A classroom full of 10-year-old students is asked to solve a problem with children crossing the street on the way to school. The children come up with ideas that have been used successfully in other places: traffic calming devices, overpasses, fluorescent jackets and speed limits. All these ideas are conventional, exactly what the teacher wants to hear.
Except for one. A student recommends that the school board sell the property and move the classroom online. This is not what the teacher was expecting.
This idea may not be practical, popular, or even possible, but when it’s ridiculed by the class it might be the last independent thought that the student dares to express — the death of another independent thinker.
Independent thought is not popular — it is absolutely rare. Nothing you read about in the papers or see on the television is independent. Whatever we take in from the popular media is regurgitated conventional knowledge. There is nothing independent about most of the world.
This is a tragedy — independent thought is essential for progress. Conventional thinking moves us forward gradually at best (at worst it pushes us backwards). Independent thinking is required to achieve any substantial jump in performance.
Logically, when we think like everyone else is thinking, the best we can expect is to achieve what they’re already achieving. If our aim is to over-achieve, we need to avoid the same banal influences and think impossibly. We need to become independent from conventional wisdom.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be particularly intelligent or well educated to think independently. Consider small children. Conventional wisdom says that shoes are for wearing and bananas are for eating. Independent thinking allows children try eating the shoes and wearing the bananas on their feet. Their lack of conventional wisdom and utter disregard for how others view their decisions allows children to experiment without anxiety. In this case they may be wrong, but in other cases they can be shockingly right.
Using these 5 strategies you can develop your independent thinking ability.
1. Disconnect from sources of conventional thinking
Instead of plugging into your TV, PC, or library for answers, think for yourself first. Without cutting yourself off from the world, you can increase your capacity for independent thought by limiting the conventional opinion you absorb. This means reducing the media you consume and the level of devotion you give to it. Independent thinkers aren’t necessarily contrarian, but they don’t agree with the status quo by default. They devise new criteria for perceiving the world rather than seeing everything through the screen of their computer.
2. Immerse yourself in experiences that conflict with your current perspective
Instead of substituting a new conventional thought for the old one, deliberately seek out experiences that challenge your views. These experiences may exist in foreign cultures, unusual subcultures, or between the pages of a book you disagree with. The point is not to adopt a new train of thought, but to disrupt the conventional railroad.
3. Watch the process from a distance
Leaving your normal life behind can give you the freedom to see issues from another perspective. Watching the world instead of eating it up gives you the peace of mind to think for yourself. Standing still from time to time gives you the opportunity to ridicule your own beliefs and explore new angles.
4. Randomize your sensory inputs
Instead of visiting the same places, eating the same foods, and talking to the same people, you can actively pursue new experiences. Many people cling to the familiar to simplify decisions and create a sense of security. If you truly want to think independently, you need to get outside your comfort zone.
5. Practice disbelief
Without becoming a cynic, you can develop the habit of instinctively distrusting thoughts that rely on conventional wisdom. Instead of assuming that these “truths” are self evident, suspend judgement until you’ve have confirmed that there is reality behind the logic.
If all of this sounds too difficult, consider what can be gained from independent thought. Even microscopic steps towards thinking independently will increase your contribution to the world. You will see opportunities and solutions that others overlook. You will obtain a competitive advantage over less creative thinkers. Most importantly, your thoughts will be your own and not just recycled media.
Think independently and you create a world of limitless opportunity. But don’t take my word for it…find out for yourself.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – Albert Einstein
As a kid I was pretty much labelled as the stupid one, or at least I felt like it. I was probably the worst student ever. I always had trouble focusing to learn and absorb. So yup, I usually got bad grades and was constantly in fear of being scolded by the teacher.
My biggest milestone of stupidity was when I was 12, where I got an extremely low score in a major exam. I tried so hard to make up for it. Trying to shed the label of stupid. Have you ever been in that stage where you know you’re really bad at something, so you try to compensate for it with something else?
I knew I was doing badly in school, so I tried to make up for it in other areas in life. I remember actively trying to be a good son, to not let my parents down. I was always very polite to my relatives in hopes of showing my parents taught me well.
But alas, that major exam caused my world to crash down and made feel totally worthless anyway. I literally had the lowest score ever in my family. I knew I let everyone down and I felt inferior.
Here’s why nobody can ever call you stupid: “Stupid” is just a subjective label people like to give others. And it’s up to you to wear that label or shed it. I shed the label of stupid with a life of hard work and passion.
This is a post for people out there who feel stupid and inferior in any way:
Others’ expectations of you are not yours. Schools, institutions or your parents’ expectations out of you are not your own. They are merely their own views of what they want out of you.
It’s more important to know what you truly want for yourself deep down. It’s important to also have a realistic view on life, hence the only expectations you should ever need are your own. If you know that you gave it your best and always remembered that you tried, no grade or score can ever judge you for your degree of competence.
You’re very special in your own unique way. And with that, comes your aspirations, dreams, passion and ultimately your own hope in life. Do you know how special that is?
While it’s definitely important to get an education and do well in school, remember that you have innate abilities within you that are given to you. Unfortunately, not all of us have circumstances catered to our abilities. For example, the rowdy kid in class who cannot sit still would be labelled a bad student, when actually he requires another method of learning.
So, if it’s just mere circumstances, why let it bring you down? Why let it weigh you down? CREATE your own circumstances and pave your own path to realizing your true self.
I love writing, which is why I started my blog. I learned everything about blogging and online marketing on my own, something which they never thought in school. And it’s this experience of doing it all alone that gave me the bigger lessons in life compared to what school taught me.
You can easily pick yourself up anyway. When people do badly in school or lose a major client at work, they think it’s the end and start to think less of themselves. That is not true at all. You can always easily pick yourself up after that. As long as you believe in yourself and keep pushing on, you can go a long way in life. The trick to it is to not give up.
Stupid is not the end and neither should it be a permanent label. For whatever people think you are, you can easily change that. Just go for what you want, work hard and you can be whatever you want. There’s more to life than just being intelligent. So even if you think you’re stupid, you hence want to be intelligent right? But don’t forget, there are so many amazing things you can be called other than smart, or intelligent, like:
Just to name a few…
I know many people who have made it in the academic world, getting their PHDs and qualifying for big corporate jobs, but their character leaves a lot to be desired. That’s to say, some are so intelligent that they forget how to be respectful towards others; some are so good with books, they don’t know a thing about being sociable.
There are many people out there who buy into living by societal standards. Being intelligent is just one mere aspect of life. Why not be many things instead, which you know can BOTH help you and those around you?
You aren’t stupid. You are many things just by being you. Just be you. Strive to be whatever you want, even if it’s just being intelligent.
Just remember to not take others’ judgement so hard and strive to be yourself. You will definitely go a long way.