When people grow up, many of them want to become:

  • Astronauts
  • Football Players
  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Businessmen

But there are some weird ones – like me – that want to become powerful, critical, independent thinkers. Our idols are not the common ones like Michael Jordan or Leonel Messi. They are Aristotle, Einstein, Godel, Kant, MLK, Borges, Plank or Chomsky. People that through their intellect, revolutionized not just their field of study but how we collectively think and understand the world.

Clearly, this is not an easy thing to accomplish. And, unfortunately for the nerds like us, there’s no career one can choose to become one – we are basically left to our own devices.

So, in my journey to becoming a better thinker, I thought I would give some tips that I’ve been learning through my short path as well as some advice that I’ve read and learned from teachers.

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A Guide to Become a Deep Thinker

1. Read books. The Difficult Ones

I’m not sure if you noticed but people that are really good thinkers read a lot because – of course – is the best way to acquire knowledge and learn.

But what I’ve also noticed is that when I read complicated and challenging books, my mind gets bigger and, in a strange sense, expands.

I’ve finished a very challenging book called Godel, Escher, Bach by one of the most well-rounded thinkers of our time, Douglas Hofstadter. The book combines and intertwine music, Zen, language, mathematics, logic, brains, biology and art to give you a multiple-perspective view on how the self arises from the brain. And, although I might not agree with him on some topics, I’m perplexed by the level of conceptual profundity that a person can achieve.

That’s why I fully recommend reading books that challenge you. Either if it is because the author is a 17th Century philosopher or because it’s about a subject that you have 0 clue about. They will push you to conceptual limits and expand the way you think and learn.

2. Learn About Different Subjects and Topics

An important trait of intelligence is the ability to relate two or more completely different topics, make analogies between them and even advancements that weren’t possibly conceived before.

Although Einstein specialty was in physics, he was very well versed in politics and philosophy. And Schrödinger, even though he was one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, wrote an splendid book about the origin of life called “What’s Life?”

Most, if not all powerful thinkers were knowledgeable in different topics and had no problem jumping from one topic to another. And my theory is that this enabled them to make connections, perhaps subconsciously, that made them far better than the average thinker.

By learning from different sources, places and subjects, our mind will start to make unconscious connections that will propel our ability to think and learn.

3. Study Different Perspectives

Ken Wilber, a holistic thinker once said that nobody is intelligent enough to be 100% wrong. Every school or thought, idea or perspective has some grain of truth in them, although it may sound completely outrageous to our minds. Our job as aspiring thinkers is to study different perspectives, contemplate and integrate them into a unified vision of the world.

In biology, for example, Darwinians posit that evolution is a blind and mechanical process that occurs after several beneficial mutations in the DNA of an organism. On the other hand, the school of Intelligent Design believes that it’s impossible for significant beneficial changes to take place though random DNA mutations. They say that there’s a creator or intelligence behind it all guiding the process.

Most likely, both theories have correct and erroneous aspects and it would be naïve to completely disregard one side because it doesn’t fit our ideas of how the world should work or our cosmology. A good thinker will study both of them, and reach to a conclusion encompassing both views, which doesn’t appear to fit on the surface but it does when we look closely.

Same with politics, economics, business, and marketing.

By studying multiple perspectives, our conclusions and thinking will not be limited to just one aspect and will be much more comprehensive and holistic.

4. Write Your Thoughts Down

I’ve reading a lot for quite a while now but it was just recently that I started writing my thoughts down. I’ve noticed that when I did that, my ideas became grounded and materialized.

It seems that when we go from thought to paper, we are required to state our ideas in a clear and precise form – we don’t get that freedom that is inherent in the mind.

And just by writing them down into a piece of paper or a word document, they naturally get clearer and give space for new ideas to arise.

So make it a habit of writing down your ideas, it will help you quite a bit to clear your mind and reflect on your own thinking process.

And the final tip is…

5. Stop Using Social Media That Much

Our brains are elastic, malleable and change over time – and we’ve known that for a few years now. This phenomenon is called neuro-plasticity. Beliefs rewire our brain, habits rewire our brains, thoughts rewire our brain and even the environment does it too. But what about the way we consume information?

Social media is all about quick and fast bit and pieces of information. We scroll down and check 50 Facebook posts in less than a minute, and transition from page to page in a matter of seconds. The internet is driving us from one place to the next, with notifications, emails and pushes, stealing from us the ability to focus and concentrate.

Both of them are literally changing our brains, dictating how and what we can think. Because our attention muscle is weakening, our ability to read a book and go deep into a subject is being diminished. We cannot contemplate deeply some subject or question because our mind craves for something new, novel and entertaining.

Unfortunately, that not where and how powerful thinking exist.

If we want to become critical, powerful and independent thinkers, we must reduce our use social media and train our minds to focus for long periods of time, intensely. This ability specifically will be critical for success, peace of mind and fulfillment in the 21st Century.

It might be hard at first but with time and commitment, I can assure you it will be worth it.

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