good initial decisions pay dividends for years, allowing abundant free time and low stress. Poor decisions, on the other hand, consume time, increase anxiety, and drain us of energy. So, how can we learn to think better?
The author referenced an address given by William Deresiewicz to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009 which he called Solitude and Leadership. Mr. Deresiewicz pointed out that title might seem contradictory but solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership. His comments were directed to producing leaders but many of the points he made can help all of us. He argues that we have few true leaders because we have very few thinkers.
He noted that there are certain ways you don’t learn to think. One is multi-tasking. There was a study at Stanford that wanted to understand how college students were able to multi-task more effectively than adults. “The answer, they discovered . . . is that they don’t. The enhanced cognitive abilities the investigators expected to find, the mental faculties that enable people to multi-task effectively, were simply not there. In other words, people do not multi-task effectively. And here’s the really surprising finding: the more people multitask, the worse they are, not just at other mental abilities, but at multitasking itself.”
If you’re trying to think for yourself and develop ideas, it is almost impossible to do if you are constantly interrupted by emails, phone calls, social media alerts, etc. You won’t even be able to learn from other people’s ideas much less develop your own.
Although we may not all be focusing on leadership skills, my email last week noted that many people, especially during our pandemic year, are languishing instead of flourishing. One of the proposed solutions to languishing is to become more immersed in a project which Adam Grant called finding flow. But, he noted that it is hard to find flow when you can’t focus which brings us back to multi-tasking. For those of you who saw The Social Dilemma, you’ll remember that the deck is stacked against those who want to avoid distraction. So, it might be best to take some time each day where you have an electronics-free period where you can search for flow or maybe just set aside some time, free of distraction, to just sit and think.
This week’s selection is:
Counterpart (Starz and Prime Video)
A hapless UN employee discovers that the agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension that's in a cold war with our own, and where his other self is a top spy. The war slowly heats up thanks to spies from both sides.