On Opinions and Mental Discipline

This is a pretty decent way to live life, especially if you’re combine it with your interest in disagreeing with folks:

I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.

Charlie Munger

Hmm. Keeps you humble, for sure. But Charlie doesn’t stop there as there’s a reason why this makes a lot of logical sense:

We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.

You see, it takes a lot of effort, time, and practice to have a real opinion. You actually have to work at it: Reading, researching, analyzing, constructing and deconstructing the arguments with other people. You then have to spend time listening to them, disagreeing and even arguing with folks until you’ve seen it from most angles and through a variety of different vantages and perspectives.

Then (and only then) can you hold a real opinion about a topic — except, that topic will continue to change and evolve so our work never ends.

Consequently, you need to be willing to throw away all of that work for the sake of a better and more constructed opinion:

The ability to destroy your ideas rapidly instead of slowly when the occasion is right is one of the most valuable things. You have to work hard on it.

Ask yourself what are the arguments on the other side. It’s bad to have an opinion you’re proud of if you can’t state the arguments for the other side better than your opponents. This is a great mental discipline.

The mental discipline, as Charlie Munger states, is everything. Managing your own psychology is what mature humans do (and leaders).

Otherwise, you’ve got ideas, just like everyone else, with very little real oomph (and data) behind it.

One of my favorite mantras simply encapsulates a lot of this into a single, repeatable phrase:

Strong opinions, weakly held.

It’s okay to have strong opinions. It’s also okay for you to change them. Remember, the ability to change one’s mind is a real superpower:

Let’s be ruthlessly open-minded: