Personal Productivity and Self-Improvement

How to: Become wise

If you want to become wise, read 100 books that interest you. The books you choose to read can be about any topic and they can be of any quality, good or bad. The important thing is that you should find them interesting, because the fact that you find a book interesting means it contains information that is new1 to you (and thus it increases wisdom), because “interesting” simply means “something that provides new information to the brain”.

No book is going to solve all of your problems. Each book may make you a 1% wiser person. Thus if you want to become double as wise as you are now, you would have to read about 70 books. 100 books would be a safer number.

Some of the books you read will contain false information, because almost any book will contain some claims and assumptions that are false. But if you don’t give up and continue reading books one after another, as your knowledge increases, so will your awareness of what is true and what is false. Wisdom is simply a map of reality (accurate information about how things really are), and each book you read (even a simple story) tries to give you a small piece of the map. Some books will give you false pieces that do not describe anything that actually exists on the map. But as you read more books, your knowledge increases about the other pieces that surround the false piece, and thus you start to have an intuitive sense of what the false piece should actually look like, and thus you recognize the false piece for what it is: false. Recognition of the falsehood in itself increases your knowledge, for your brain can abstract the patterns of falsehood, and it can actually build a map of what falsehood itself looks like, and thus it will become increasingly hard for falsehoods to mislead you.

If you start to read a book that at first seems interesting, but eventually lose interest in it and start to find it boring and tiring, you should feel no qualms about abandoning the book and starting another. When this happens, it can be due to one of two things:

  1. The book does not contain anything that’s new to you, and thus your brain recognizes it as a repetition of things that you already know very well, and therefore you brain is asking you to stop wasting your time with the book.
  2. The book contains information that has too many prerequisites, and thus your brain is not equipped to handle the information. You should abandon the book now and return to it after reading many other books.

Spend a year doing this and at the end of it you may laugh at how unwise and biased you used to be a year ago. During your journey you would have picked up some new biases, therefore it is unwise to stop your journey. Continue reading books and these biases will be cleared up. You will never stop picking up biases, but their frequency will decrease as your wisdom increases, for biases have patterns of their own and the wise mind can learn to avoid many of them. This is why you find the wisest people to be those who are least ready to make final judgments on any topic–they are “open-minded”, knowing when they do not have enough information.

In most cases, when it comes to most topics, humans rarely have perfect knowledge, therefore the wisest often refuse to give final answers on anything or to give counsel freely to those who ask for it. They will speak about what they know, and refuse to delve into what they do not know.

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