What To Think VS How To Think

August 31, 2022 | Jarrod Saxton

Hand drawn question marks with young woman thinking outside the box

My name is Jarrod Saxton, and for the past 3 years, I have been an instructor for the Black Belt in Thinking (BBIT) program, working intensively with our clients in helping them to make clear decisions and solve difficult problems.

So, it is great to now have the opportunity to get in touch with the audience outside of our program, give you some knowledge to test drive, and give you an idea of what it looks like to work with us.

When I was given the opportunity to write marketing content, I asked myself, what is the best possible subject to start with?

The first thing that came to mind was the reaction I have noticed in people during the first two weeks of joining our program, which usually goes something like “wow, this is not what I expected, this is different to anything else I have done before”.

I too feel that what we are doing is different, so I set the challenge of coming up with a single statement that would explain this difference.

What makes BBIT different?

In all other courses I have been a part of, I noticed that after I paid, I would be provided with a solution – makes sense. But that’s something we have never done; not once has BBIT given a solution to anyone. Yet our clients are satisfied with the work we do.

You might be thinking that sounds inconvenient, why can’t you just give the solution?

Here is my answer, and I am not giving you this answer as a salesman, but as an instructor.

I have never had a student who has applied and benefited from the solutions I have personally provided them. But when I give our students the foundations to build their own solutions, they always apply them, and they always work… eventually (there isn’t much that can’t be solved in 3 months when your thinking is right).

So, our clients are satisfied because they are empowered to build their own solutions.

I’d like you to now think back and consider how many times you have failed to implement others’ solutions or failed to apply others’ advice. They might be an expert, and the solution might be proven to work for a lot of people, but it doesn’t seem to work for you. Here are a few reasons off the top of my head:

-Solutions can be time sensitive opportunities that become out of date.

-On the other hand, solutions that are timeless are often high-level directions that require you to put in a lot of mental energy to fill in the blanks.

-Some solutions might assume starting conditions that are not present in your situation, and so aren’t effective in your context. Ever had something like “Step 1: send XYZ message out to your email list of 50,000 prospects”?

-Solutions that others love might not align with your values or preferences, and although you are capable of applying the solution, you wouldn’t feel right or be happy doing it.

-Solutions can sometimes be built in a way where they become less effective the more people use them, think of a marketing tactic to stand out from the crowd, or some kind of loophole in a system – it only works if no one else is doing it, and when they catch on, you have to move on.

Feed a man a fish OR teach a man to fish

So I’ve found that whenever someone has spoon fed me a solution, it usually falls into one of the above categories, and as a result, I am left with a half-solution, general direction, or a solution that has been so overused it has lost its impact.

This is why when we go through a course, we end up spending 20% of our time implementing 80% of the content, and 80% of our time going around in circles trying to work out that last 20% – it can be quite frustrating for a solution that once felt so simple and promising.

This happens because we are similar enough that things like psychology, cause and effect, and physics all apply to us, but we are still different enough to where one person’s solution can’t directly translate to another.

Whenever I have had a client who has experienced a great deal of success, or who has achieved their desired result in a very short time – it was because we got much more specific on their exact situation, we got clear on their limitations in terms of available time, money, resources and skills, and then we built a solution safely within those constraints.

(Most people hate constraints, I love them – they breed resourcefulness.)

What to think VS How to think

So this is how I would summarize the key difference in our courses compared to others: Most courses teach you what to think, our courses teach you how to think.

The importance of knowing how to think is already commonplace in engineering, and the sciences, but the world of business still has a bit of catching up to do.

There is a great example from Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about this difference between what to think and how to think.

Let’s say you are looking to hire a new engineer for your company, and are down to the last two candidates. As the interview with the first candidate is finishing, you decide to ask them a test question, “By the way, how tall is the building we are in?”.

And they tell you, “Ah, I studied this building at university, I know that this building is precisely 155 ft tall” and they are correct.

You then welcome the next candidate in.

Again, at the end of the interview, you ask them “By the way, how tall is the building we are in?”

They tell you, “Sorry, I don’t know, but I will be back in 2 minutes”.

The candidate runs outside, measures the length of the building’s shadow on the ground, and then measures their own shadow on the ground, ratios the height to the shadows, and comes up with a number.

They come running back to you and say “The building is around 150ft tall” and they are close, but not precisely correct.

The question is, who would you rather hire?

I know I would much rather hire the person who went through the thought process of figuring it out, even though it took them longer to come up with an answer, and even though their answer wasn’t as precise.

The first candidate knew what to think, but the second candidate knew how to think.

And let’s face it, in this day and age, people have access to more than enough information. What we now need to make the most of that information, is knowing how to think about it.

So, my challenge for you today is to ask yourself two simple yet difficult questions…

Firstly, “How do you think?”

In other words, when you are faced with a problem, or a big decision, what is the general thought process you go through in your mind? Because our thought process has such a big impact on our lives, it amazes me that most people don’t have one, or if they do, they aren’t aware of what it is – so write that down on paper and bring some awareness to it.

Secondly, “What would improving your thought process look like?”

I believe this is one of the most important questions I could ever ask anyone, because there are many people who fall for the trap of believing their thinking is perfect. Some people can have a great deal of ego attached to their thinking, and opportunities to improve their thinking only offend or trigger them. The existence of our programs has even triggered people who have been unable to get past their egos! If you’re still reading, I know that’s not you.

I would also add that I have never coached people with an “I am smarter than you” mentality. Actually, I would say the large majority of clients I teach are a lot smarter than me. So it’s more the other way around – most clients regard me as a “personal assistant for their brain”. What I usually bring to the table are a proven set of decision making and problem solving models, and the ability to notice things from an outsider’s perspective that you might have otherwise missed in the heat of the moment.

But no matter how intelligent you regard yourself to be, one thing an intelligent person is sure of, is that their thinking is not perfect.

I like to say to people who think otherwise, “If your thinking was perfect, if you were somehow connected to a super-intelligent AI, then your life would look a lot different than it does now!”

When I say that, I am not suggesting that I can get their thinking levels of super-intelligence, I am simply using this as a thought experiment to help them see that there is in fact much more room for improvement than what they realise.

So with all of that said, what would improving your thought process look like? What challenges would you overcome, and what opportunities would you notice that would take you to the next level?

If you want some help with that answer, I would recommend you keep up to date on the content I will be posting in the following months, as well as the content others at BBIT are posting.

Otherwise, our first course starts at $320, this is a course that was once sold at $2,500 – and if we couldn’t lower the price without losing value for our clients, and without losing money, trust me we wouldn’t have done it – another great example of improving the way we think. And the opportunity for you to capitalise on that is always there if you want it.

Thanks for reading, and remember, shift your focus from what to think, to how to think.”