One of my all time favorite books is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. It is an all time classic and to this day. 80 + years later, it is still one of the top selling books every year.
The word “think” is subtly layered into the title because Rich is the obvious eye-catcher that makes you want to learn more. The author chose the word “think” for a reason. He makes the case in the book that you can’t grow, and you definitely can’t get rich, without learning how to think.
In today’s go go go society and emotionally driven society. Many people don’t invest the time to think before they respond, act, do, you name it. I did say “invest’ for a reason, because you are making an investment when you slow down, think, make a plan, and then take action.
Critical thinking is by far one of the most unused skillsets in today’s culture. The culture instead is constantly being told what to think, and then people decide whether they agree or disagree with whatever it is based on their biases. In most cases, depending on who said it is more important to them on whether they believe it or not. The test is who said it, not is it true or not.
There are many definitions of critical thinking. The one I like that I believe is one of the better and clear ones is this:
Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence. Now I would add a few additional adjectives to the definition, such as without emotion, and evidence based means: objectively clear facts that are substantiated.
Unfortunately we now live in a society and culture that has very little to no ability to think clearly for themselves. They haven’t learned how to critically think. And I believe that these five reasons are driving the lack of critical thinking.
- Math: I don’t know if it is because many people learn to hate math at an early age. Is it because teachers are not very good at teaching it? Or is it just hard and most people never try hard enough to be good at it? I am not going to solve this problem today. However, if you are unwilling to look at the numbers, the evidence that supports something or doesn’t support something, then critical thinking is out the window.
- Emotions: We now live in a world that is driven by feelings. I am not sure when this started, but it is rampid and it is scary. I have talked about this many times. Any time we make very difficult decisions on emotions and not facts or reasoning, we typically are going to get ourselves in trouble. A simple example of this is when people buy cars that they can’t afford. Which is any car that you cant pay cash for, but I digress. They love the feeling that a new car provides to them and even if the math doesn’t make sense, they will try to rationalize a way to get the car becasue of how it makes them feel.
- Opinions: Whoever is the loudest usually gets the most attention. It has nothing to do with the credibility of the person. It really comes down to who has the largest platform and can reach the most people. The problem with opinions these days is too many times they are packaged as “real news”, when in reality they are not news based on facts or evidence. It is usually based on subjective views of a given situation.
- Media: I was listening to two very mainstream personalities over the weekend who both have very successful podcasts and very large audiences. They were both talking about the fact that even though most would call them both center-left from a political standpoint. That neither one of them can go on CNN or MSNBC, because they both had been on Fox News and most likely will disagree with the anchors they would speak with on CNN or MSNBC. I am sure people may say the same thing about other news stations as well. However, if you spend too much of your time watching one station only. You are only getting one side of a situation.
- Fear: We are living in a moment of time right now that when someone holds a different viewpoint on something that is against the masses, and expresses that viewpoint, they could lose their job, their career or any other personal interests. It’s the sad and harsh reality. When active debate can’t occur, then ideas don’t get enhanced. When there is fear of retribution to disagree, things don’t’ get better. To solve complex problems everyone needs to be in the discussion.
In most companies the problems that exist are very complex and the leaders within the organization don’t have all the answers. They need employees that have the ability to think critically and solve problems within the business.
Unfortunately, when we start school in kindergarten or first grade all the way through college in many cases. You learn the answers to the test, take the test, pass and move on to the next. If you don’t know the answers, you can pull them up on google and most likely find them in a matter of seconds.
This is not the real world. The real world requires a process of thinking about the problem. Putting some of the best ideas on the table and working through them to see which ones can be pursued with limited financial resources and human capital. This is the process and it must be followed. When it isn’t we will get what we have always gotten.
To your success and your future.