Think… Then Think Again

TruePoint Capital

In his book, Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite, author Paul Arden touts the value of acting against our impulses and instincts.

Acting on instincts and doing what’s safe is what everyone does. If you always do what’s safe, you will always be average. Arden proposes that if you want to set yourself apart from the crowd and become exceptional, you have to be willing to go against your impulses and do the illogical.

We all have in our minds preconceived notions about many things in life. And these preconceptions inform our decision-making. Before Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile, the preconception was that it couldn’t be done. But after Bannister did it, many soon followed after that. It seems that once someone proves something can be done, the task no longer seems impossible.

Sometimes the sensible choice isn’t the best. Take this humorous anecdote from Arden’s book, for example:

A story is told of an Oxford professor who was swimming naked in the River Cherwell. He was getting out when a boat of undergrads went by. He reached for his towel and wrapped it around his head. (The point being, he was protecting his identity rather than his shame!)

What everyone would have done is put the towel around their sensitive parts. That would have been the sensible thing to do, but the professor did the right thing because nobody was going to find out he was swimming naked.

The problem with doing the sensible thing is that everyone is doing it. If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, then you’ll be average. If you want to be something more, you have to be willing to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

One of my favorite observations in Arden’s book is that “Good marks will not secure you an interesting life.”

To society, the sensible thing is to go to school then go to some more school to secure a job in a high-paying profession. Then what you have to look forward to is 70 hour work weeks with 2-3 weeks of vacation interspersed in between. Meanwhile, retirement drifts more and more out of reach as you struggle to keep up with the bills and debt of your lifestyle.

The contrarians are the ones who change the world. Steve Jobs of Apple envisioned a phone with a touch screen and changed the world with the birth of the iPhone. If you want to rail against the dying light and live life now, you have to be willing to take risks. You have to be willing to do things everyone else is counseling you against doing.

Next time you think about doing something everyone else is doing, do the opposite. If you observe everyone diving into crypto and meme stocks, do the opposite. The ultra-wealthy are ultra-wealthy because they didn’t go along with the crowds. They took the risk of going against the grain and discovered new and alternative ways for achieving the type of lives they’d always dreamed of.

How has being sensible served you financially? You’ll be able to retire at 65 if you’re lucky? And even then, you’ll have just enough to get by?

Doing what’s sensible, comfortable, and everyone else is doing will get you exactly what everyone else is getting, which is punching a clock until retirement age or beyond.

Taking risks and turning your back on the convention will be the only way you can achieve the life you dream of – a life free of a time clock, a life spent with your loved ones, and a life doing the things you want to do and not what you have to do.