President Woodrow Wilson once said that he spent more time reading newspapers and magazines that oppose him than he did reading those that favor him… Obviously, he was a powerful intellectual thinker. He did what all of us should do. He already knew his viewpoint, but he felt he did not fully understand the viewpoint of his opponents, and as a true academician he wanted to learn. As a consequence, he did learn. He was almost an unbeatable debater, too, for he often knew his opponent`s arguments as well as they themselves did. He was seldom uninformed and misinformed. He was a hungry reader.
Yet many people, in all walks of life, follow a course of action that is exactly the opposite to this. They read nothing unless it supports their present convictions, or else they read nothing that is not directly related to their job. By doing so they stop learning. They become an easy victim of foolish people who have read more than they have, or they come under the way of people who know both side of an issue and can use whatever arguments suit their purpose.
As a powerful thinker, you cannot be narrow-minded, uninformed, or half-informed. You must have a broad range of interest, and be able to see all sides of a question, an aim you cannot achieve by limiting your sources of information to one newspaper, one magazine, one trade journal, one television channel or program, or talking to just a few people. The challenge for highly intelligent people is how to avoid becoming victims of only one source of information or of group think. Instead, you must seek out diverse sources of information specially those that disagree with your perspective or are quite different. Only in this way will you come to know enough to support your own ideas in a competitive and sometimes hostil world.
To do this, of course, you must know what sources of information agree or disagree with you. The intellectual purpose is to sample as many sources as possible, if you want to call yourself a cultivated and sophisticated human being. By acting in this manner, you will probably discover cogent arguments that you never knew existed.
Do not think, incidentally, that if you read one or two books with wide circulation you are necessarily getting a balanced, profound presentation of the state of the art of various disciplines.
Be alert. No single source of knowledge and information is wholly objective, no matter how hard it may try, and there are some sources that never will try… Thus, powerfull thinkers actively seek sources of information and knowledge whose interpretations differ from your own. You should examine these sources carefully, with an open mind and a critical eye. Perhaps, you will still disagree with their statements and interpretations, but you will not disagree blindly. You will be surprise, sometimes you can come to agree with some of your apparently opposing views.
Finally, be guarded against one of the most prevalent causes of faulty thinking, the believe that Cow 1 is Cow 2, which is making glittering generalizations. The avoidance of such a calamity is the mark of a well educated person.
Copyright 2001 QBS, Inc.