Thinking Is a Waste of Energy?

What could be more advantageous in an intellectual contest — whether it be bridge, chess, or stock selection — than to have opponents who have been taught that thinking is a waste of energy? – Warren Buffett

And therein lies your advantage, Vera.

In the modern era, there is a premium on thinking. Jobs that don’t require thinking mostly have been replaced by machines or cheap foreign labor. Or get paid low wages. But we haven’t adjusted. We still have many people who don’t appreciate the value of thinking. Advantage, the thinkers.

But raw thinking isn’t enough. You have to produce. Specifically, you have to be able to solve problems, overcome obstacles, and develop and implement plans to take advantage of opportunities. And it helps to be able to play well with others.

It sounds easy, but I think Mr. Buffett is right: some people have been taught that thinking is a waste of time. So they don’t.

Cognitive laziness is everywhere. I see it my classrooms. I see it in the workplace. It reminds me of people from my youth who would put plastic covering on their sofas or carpet to keep them looking new. Some people want to keep their brains looking new. Conservation is the watchword.

Perhaps it’s because they were taught the wrong lessons as children. Perhaps they were never asked or expected to think. Perhaps compliance and obedience were more important. Perhaps they were told they weren’t smart. Or that they weren’t bright. Perhaps they were bored in school and drew the wrong conclusions (that learning and thinking are boring). Perhaps they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths and never had to think for themselves.

I don’t know. But I do know that people who think and solve problems have a huge advantage, and that those people will always have a good job if they want one. And that’s doesn’t mean you have to be an Einstein. Hardly. Everything is relative. Thoughtfulness is not a gift restricted to the intellectually gifted.

So don’t worry about expending too much energy, Vera, or wearing out your noodle at an early age. Use it. Think. Solve. Wonder. Inquire. Probe. Imagine. Create. Do (thoughtfully).

I promise, it won’t be a waste of energy. You will be justly rewarded.

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