Did you ever follow the GPS only to find yourself in the middle of nowhere?
Or, without question, followed the advice of an expert - maybe a doctor, financial adviser, or someone similar only to learn later that your instincts and your thoughts were correct?
So, why and how do these kinds of things really happen?
I think, primarily, the issue is that our complex, data flooded, information flooded world has made us more reliant on experts, protocols, and technology.
So much so that we have stopped thinking for ourselves. It's like we have outsourced our thinking to a troubling degree to gadgets and social media. We are slowly and steadily abandoning our autonomy.
It irks me. What about you?
Of course, technology, experts, these things are helpful to us in making informed decisions and living comfortably.
But we need a new approach for integrating them more effectively. We need to learn better ways to harness their capabilities without undermining our ability to think for ourselves.
And it does take more than just critical thinking.
In my view, the best way to do it is by embracing the First Principles Approach.
After all, no one wants to be the cow that couldn't moo-ve!
Now you might be thinking, "Ah! This first-principles thing sounds like some theoretical mumbo-jumbo."
And I can assure you, it is not.
We need to learn better ways to harness others' capabilities without undermining our ability to think for ourselves.
The first principle's approach is a two-step process. The first step is a detailed analysis, and the second is a careful synthesis of analyzed information.
First of all, it's not a ground-breaking idea. More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, coined this term. He believed that we learn more about something by understanding its fundamental principles. That is how scientists and almost all better engineers think.
The first principles are the most fundamental building blocks of an idea. Like the most indivisible parts that we know to be true. They are just undeniable basic truths.
You have seen how we learn reading or writing. First, we learn letters and then words. Once we understand words, then we go for sentences and then paragraphs. And after that, we go for multiple paragraphs. Then we can write an essay, or story, project report, email, or anything like that. Think about it as dissecting a subject into its smallest parts to gain knowledge. Then we organize and categorize that knowledge by reasoning, which builds our experience. So this cycle - of seeking knowledge through experience and reasoning is the first principle-based thinking. And by the way, this is way different from reasoning or understanding by analogy. But we need to focus on building experience and reasoning capacity.
The cycle - of seeking knowledge through experience and reasoning is the first principle-based thinking.
Think about a cook and a chef. Under normal circumstances, both follow a recipe to make a dish. We think they're the same. But if the cook loses his recipe, he will be in trouble. On the other hand, the chef will find a way out because he knows the basic principles of food and cooking. And with that knowledge, he can work without a recipe. What's more, he can also invent new dishes or recipes based on the knowledge -base he built.
The good thing is, learning to think on the first principles can also help improve your communication. And it is possible because using this mindset and thinking process, you can easily rebuild the idea in your head into someone else's. It is one of the reasons why teachers are good at the first principle thinking as they build the ideas and reasoning from the ground up.
If you think on the first principle basis, you can better understand things and fix them if something goes wrong. That is because you will have a better understanding of how they work in the first place.
When you think about any subject or problem, first identify and define your assumptions. Clarify the problem as much as you can. Then, break this understanding further into fundamental principles. Once you do that, you can solve that problem. You can build the solution from scratch. Or synthesize the knowledge to see the bigger picture.
The idea is to create a mental hierarchy whenever you learn new things or concepts. Create the hierarchy of ideas, concepts, and knowledge with proper reasoning. Use 'why' and 'how' type questions to dig deeper and to build a body of knowledge for yourself.
Use 'why' and 'how' type questions and build a body of knowledge for yourself.
When you start getting better at the first principle thinking, you will feel the clarity about that subject in your head. The confusion starts to fade away. No one will be able to confuse you or misinform you easily after that. The first principles always stand tall in the wake of misunderstanding, confusion, misinformation, disinformation, and many other similar things that we face today, whether online or offline.
The thing is, it is not just a tool for philosophers or CEOs. If you feel deeply about a problem and want to solve it, you should consider it. If you are serious about making a positive change, embrace the first principles approach: innovation, business, or life's toughest problems. The first principles will help you get unstuck.
They say that winners don't do different things; they do things differently. And with this approach, you can learn to do things differently at such a deeper and profound level that people cannot ignore the genius in you.
Winners don't do different things; they do things differently, and to do that, you must learn to think for yourself!