Thinking holds the answer.
Not sitting in a room alone with your thoughts. No, finding such a quiet space is hard enough, let alone then having the capacity to think deeply about the problem.
It takes a special mind—a Brunello Cucinelli-like mind to rest in a chair and stare at the flames dancing on a chilly Sunday afternoon. To watch them dance, but see nothing as his mind ponders the questions and the answers he seeks.
For most, this is either heaven or hell.
If it is your heaven, enjoy the tranquillity of the moment.
If it is your hell, I have another way to help your thinking and give you the answer.
Write to Your Mentor
Two of Tim Ferriss’s recent guests—and Tim himself—alluded to a process of seeking help from a chosen mentor. Derek Sivers and Kevin Kelly both offered similar approaches to let their thinking help them find the answer.
Derek’s way gives us a great way to see how writing and thinking work together.
It starts with a thought to seek help from a friend or mentor.
First, Derek writes out the problem he is facing. This isn’t an Amazon six-pager. No, this is a paragraph or two which Derek condenses into bullet points as he looks to concisely explain the issue.
Doing this means Derek is thinking the problem through. He has to, otherwise, his writing would make no sense. Questions often evolve as he writes.
Why is this happening?
What is the underlying issue?
Why isn’t this working as I expected?
Derek doesn’t want to waste his mentor's time. So he can’t leave questions on the table. He needs to answer them.
If the answer hasn’t revealed itself, then Derek’s next question is to ask himself how x might answer—with x being the friend or mentor.
This immediately gives him a different perspective. It takes you away from your head and into the mind of someone else.
Tim Ferriss does the same.
So does Kevin Kelly.
It means their request for help is rarely sent. The thinking needed to put this into words on a screen or paper is enough to find the answer.
5 Steps For Your Thinking to Find The Answer
What I love about this exercise is anyone can do it and it is five steps.
- Sit down with your laptop or pen and paper and write about the problem.
- Summarise your text into bullet points
- Remove the need for your mentor to ask questions.
- Ask yourself how your mentor would reply
- Write down the answer
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy. It is hard work to take your thoughts about an issue and then write them down. The act of making them bullet points alone challenges every ounce of the understanding you think you have.
In truth, your thinking does hold the answer.
Often, you haven’t thought hard enough about it.