having confidence in your own thoughts

Published on April 16, 2020

Recently, I have been trying to develop more confidence in my own thoughts.

I have admittedly spent a lot of time reading about decision-making frameworks in the past. These frameworks make a bold, and evidently lucrative, promise: they will help you navigate the toughest moments in your life.

Techniques like thinking from first principles, using inversion, calculating probabilities, and every other so-called “mental model” are advertised as tools to help you level up.

While for some people, I think that mental models can be useful, I personally prefer to navigate decision making in my own way. I don’t have a predefined decision making process, or a set of heuristics that I use to optimize my decisions. Instead, I think about my current citation, break it down, and ponder somewhat aimlessly.

There are ways I could make decisions more efficiently. Certainly, reading Munger’s advice on decision making could be helpful (and I have enjoyed doing so in the past). But what I have come to realize is that the advice I would be reading is not tailored to my own individual circumstances. It is based on how other people have made decisions.

Munger’s truisms were refined from his career in investing. I can almost guarantee that many of the frameworks he has developed will be widely applicable in investing. But I am not an investor. I am a writer, and someone who likes to take simple approaches to problems. I don’t spend much time in the capital markets at all, actually.

Reading about decision making frameworks, mental models, and so on sounds like it is a good investment -- a long-term investment in your success. After all, once you know how to use a mental model, you could use it in your decision-making. But if you do, then unless you know why you are using that model, you are liable to lose confidence in your own ability to make decisions.

I do not rely on any particular frameworks to make decisions because I like my process. My process is undefined, and somewhat aimless, but it is mine. So far, it has guided me well, and I have been able to make good decisions about my life.

Using mental models may be helpful, but they would make it more difficult for me to develop confidence in my own thoughts. If I make a decision using someone else’s framework, it would be all too easy for me to skip what I am thinking entirely, and just operate on first principles.

Where this is particularly relevant to me is in my writing. I don’t like to write about experiences I have not had, and thinking from first principles -- without any real-life examples to which I can point -- makes my writing feel less impactful. If I am writing for myself -- to think better -- then I should not be relying on other heuristics in which I do not fully believe in my writing.

It is difficult to have confidence in your own thoughts. It’s difficult to know “okay, this is right for me.”

If there are a few people telling you that another way of doing something is better, then perhaps it means there is an opportunity for you to learn. But, you shouldn’t listen to someone’s advice just because they have offered it to you. You need to apply it through your own lenses, and decide whether or not it applies to you.

Building confidence in my own thoughts is a long-term game.

I still have ideas that I would love to write about, but that I write down and forget about because I feel like they are not ready, or that there is a flaw somewhere. I forget that my style is not to write perfectly-polished essays: I like to write to think. And if I am ignoring an idea because it is not fully developed, then I am not fully practicing my writing philosophy.

I was recently making a difficult decision, and one of my instincts was to look into how other people navigated a similar decision. This, to an extent, was helpful. I learned new perspectives that helped inform my decision. But then again, those people about whom I read were not me. They had their own way of seeing the world. They had their own risk parameters.

I am my own person, and I need to make sure that, when an independent thought comes, it is allowed to exist. My ideas need to be given freedom to roam.

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