The Art of Thinking Clearly – Book Review

The Art of Thinking Clearly is another one of my favourites. I’ve read the book back in 2015, and I still kept it close by. It is an entertaining collection of findings on the biases and fallacy of our thinking. The book reminds me a lot on Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking fast and slow, which is also another one of my favourites.

The Art of Thinking Clearly by world-class thinker and entrepreneur Rolf Dobelli is an eye-opening look at human psychology and reasoning – essential reading for anyone who wants to avoid “cognitive errors” and make better choices in all aspects of their lives.

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The Art of Thinking Clearly Notes

Just like “Misbehaving” and “The (honest) truth about dishonesty” would suggest, we might not be as rational as we deemed ourselves to be. Most of the time, we only managed to see our irrationality and thinking error when it is pointed out by a third party or when others might be hurt by our irrationality or when we put ourselves in an awkward position. Hence, by being self-aware on our tendencies to deviate from rationality, we might choose the right path in a much more frequent manner.

The same goes when we are assessing ourselves, I, for example, loves to overestimate myself. Let just say, I hold myself in high esteem. We, I might not be as good I think I am, and most likely not going to be as bad as others thought me to be. We do tend to over-estimate or under-estimate.

I might not be as good I think I am, and most likely not going to be as bad as others thought me to be

Hence, remember to always focus on yourself, other people opinions of you shouldn’t shape how you behave and think. But then again, we always misbehave.

“Focus on your work. Do what you're great at. Don't compare yourself to others and or waste time criticizing the lives and work of others. Do what matters most to you and make a difference doing that.”

Whether we like it or not, our brains, regardless of how remarkable it is are full of shortcuts and rules of thumb which helped our ancestors in their flight or fight response. This System 1 thinking helps us survived, but it might have unintended consequences. This makes us prone to errors in thinking.

The Art of Thinking Clearly explains some of the main traps we likely to fall prey to.


Overestimating our own abilities

As mentioned before, I tend to view myself through rose-tinted glasses, and I’m sure almost everyone does. If not, that might mean I’m weird.

However, research has shown that we are overconfident in many areas of life.

One good way to overcome this is to have an honest feedback session, preferably constructive, or might be brutally honest.


There are things we can’t control

Have you ever consider why people at casinos throw their dice harder if they want a high number and vice versa. These are a simple indication of humanity suffering from control illusion.

The illusion of control offers us hope, give us some sense of control for us to endure life when it might seem unbearable. Hope although not to be viewed as a strategy, such as throwing your dice harder or gentler, is fundamental to our life. At times, it might be a reason to survive, to work hard, to dream, to keep on keeping on for the mere hope of success — regardless however unlikely or slim probability of success might be.

Hope might not be a strategy but it is essential to life and living.

However, I would like to stress on this point, it is in our best interest to be critical of predictions and to focus our energy on the few things of importance within our control. Trying to control what we can’t is pointless, useless, and tiresome. It will only drain our energy and gives us nothing in return.

A strategy should be sound, practical and doable — not overly optimistic.


We tend to follow what the group does

One of the 48 Laws of Power suggests us to think individually but act in a group. Unless you want to be isolated. Ray Dalio would suggest for everybody to document their decision-making process as a principle which can be replicate and improved. I think that is a great idea. It will save us from the dangers of “herd instinct” and groupthink.

Confirmation Bias

One of the biases which I feared the most. Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to interpret information and data, just to fit our initial theory and opinion.

It is dangerous and misleading. It could be treacherous.

The goal of any problem-solving process is to find a solution, not our own pre-scribed solution. I used to assume my solution is always the best. But now I know better, that I might just be wrong.

Hence, it is always prudent to ask yourself, “How do I know I’m right?”

But that doesn’t mean backing down on our opinion, since being a subject matter expert, in any subject, meaning we, you, me have a say. Voice out your concern in a respectful manner, table out your evidence, reference, and experience, and defend it to the best of your ability. Others meanwhile should try to counter-argue it. But remember the goal, the goal is to find out if you’re right. Not to make sure you’re victorious.

Again, remember to defend your idea with vigour and ruthlessly, I always did, but when you’re wrong. Admit it. Learn from it. Improve on it.

Other content on the book might be better read from another book such as Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking fast and slow, and maybe Edward de Bono’s book since the book was more or less a quick introduction. But still, one of my all-time favourite, the book that got me into thinking skills genre. Edward de Bono’s was more detailed, but I always fall asleep when I read them. He’s brilliant but might be a bit boring.

If you want to buy a copy of The Art of Thinking Clearlu, click here.

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Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

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