Writing daily is hard. Not because I have no thoughts but because it’s impossible to stay non distracted. What’s worse, I spent 2 hours learning how to not stay distracted. The best solution I found? Plug off the internet1.

Everyone has an opinion2. Especially on the internet. But which ones should you listen to? The ones that have put in the work to form on an opinion.

And to do that is extremely hard.

There’s a popular story about the scientist Max Planck and his chauffer that illustrates this well.

While Planck toured Germany to give lectures on quantum mechanics, his chauffeur memorized the lecture. The chauffeur suggested that he could deliver the lecture just as well.

Planck took him up on the offer.

With Planck looking on, the chauffeur delivered the lecture perfectly fine–until the first question. In a humorous ending to the story, the quick-thinking chauffeur told the questioner, “I’m surprised that in an advanced city like Munich I get such an elementary question. I’m going to ask my chauffeur to reply.”

Smartness aside, Charlie Munger, breaks this down into types of knowledge. Knowledge and chauffer knowledge. Knowledge is held by people who go deep into a known topic. Who spend the time ruminating, testing, poking their ideas and finally forming an opinion.

I have often chatted a lot with people and in order to appear smart I have grasped upon many branches of knowledge to show that I am educated. I thought I was smart because a lot of people couldn’t see through that.

I’m not sure what is more telling, the people that assumed I knew or me.

The work that goes into holding an opinion is vastly underestimated. And the time needs to be put in. But don’t do what I did. Go the other way into thinking you know nothing at all. When you don’t know you tell yourself you don’t know and that’s okay. You don’t stay in the dark about it, you go and learn and remove the darkness one by one.

“I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.” — Charlie Munger

The work is the hard part, that’s why people avoid it. You have to do the reading. You have to talk to competent people and understand their arguments. You have to think about the key variables and how they interact over time. You have to listen and chase down arguments that run counter to your views. You have to think about how you might be fooling yourself. You have to see the issue through multiple perspectives. You need to become your most intelligent critic and have the intellectual honesty to kill some of your best-loved ideas.

And it’s only then you’ll start to have some idea of what you are trying to understand.

Because knowledge compounds when it’s the tree trunk (fundamentals) that you build that can support the branches of the tree (topics) that you can then have an opinion on and feed.

When you have done the work, you can then hold a view because you can’t find any one who can argue that view better than yours.

Don’t be swept under the bravado of eloquence, humour or charm when someone tells you something. Ask questions, form an opinion and then decide for yourself.

You’ll be better for it.

As I am today.

  1. Shaking my head. ↩︎

  2. XKCD puts this better than I do https://xkcd.com/386/↩︎