Learning How to Think: The Skill No One Taught You

“I’ve spent my life trying to undo habits—especially habits of thinking. They narrow your interaction with the world. They’re the phrases that come easily to your mind, like: ‘I know what I think,’ or ‘I know what I like,’ or ‘I know what’s going to happen today.’ If you just replace ‘know’ with ‘don’t know,’ then you start to move into the unknown. And that’s where the interesting stuff happens.”  — Humans of New York

How do you learn to think?

Let’s start with how you don’t learn to think. A study by a team of researchers at Stanford came out a couple of months ago. The investigators wanted to figure out how today’s college students were able to multitask so much more effectively than adults. How do they manage to do it, the researchers asked? The answer, they discovered—and this is by no means what they expected—is that they don’t. The enhanced cognitive abilities the investigators expected to find, the mental faculties that enable people to multitask effectively, were simply not there. In other words, people do not multitask 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.

One thing that made the study different from others is that the researchers didn’t test people’s cognitive functions while they were multitasking. They separated the subject group into high multitaskers and low multitaskers and used a different set of tests to measure the kinds of cognitive abilities involved in multitasking. They found that in every case the high multitaskers scored worse. They were worse at distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant information and ignoring the latter. In other words, they were more distractible. They were worse at what you might call “mental filing”: keeping information in the right conceptual boxes and being able to retrieve it quickly. In other words, their minds were more disorganized. And they were even worse at the very thing that defines multitasking itself: switching between tasks.

Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube.

I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good. I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing.

I used to have students who bragged to me about how fast they wrote their papers. I would tell them that the great German novelist Thomas Mann said that a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. The best writers write much more slowly than everyone else, and the better they are, the slower they write. James Joyce wrote Ulysses, the greatest novel of the 20th century, at the rate of about a hundred words a day—half the length of the selection I read you earlier from Heart of Darkness—for seven years. T. S. Eliot, one of the greatest poets our country has ever produced, wrote about 150 pages of poetry over the course of his entire 25-year career. That’s half a page a month. So it is with any other form of thought. You do your best thinking by slowing down and concentrating.

“It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise”

— William Deresiewicz

And there you have it. An argument to spend more time thinking.

4 thoughts on “Learning How to Think: The Skill No One Taught You

  • March 7, 2019 at 1:03 am
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    Don’t Wimp Out Congressman! Think About This…

    “DON’T WIMP OUT CONGRESSMAN”!!!

    LBRC- The Head of U.S. Nat’l Security and NSA appeared before Congress and refused to answer questions in a “Sworn In” Congressional Hearing. Admiral Rogers was not only belligerent, but arrogant and very disrespectful, to such an extent he said- “I’m not interested in repeating myself”! Well now…

    To Wit, 1st a quick 9th Grade Civics Lesson: 

    Article II, Section 2, Clause I of the Constitution, the President of the United States is “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.” Civilian control of the military!!!

    1. There is good and codified evidence as to what the relation of the military is to “Civilian Rule and Control, and “Elected Representatives of The People in “Stead”/ Federalist Papers! Not only ‘Dat,  The President, a “Civilian”, is “Commander- in- Chief!

    2. Admiral Rogers and Dan Coated, Head of Nat’l Intelligence and NSA, their testimony before Congress with respect to whether #45 approached them to  intervene in Matters involving The Mueller Investigation 2019? Other witness in room, Pompeo?

    What is “Contempt”? Ehat generally happens in “Public Courtrooms” when a Jurist rules “Contempt”? The Skinny? Fines, Jail, Tongue Lashing, all of the above to include but not limited to “Punitive Punishments” and/or other! 

    3. What is “Congressional Contempt”, after a “Witness or other” has been duly sworn in to testify yet refuses to answer questions, especially does not plead the “5th”, self incrimination or other?

    a. Webster on contempt- b : lack of respect or reverence for something

    2 : the state of being despised

    3 : willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge, or legislative body /end Webster/

    b. We are communicating these issues to relevant congressional parties involving  matters before congress. Occasionally it appears congressional members who aggressively seek truth and answers while citizens observe, sometimes forget,  and not necessarily loosing their way– “Contempt of Congress” is a real thing! Sometimes charges are in order! In Banana Republics, military officers are revered and civilian rule is never applicable regarding theirs. Fascinating is how so many Military Officers appearing before congress appear so ” Ignorant” about Constitutional Mandates, Decorum and simple “Respect”, though they claim otherwise! Herein lies a “Very Dangerous Precedent”! An “Admiral” disrespects an elected Congressman with perceived “Impunity”? 

    4. Recommendation:

    a. Re- Subpoena Rogers and Coates before Coates!

    b. After being Duly Sworn and they refuse to answer  non classified questions or cannot articulate a case for Executive Privilege or other? Have The Committee Chairman rule on a “Charge of Congressional Contempt”- All options on the table including or leading to “Demotion”, Branding and/or including but not limited to other!

    Peace Out aka Hotep…

    Reply
  • March 9, 2019 at 10:03 am
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    LBRC- Literal “House Negroes”? Where? The Remnant in 2019?

    This ain’t no Fairytale but “Once upon a time” (Disclaimer: Maybe once ago but in 2019 what’s the difference, no matter the U.S. State and where Negroes are elected to represent “Where they came from?- Our Grandfathers scratched where they didn’t itch, Bucked Danced on empty stomachs/pockets, pretended and acted out Intellects/ways on par to common dogs, we’re so fearful of ‘Massa they literally wet in their paints plus  “Meritorious Manumissions was the order of the day and yada…, Exhausting! The point? 

    1. Where are the Literal “House Negroes” in 2019?

    a. These Negroes still eating “High on The Hog” in 2019! No matter where you travel in the U.S., “Majority Black” Districts are the poorest and “under served”! Who represents them? Ans. Majority Black Districts elect “Negro Politicians”. Typically, these Negroes rake in over 10X the Median income of those who vote them in. When elected, these Negroes leverage Black Votes all the way into so- called “Upper Incomes” and appointments to see them or having them respond substantively if even at all to emails is akin to reserving play at The Buckingham Palace Indoor Tennis Court! 

    b. The CBC/Congressional so- called Black Caucus represents what? James Clyburn, the highest Negro ranking member, says- “Reparations for Blacks is nearly impossible”! YET? (1) Nearly 1/3 of the District he represents lives below the poverty line (1) You can tour numerous circa 1860 Slave Plantations in his District in 2019 (3) Clyburn’s official annual income stream is “Upper Middle”, he didn’t start there with respect to income (3) Confederate Monuments still pervade the landscape in Columbia and South Carolina and some were just removed a few weeks ago (4) Jim Crow is still De Facto in 2019 and so are SC Sharecroppers (5) As per the aforementioned and like the Negroes you’ve elected to represented “You”, Jim and your elected Negroes live high on Congressional Retreat Fat Backs and Ribs, Es it’s cargo carry as you go, Select Harmony Grits, Butter Biscuits and yada…, What’s wrong “WIC”, oops (But Lots are funded with “Tax Dollars”) ‘Dis ‘Pitcha?…

    2. Clayburn has practically said, “You other Negroes should forget about being ‘Repaired’ due to profound economic issues stemming from Slavery and Jim Crow? Let’s channel some Malcolm- “You been had, you been snookered, shucked, jived, conned and bamboozled”!  The House aka House of Representative Negroes are glorified 2019 versions of House Negro back door biscuit distributions, chitterlings for all, and “The New and Improved ‘yessa ‘Massa/er Greater Society”!

    3. We could go on and on however, What we must do and eventually accomplishment?

    a. Action Plan numeral ‘uno? Ignore the dim witted and 86 “All” the old Handkerchief Heads anachronistic old shuffling Negroes and elect new, young responsive leadership. (Disclaimer: (1) New does not mean different. There are lots of dim witted young sell- outs in 2019. Experience can be a negative trait aka “More of The Same”! Don’t be duped/deceived by them, then assign “All” to their ranks). Lots of young Negroes especially Politicos/Preacher Apostates, are “Undiagnosed Special Needs”, no joke! 

    b. The Most High has placed and fixed an intelligent, literate “Remnant” immune to “Give Up ‘ittus”! Reparations will happen, “The Universal Arc of Justice will see to it”!

    c. Why did The Most High tell Joshua to do what appeared to be ridiculous, i.e., “March around a wall 7 times so huge Chariot Races were staged on it and large houses were built for centurion officers of the guard! This wall was so huge it was perceived and considered impenetrable! Answer: Faith!!! Hotep aka Peace Out…

    Reply
  • March 15, 2019 at 7:38 am
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    LBRC- Gun Free Zones? Doesn’t this violate “The U.S. Constitutional Right” to “Freely Bare Them”! Whose capable of sound thought, Common Council People? Local Media tells commoners (Group Think), what to think and what’s important to think about “Now”! 

    1.”Business Interest”, French Quarter, CBD and tourist lives are threatened! Uh oh! Whenever members of the so- called dominant (Not The Majority) population are threatened, what happens? Why is Moreno considering “Gun Free Zones”?  Ans. Murders in the rest of the city outnumber what happens in The French Quarter and CBD combined by outlandish numbers, but you never hear Constitutionally illiterate Council people propose a “City Wide Gun Free Zone”!  Is it cruel and unjustifiable to call council people “Constitutionally Illiterate”? Remember when Jackie Clarkston proposed Ex Post Facto Laws? What about oaths of office? The current council is clueless, why they never called the “Entergy Fraud Hearings” a Mis vote aka “Mistrial” in common court hearings! Council is not Pro People, but they’re Pro Entergy and proved it!!! Is Moreno an isolated thinker with respect to “At- Large”? What’s the difference, Gun Free in The Quarter or Citywide to abate murder? “All” murder is egregious city wide? Ail-people at- large and on the district level respond to what happens in the CBD plus Quarter, and we know why, regardless how they “Spin” it!!! You deceive ‘Simps and “You”! Some said, let me ask ‘Massa LaDEQ (Proven Environmental Injustice agent!) aka Willie Lynch- “Believe only ‘Massa”? Never independent research, your typical mendicant!

    2. All council people, bar none, had no problem voting in favor for a “Gas Oven”/height  “Global Warming, for the De Facto Entergy Lobby! New Orleans East will be emitting some “TRI”/ Toxic Release Inventory, contributing to “Rapid Evaporation” which strengthens storms (Hurricanes Begin with Rapid Evaporation, which just flew over the illiterate heads of governing Jack A*#=*, sorry…? You ‘betcha! Incompetence is deadly and dangerous!

    3. Don’t get it twisted, School “Gun Free Zones” are deemed appropriate where minors are not of “Majority Age”and reasonable common sense says children are defenseless and have mandatory obligations to attend schools at designated sites! “Armed Guards” are employed for protection in their “Public Spheres” to mitigate threats! In a “Public- at- large sphere where common masses have choice of aka “Free Ingress and Egress”, is where constitutional rights should be commonly understood! SCOTUS has even ruled Choice vs known threats! What do you expect Imhotep, when alcohol, ignorance complicit with an RSD which promulgates so- called “Opportunity Youth” (Not all are criminals, don’t twist this!). ingress and egress transportation choices? Bicycles and stolen ATV’s are primary modes of transportation in tight, dense areas like the CBD and “Murder prone Zip Codes”! Now ‘Dat they’re invading the CBD and Quarter? Not only are council people generally “Constitutionally Illiterate”, and will more than likely spend tax dollars attempting to “litigate” their ignorance, but they are “Knee Jerk” pawns of their handlers and “Powers ‘Dat Be”! As the song goes, watch and see what happens! This is what incompetent, low information voters  do! Illiteracy is like programming a computer- “Illiteracy inputs via votes and non, and elected illiteracy outputs commensurate with the illiteracy ‘Dat elected it “! 

    Hotep aka Peace Out…

    Reply
  • March 15, 2019 at 6:42 pm
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    LBRC- Things you’ll never hear Racist White Supremacist, their House Negro ‘Splainers aka “Coons” say, similarly akin to- POTUS #45 is the Dumbest ever who ever left his village minus its Idiot! His vocabulary is vile, primitive, juvenile and exceptionally limited (Who else could blow thru inherited billions, claim Genius after suspect investments Pops made to advance his fallacy, then borrow billions more (DeutchhiseBank), in order to wreck what he inherited twice over, a “Self Inflicted” PONZI Where’s his Tax Return? We digress!)- 

    1. They’ll never say? The Klu Klux Klan/KKK is “Organized ‘Domestic” Terrorism” aka Domestic Enemy! The KKK has implied impunity and complete freedom to move when and wherever Pre and Post 2019!

    2. They’ll never say or comment? Elected Officials take Oaths to Defend The US/Cirizens, against “All” enemies foreign and “Domestic”! Racist Republican NEOCONS  nor gutless “Democrat wimps or their House Negro CBC ‘Splainers, have ever conformed to oaths with respect to their “Constitutional Mandate/ Sacred Oath, not even after The 16th Street B.C. Murders, or recently Charleston! 

    3. Negro ‘Splainers will never admit or say and ‘Massa won’t confirm? ‘Massa never edits or alters my speaking! Whenever ‘Massa, he/she/it, doesn’t provide a direct script or edited copy? My default reasoning and psychology always aligns linear to ‘Massa’s. I never deviate- “Believe only ‘Massa aka Willie Lynch! 

    Peace Out…

    Reply

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