I believe I spent roughly the first two-thirds of my life thinking and learning. Gaining intelligence. Thinking about sports and learning Algebra as a teenager. Thinking about work and learning a trade in my twenties. Thinking about family and learning to be a good dad and husband in my thirties and forties.
And then there was a shift. In my fifties, I began re-thinking and unlearning. I began re-thinking my career and unlearning what I thought I knew about success and happiness. This has continued into my sixties as I rethink my life purpose and unlearn my assumptions about health and fitness. As a result, I feel like I have now gained wisdom.
I believe that re-thinking and unlearning, as a practice, is much harder, as explored in best-selling author Adam Grant’s new book Think Again. Grant is an organizational psychologist at The Wharton School, where he has been the top-rated professor for seven straight years. His books have sold millions of copies, he has done several very popular TED talks, and he has a great podcast.
A simple example of rethinking that Grant cites early in the book involves test-taking. You are taking a multiple-choice test. You have finished the test with time left and you question some of your answers. Should you go back and change them? Seventy-five percent of us learned that revising our answers damages our grades. Are we right? A comprehensive review of 33 studies found that most answer revisions went from wrong to right.
Of course, it’s a good idea to rethink!
Here are just a few of my key takeaways from Think Again:
- Think like a scientist. Before assuming that an opinion is a fact, test it with data. Experiment. Have a laboratory mindset. Be curious. Embrace failure.
- Seek information that goes against your views. Engage with competing ideas that challenge your assumptions. Whether it’s business, science, or even politics; be willing to be challenged and maybe even wrong.
- Harness the benefits of doubt. When you doubt your intelligence, reframe the situation as an opportunity for growth. We have certainly had many of these opportunities in the past 12 months.
- Learn something new from each person you meet. Everyone I meet knows more about something than I do. It’s my responsibility to find what that is and explore it.
- Build a challenge network, not just a support group. I have a great team of cheerleaders and I also have a valuable assembly of thoughtful critics. When I have a tough decision, I turn first to my dissenters. It may not be a pleasant experience, but it is invaluable for one’s growth.
I highly recommend this book to any small business leader, coach, and parent who is interested in making the shift from intelligence to wisdom.