Critical Thinking for Great Success

Critical Thinking for Great Success

Articulate people whose thoughts and ideas are well organized are the most powerful, important and successful people in the world.

The best way to teach people effective critical thinking is to teach them how to write. What makes this difficult is that while it is easy to discern good writing, it takes a significant effort to correct and help someone build good writing (and thinking) habits.

Typically, when teaching a new or bad writer how to write, the problem is not that they did something wrong, it’s that they did everything wrong. It is not helpful to tell them that, so you have to point out the few things they did half-right and teach them everything else. This is expensive and time consuming to do.

Maybe you had great parents, or a patient teacher who invested the time and had the expertise to show you how to write and organize your thoughts properly. Many of us did not. In our new doom scrolling society, good writing is largely unappreciated and not typically considered an important skill to have and to hone.

The reality is that there is no difference between writing and thinking. Most people, even those who have gone through college and even completed graduate school, have not been taught why they should write something. They write to complete assignments, to get a grade, for credit. The real reason you should write something is to think, because writing formalizes your thinking and thinking correctly makes you act effectively in the world. If you can think, speak and write effectively, you are already successful in your endeavors.

The reason you write is to craft the most powerful weapons imaginable. Try arguing with someone who is well-written. They will win the argument. If you are going to make your point and they are going to make their point, you’d better have your points well organized or else you are going to look like a complete idiot. If you are unprepared, because you have not organized your mind through writing, your argument is going nowhere.

When you can formulate your arguments coherently, you can make a presentation, you can speak to people, you can lay out a proposal and people will give you money and/or opportunities. You can have influence. Articulate people whose thoughts and ideas are well organized are the most powerful, important and successful people in the world. We are all wizards, words are spells, and our language is important. Write what is on your mind and you will always be ready to make an impact.

Learning to write well is motivating as soon as you realize that your words are your weapons and that your language is immeasurably powerful. This should be self-evident, but clearly, it’s not. Talk to a recent college graduate and there is a good chance they cannot tell you why they should write anything now that they are done with their assignments. Argue with them about anything and you will immediately know if they write (think) for themselves by the way their points are organized — or not.

Now for all of the diligent readers who got to the end of this article, you are probably writing too. So here is an advanced tip for when you are writing for others, writing for impact:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together becomes monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound drones on forever. It’s like a stuck record. Our ears demand some variety.

Now listen. By varying the length of the sentences, I can create music. Music. The writing sings a song. It has a pleasant rhythm, a harmony, it’s dancing. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And once in a while, when I am confident that the reader is interested, I engage more deeply with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that shines bright, exudes energy, builds into a crescendo, has the roll of a drumbeat and the loud crashing of cymbals — all sounds that say “listen to me, this is important.”

When you are writing for others, create something they will enjoy. Write combinations of short, medium, long and even wild run-on sentences. Create a sound that pleases your reader’s ear. Don’t write words. Write music. Cheers. 

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