The 2 Things That Will Make You A Better Thinker

Reading and writing. But sure, have a cup of coffee first.

I think I’m not telling you something new, but, do you already read and write on a daily basis? For, in order to become a superb thinker, it must be a daily activity.

I like to think of myself as an avid reader, but yesterday I just read for about an hour, that’s not a lot. Half an hour in the morning before doing anything else, and half an hour during midday just for entertainment.

Now, with writing, I wrote in the morning, a short blog post, but I also wrote in my brand new diary that I just bought. The diary is beautiful, but let’s call it a ‘journal’ instead. So, the journal is beautiful and it was expensive. I also bought a handsome pen with it, so that every time I feel the need to write something down I feel like a little child that’s about to use his brand new toy.

The motivation behind my expensive purchase? I guess any notebook can do the job, but when you invest in something, it shows, at least psychologically, that you care and that the thing you invest in is important to you. But don’t mind me, any notebook will do the job, to be honest.

So, let’s talk about reading.

Reading

I recently wrote a post by the name How Not To Be a Muggle (a non-magical person) on which I talk about the topic of curiosity. One of the core characteristics of being a wizard, I wrote, is curiosity. The need to know more, the craving to embark on a psychological adventure. Remember, adventures begin in the head, with an idea, that then turns into something very, very real. Like Elon Musk colonizing Mars, what the hell, right?

Reading fills that need to know more, to discover (like Indiana Jones), and it makes you think about things that you didn’t know you did not know. The most famous example of this is the ‘Allegory Of The Cave’, that Plato used to describe, ages ago, how we live in darkness inside a cave. Not really knowing that there is an endless world of wonder outside the dark and sticky cave we’re in.

Take a second to think about the things that we know now. String theory? Dark Energy? Establishing a colony on Mars? Implanting microchips on our brains to develop our mental capacities?

What would Newton think about all of this?

All of our most amazing findings have been driven by one thing, curiosity. Reading is the decision you make when you want to hop on the boat of curiosity, and on to adventures of the mind. This will give you tools to think about ever more complex things that keep adding up the more you read.

This is the first step to become a better thinker.

“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Writing

If you are going to be a reader, mandatorily, you need to become a writer as well.

“Writing is refined thinking.” — Stephen King, On Writing

At the beginning of this post, I told you that I bought myself an expensive journal. It had been a while since I last bought one. I conformed myself with whatever notebook I could get for a cheap price so that I could just scribble things I needed to remember, such as to-do lists or bank account numbers or whatever. I began using Evernote as well, and I’m loving it, it is a superb tool, digitally speaking, but it doesn’t compare in any way to the handwriting that is only possible in a journal.

Writing is very personal, this is why advocate for a journal in which you can handwrite. We are talking about your own thoughts here, the things that color your life, and make it unique and your own.

“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

But let’s admit it, thinking is hard, I mean, ‘real’ thinking. Daydreaming is easy, ideas flow like a river on your mind, no effort needed.

They also belong to you, uniquely, and they are composed not just of words, but of feelings as well. Therefore, it is easy for yourself to understand yourself within yourself. But when you sit down to write, you find out that you need to express something so rare and unique as you are, using just written word. That is no easy deed.

That is why Stephen King says that writing, is refined thinking.

You need to understand the ideas on your mind, plus the ideas that you acquire, in the way of reading or talking to other people, and turn them into a coherent, completely new idea, simple enough for other people to understand, at least in part.

This forces you to think, to think hard about what and how you are thinking.

With time, you’ll develop the ability to a point other people can easily relate to, and getting to that point, well that’s just plain awesome.

In conclusion

These two things alone will make you a better thinker the day that you begin applying them. Writing and reading, or reading and writing, whichever you prefer.

I want to emphasize something. Please, please, please, go to the store (with a mask on, of course), and buy yourself a journal.

Make it your own. Write on it every day. Write about whatever you want, write about what you feel, the business ideas that you have during the day, and the things that you learned throughout the day, whatever’s on your mind.

Make the journal an extension of your mind. Writing and therefore, better thinking, will begin to happen on its own.

Then, if you are ready to share with us your thoughts, go to www.medium.com and write there, it’s the easiest platform. Trust me, there are hardly better things in life than taking the bait of curiosity and see where it leads you.

Thanks for reading,

Ricardo Guaderrama

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