Thinking Originally

A Case For Reviving a Receding Habit

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Imagination is more important than knowledge — Albert Einstein

Do You Watch Too Much TV?

Over the past several weeks, my friends, colleagues and close family have been reminding me to watch Game of Thrones. Maybe someday I will, maybe not. Maybe the series teaches you something that books on strategy could teach you in a fun way. In short, there may be benefits to watching the show ie a fun and learn experience. Honestly, I just watch an hour of television except when I watch movies which has lately gone down.

However, the question that pops into my mind many times on any given day is this:

Are we as a society (including me) heading towards mediocrity by watching too much television and sacrificing opportunities to develop original thinking?

In simple terms, I am as human as any body else and I watch television but I have consciously decided to reduce my time watching television (not completely eliminate it though because everybody needs to find their own ways of reducing stress and for many, TV could be the answer).

Instead, I have reclaimed my earlier habit of reading books and engaging in Yoga. In fact, I have added blogs, traditional media outlets, magazines, podcasts and video lessons through MOOC’s to add to my original habit. I have found it immensely rewarding which I will explain in the following paragraphs.

Speaking of Habits and Routine

This morning, I began my podcast listening routine by listening to Tyler Cowen questioning Raj Chetty on the competitive advantage of Raj’s research given that the data he uses is available to many and the topics he does research on are old puzzles that have been researched before.

For those who don’t know Raj Chetty or Tyler Cowen, let me introduce them briefly. Tyler is a legendary blogger, author of a Washington Post and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Book “ The Complacent Class” and also runs his own podcast. Raj is a highly renowned professor of economics at Stanford University, specializing in the field of public economics. Raj was possibly the youngest tenured professor at Harvard and has received the Padma Shri (also Padmashree)which is the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India.

Coming back to the conversation, Raj replied that his unique value proposition comes from a unique method he uses to conduct research, his team and the rigor which provides distinct results from the same data that is available to others.

In other words, he does things differently.

Long Form Reading

Ever since I started writing on Medium, I have discovered original thinking from a host of authors/original thinkers. When it comes to me personally, a lot of the inputs for my thinking do come from reading long form. In fact, I am an omnivore when it comes to books. My spectrum of reading interests spans a long list of subjects. In short, my curiosity at any point dictates the books I read.

The words “I don’t have time” usually means it is not a priority. You need to make long form reading a priority. Why? Because you need to think originally. Your views and beliefs can be wrong but at least you will have original views not tainted or biased by external influences.

Consider the sources of your news today i.e. the traditional media outlets in various forms (digital, print etc.). It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and not know what the true picture is.

There is also an alternate universe of blogs, podcasts and original writing that can add perspectives. However, most importantly, reading a book every night (Yes, I know this advice has been beaten to death already but it still holds true) can really be a great habit. I usually look forward to my day ending with a book.

Use triangulation i.e. utilizing multiple vantage points to look at the same issue.

Start small, mix subjects, take a stroll, come back and read. Doesn’t matter what you do as long as you make reading a mandatory habit that feeds your mind on a daily basis.

Children and Books

It is very intuitive that the mere presence of books in a house will inspire curiosity and Children will take to books very early in their development. I don’t have any statistical analysis to prove that the probability of a child growing around books will result in it gaining a higher education in the future but what is common sense is that children mimick Parents and therefore, you should read if you are a parent.

What is Vision?

Original thinking is the first step in developing a truly powerful personal and professional competitive advantage. This is because it catalyses vision

In simple terms, vision is the ability to see what others can’t.

In fact, I would go so far as saying many great founders and entrepreneurs have had epiphanies simply because they read voraciously.

You will find plenty of data that will inform you of the reading habits of founders and entrepreneurs. Mind you: these are not retired founders but real life CEO’s that manage family and their companies. So, think about it: aren’t you lying to yourself by saying you don’t have time to read? Make time.

Final Thoughts

There is no substitute for long form reading. To define shortcuts, one needs to know what the long way is before one can even compare the two routes. Quite often, the secret lies not in identifying a winning habit but rather in keeping one. Successful people just do things differently but different is relative to the old ways of thinking. To develop original thinking — read voraciously.

So, go ahead — Be Original. My hope for you is that you become a visionary in more ways than one. Carpe Diem!!

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Follow me on Twitter : @akothari_mba

Writer @ The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR. Twitter@akothari_mba