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How to Think Clearly

Posted By: Randy GageApril 6, 2023

(Friday Filosophy 4/07/23)

Happy Freakin’ Friday!

Good morning from Birmingham, Alabama, where I’m visiting to play in another softball tournament. If you’re new here, every Friday I challenge you with a question, idea, or topic to ponder. Today let’s explore higher levels of thinking.

More specifically, how to think cleanly, clearly, and rationally.  This is a lot harder than you may think, and the reason so few people are actually able to do this.  It requires you to rise above your thoughts and develop the self-awareness to evaluate them – essentially becoming the thinker of the thought – not simply the vessel through which the thought flows. You need the ability to:

  • Remove irrational emotion from the process;
  • Recognize when you’re being manipulated; and,
  • Recognize when you’re bullshitting yourself.

Today's pervasive ecosystem of social media, 24-hour news outlets, and political polarization makes doing this more difficult.  And it is getting yet more challenging as accelerated developments in artificial intelligence are being employed by shady marketers, political parties, and foreign adversaries.  The tragic result for millions of people is that they’re essentially becoming puppets, being unknowingly manipulated into what I’ll call channel thinking.

Once you’re firmly established in a channel of thought, you lose any ability for nuance, reflection, or rational judgment.  You see people who disagree with you as enemies, becoming extremely reactive, and are more susceptible to conspiracy theories.  People with channel thinking cannot process two seemingly contrasting thoughts.  In order to maintain your thought process autonomy, you have to be able to mesh thoughts that on the surface may appear to be divergent but are actually congruent in context.

When I'm booked to speak at a conference, my first thought is, "What grenade do I need to throw into the groupthink here?" This approach can also be helpful as you analyze your own thought patterns.  For example…

You can believe (as I do), that former President Donald Trump is an insecure, malignant narcissist who would glibly instigate a Civil War rather than admitting his election defeat.  And you can believe (as I do), that combining minor misdemeanors into a felony indictment is politically motivated overreach – and sets a dangerous precedent for American democracy.

You can recognize that Michael Jackson was a generational creative genius and was also so mentally ill that he could only seek intimacy from prepubescent boys.

You can appreciate that Kid Rock produced some of the most fabulous rock ballads of all time and he’s a bigot.

You can understand that Bill Cosby is a comedic genius who accelerated the progress of black people in America by decades and is also a dangerous sexual predator.

If you want to think cleanly, clearly, and rationally – you have to reject emotional manipulation (whether by others or yourself) – and challenge your thinking process to do the messy, difficult work of reflection.

The new pod is up: How to Create Prosperity from Chaos





Here’s hoping your weekend brings you happiness, harmony, and fun.


- RG

P.S. One of the most important skills you can develop is the ability to articulate your position to others, whether on a Zoom call, in a Board meeting, or on a stage.  If you’d like to hone your ability to do that, check out this event.

Previous Post: The Power of Focused Thought

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