Why Independent Thinking Matters?

Are you an independent thinker? If not, don’t blame yourself, after all, shortcuts are easy and fun while acquiring wisdom can be a hard and daunting task!

Often these days we come across the importance of critical & independent thinking. Critical thinking implies being critical of information presented to you. Independent thinking implies being able to think for yourself. If everyone is hiking the same trail, should you be following the same trail? That is the essence of critical and independent thinking.

Logical perspective is called upon us everyday while making critical decisions. However, the noise around us makes it very difficult to separate fact from opinion. Politics, religion and stock market direction yield useless discussion because they do not go anywhere. Beliefs become part of people’s identity and they are hard to mold once they harden.

There is a lot of noise around us. We are constantly bombarded with new information, day in and day out, via our smartphones, our browsers, advertisements, digital news, and more. Take a look around you and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a data overload, but a drought of original thought. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. We take opinions as facts and as a single source of truth. It even seems at times like we have forgotten how to question and reason.

Liberal arts and humanity is not given the same importance as math and science in higher education today. It should be a reminder for us all that we are molded by our way of thinking. In that case, you can bet the decay of society will start accelerating if there is a broader decay of independent thinking.

This is not to say there are no clever people in the modern world though, there certainly are. But, remember that high IQ scores do not necessarily make for independent thinkers. Expressing clear thoughts with a logical perspective should be everyone's goal.

Independent thinking matters because it differentiates you from the crowd. It trains you to think outside of the constraints that modern education systems, and the onslaught of data here in the age of information impose upon you.

Great thinkers

Ralph Waldo Emerson on solitude:

He who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions. Emerson is suggesting to lead and avoid heading towards the cliff led by a common herd. To avoid falling over the cliff, you need to make solitude as your dear friend. Solitude and leadership is contradictory but that is the essence of leadership. Being able to think for yourself and make hard decisions for common good is required out of great leaders.

Charlie Munger’s tip on improving the ability to hold opposing views:

Well I do have a tip at times in my life I've put myself to a standard that I think has helped me. I think I'm not really equipped to comment on this subject until I can state the arguments against my conclusion better than the people on the other side. If you do that all the time, if you're looking for disconfirming evidence and putting yourself on a grill to make that, that's a good way to help her move ignorance. What happens is that every human being tends to believe way more than he should in what he's worked hard to find out or what he's announced publicly that he already believes. In other words while we shout our knowledge out we're really pounding it in without we're not enlarging it and I was always aware of that and so I've accepted these damned annual meetings I'm pretty quiet. I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.

George Orwell on lies from his 1984 book:

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'

Emerson, Munger and Orwell are pushing for independent thinking and challenging conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, in our society thinking from the fundamentals or the source material is rare. We instead form conclusions after taking in layers and layers of overlapping information and opinions, without basing our reasoning on those essential fundamentals. Also rare is a deep, multi-faceted education, which contains a breadth of learning.

Learning to think independently can be scary at first, but remember, anything is simple when it’s broken down into smaller pieces.