How to Think by Alan Jacobs

Am I the same person I was five years ago? Ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? A lot has changed for me over the years. I am no longer a careless youth but a husband and father with many responsibilities. Obviously, as I have matured, my opinions has changed. For example, my perspective on education has evolved which is clearly a development from being a student (a consumer) to an administrator (a producer). But what I find most fascinating about my development, is my development to think.

In these divided times (as if there was a time when we were not divided), genuine thinking seems to be at an all-time low. We could debate how that is true or not true but that is beside the point. As silly as this may sound, thinking is a learned task. Though I have been using my mind to think since I was born, strengthening my ability to think has taken time.

In How to Think, Alan Jacobs summarizes how thinking sort of works. He takes some of the best information from some of the great, modern experts and pares it down to the essentials. He shares a few stories of some men and women who have changed their thinking over the years. These stories remind me of me. Sometimes I am ashamed of how I used to think. Many times I reflect on my ways of thinking and how I have grown.

This is a very short and interesting book. Worth the read.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“The person who wants to think will have to practice patience and master fear.”

“To think, to dig into the foundations of our beliefs, is a risk, and perhaps a tragic risk. There are no guarantees that it will make us happy or even give us satisfaction.”

“Value learning over debating. Don’t ‘talk for victory.’”