How to think

Remember to attempt all the time to see things as they are. Avoid emotion. Avoid conditioned, reflexive conclusions.

Here is Herbert Meyer, talking about foreign policy in Why Is The World So Dangerous? This is the 2016 version, not the 1983 version that kicked everything off.

We’ve gone from being a culture that values hard thinking, to a culture that tolerates and even celebrates soft thinking. Hard thinking means that when you are faced with a new problem or issue, you look squarely at it. You get the facts, sort through them, and decide how best to move forward based on what makes the most sense and what is actually likely to work. . . Soft thinking means that your emotions matter more than your intellect; you decide how to more forward based on your feelings rather than on the facts. And when your plan collides with reality—as it always will—instead of making adjustments, or just admitting you were wrong, you find someone else to blame and you keep on going down the same mistaken path. . . The same kind of soft thinking that’s infected our domestic policies has spread to our foreign policies. . .

Get facts. Look at them dispassionately. Be especially sensitive to emotional or reflexive reactions.

This ties to Naval Ravikant’s point about never lying. Well, one of his points about lying. If you lie to yourself you are implicitly seeing the world as it isn’t. That will take your further afield over time until you are untethered from reality.

Reality always brings you back. Just like gravity brings you back to earth, facts bring you back to clarity. Falling to the ground from six inches doesn’t hurt much. Falling from six floors up will kill you.

Couple dispassionate thinking with probabilistic decision-making (Annie Duke, Thinking in Bets) and you are likely to remain close to reality. And that, in turn, means that a mistake will be non-fatal and course-correction is likely to be easy.

Background: the 1983 memo by the same title was from his time at the CIA. The memo predicted the collapse of the USSR, contrary to the Received Wisdom in the CIA. He was savages for his position but he was, of course, correct.

He wrote a follow-up monograph with the same title in 2016. The quote is from the monograph.