"Our ability to choose is one of life’s great gifts. We are the product of our choices. Good choices come from good character, and a few good choices make all the difference."
Pebbles of Perception: How a Few Good Choices Make All the Difference by Laurence Endersen, was written after being inspired from reading Charlie Munger’s Poor Charlie’s Almanack. Charlie Munger is Warren Buffet’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway and his almanac is a summary of his wisdom and reflections on life. Enderson was motivated to write his own version of life’s most valuable and practical knowledge that he wishes to pass down to younger generations. His mission in writing this book is to help young people get wiser earlier and speed up the process so they don’t have to wait until old age to acquire wisdom.
While the book is filled with many questions that will make you think, it also summarizes numerous nuggets of knowledge and guidance to inquiring minds, providing an invitation to do something different, think for yourself and grow as a person in the process. The journey begins with knowing yourself.
The Big Idea
"The process of thoughtful reflection makes our experiences more concrete, and helps with future recall and understanding. Reflecting about what we learned, how we felt, how we and others behaved, and what interests were at play, hardwires the learning in our brain and gives us a depth of context and relevance that would otherwise be absent."
The advantages of getting to know ourselves affects every area of our lives. We also understand others better when we understand ourselves first and know what we want and value. One way to increase our knowledge about ourselves is to invest in some reflection time. Taking the time to examine and reflect on our feelings from interactions and experiences is time well spent on learning about ourselves. It also allows us to consider the consequences of our choices.
The author suggests using exploratory questions to probe our inner desires, values, and beliefs. Thought-provoking questions such as the following can be used to dig deeper:
- If you pick three attributes to describe who you really are, what would they be?
- If you could pick three qualities to aspire to, what would they be?
- Is there any difference between your answers to who you are and who you aspire to be? Why?
- When am I at my very best?
- When am I at my worst?
Knowing yourself gives you the confidence and conviction to act on your expectations and not someone else’s. As Endersen notes “Always think for yourself. Don’t automatically accept what you are told.”
Improve your thinking, improve your choices
"A questioning mentality is far more effective than a knowing mentality."
The author describes two kinds of thinking—first and second-level. First-level thinking is about “the most visible and immediately obvious answer. It is clear to everyone.” On the other hand, second-level thinking “considers what else might be going on.” It’s about going the extra step and digging a little deeper by continually asking why. It’s about being curious, asking more quality questions to go beyond the first noticeable solution that pops up in your mind. This can help trigger a better answer or solution to the problem.
Endersen also touches on how to really know when we truly understand something. The best way to test your true understanding of a topic is to assume you’re teaching it to someone. As we we’re explaining or writing it out, the gaps in knowledge will become apparent which will force us to go back and review the material.
He also summarizes some of the most common biases that sometimes affect our ability to make the best choices. Biases such as loss aversion, incentive bias and the illusion of control can all unconsciously and negatively affect our decisions.
The value of experiences over things
"People tend to derive more lasting happiness from experiences. Happiness from things is transitory, but the joy from experiences is enduring."
Describing the taste and smell of coffee in the morning or the rush of sensations during sex doesn’t come close to actually experiencing those things. To truly understand certain events, foods or places, we must actually experience them. Words would not do justice to these memorable events.
Some of the best experiences people have are a result of doing something new or uncomfortable. Although not initially apparent, the joy and pleasure derived from new experiences can change people’s perspectives and open their minds. Speaking from experience, traveling to new, exotic places can definitely expand your horizons.
How does one go about widening their range of experiences? Be open to new ideas and situations. Keep an open mind when faced with options to try a new restaurant, go out with a different group of people or try a new travel destination that you would never have considered before. To grow, we must constantly step outside our comfort zone.
Because everyone has different viewpoints, perspectives, and encounters, experiences allow us to differentiate ourselves. Endersen encourages readers to continually ask themselves why they enjoy doing certain things and what can be learned from them. Experiences are what life is all about. As Endersen notes “Facts fill the mind; experiences open it.”
This book was a pleasure to read and provided many hand-on suggestions to improving one’s thinking. It made me reflect on the travelling I’ve done in the past and the many enriching events and people it has provided me in my lifetime. What have been some of the best experiences you have had to date and why?