I have a disease. Just like you. The disease is “Things that sound amazing/perfect/right/precise/makellos in the head and when they come out they are not that.” aka Loss in Clarity of Thought.
You are in a meeting. Everyone, including you, are trying to solve a problem. Your boss and colleagues are involved. There is serious social and career bounty for the solution. You have an amazing idea which feels like the only solution and being the genius you are, you’ve cracked it. You explain your idea.
Aaaand snap. As the idea is out, you realise you’ve made one or more wrong assumptions or straight up got the solution wrong. 😓 . After all how did your genius brain fail like that?. This doesn’t apply just to your job. Think of those situations where you had the perfect comeback in an argument and landed a dud. Think about the number of times you wanted to express something very deep and got lost in words. This is a problem, of internal(thinking) and external(execution).
Let’s try and put the internal system (aka the brain 🧠 ) into perspective and get a sense of what it is doing. There are many parts to a thinking process and I’ll cover the first important layer here
This storage is a collection of facts you already know. You might not understand the implications of the fact or where it came from, but you know they exist and can refer to it anytime. These are built via study or generally given as the question or shown as the current state from which you find the solution. On the surface, they just give information about the problem. Well, that's’ just the head of it.
You see, our brain adds many labels to everything it receives. Seeing a loved one in your home — green 💚. Seeing a red flame coming out of a factory — run 🏃♂️ . From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes recognising situations easier ensuring a higher chance of survival(it runs deeper than fight or flight). But our typical day-to-day information(a mail, a report, a study etc.) is not a threat nor a boon. It’s objective information. But our brains haven’t evolved enough to support this new environment. And it adds those labels anyway.
Now, these labels can vary drastically from fact to fact and a contradicting label can be added to the same fact. We are built this way 😎. These labels are affected by personal preference, experience or maybe just the font or colour of the text you read the fact! But these labels are an unnecessary weight when you know most of the information is objective.
Hence when you try to think of a solution using a labelled set of facts, you are bound to ignore some of them because your brain goes, “this doesn’t seem right” and this process is so automatic that you are unlikely to find it unless someone points it out. Now the solution made from this can miss the target 🎯 by few inches or hit the one of Saturn’s moon 🤷♂️. The solution(s) is simpler than you think. Here’s an edgy quote:
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand” — Take a guess
There are tricks to help think in abstracts rather than constructs and it’s an uphill battle. Many books cover the same topic very well. But here’s a digest of my experience…
Things that worked very well
- Understanding the end goal. It helps to ask the questions “How will it look like once the problem is solved?” and “What to do once it’s solved? | What then?”
- Writing/Typing the facts. This associates information as a questionable sentence rather than a true statement.
- Decoupling information ℹ️ . Facts generally are a composition of other facts which might be true individually but do not hold together.
- Most important of all thinking about the problem more than how to reach the solution. It’s really easy to lose track of this. Use a Pomodoro to stop and check what you are thinking.
Being patient with a problem is a skill worth learning. It’s also true that competitive environments don’t really help with this process, but it will get better with practice. Next time around we’ll understand and tackle other areas of the thinking process. See ya!
A little about me 👨💻; I have been trying to understand these techniques and you could say this blog in itself is an attempt to improve it but to share my understanding and getting feedback. Clap 👏 if you’ve liked it and let’s discuss more in the comments or find me on LinkedIn or shoot a mail here.