Montaigne On How To Be A Well-Rounded Thinker

It seems that it is, rather, the property of Man’s wit to act readily and quickly, while the property of the judgment is to be slow and poised. But there is the same measure of oddness in the man who is struck dumb if he has no time to prepare his speech and the man who cannot take advantage and speak better when he does have time. (Montaigne)

These are the two spectrums of thinking. On one side is a person who is quick on their feet and can improvise. On the other end is a person who requires time to think and organize their thoughts before acting. There are benefits to both sides as certain circumstances require quick wit and others poised judgment. But this can only be achieved if you have the ability to act both ways. People often handicap themselves by only practicing one way of thinking. They either think themselves quick-witted or not. Or they only reap the rewards of one approach and not the other.

Montaigne urges people to be both a preacher and a barrister. Someone who is well thought out but is also able to improvise on the spot. For myself, I know I lean heavily towards the organization side of the spectrum. Ad-libbing isn’t something I’m comfortable with. Perhaps overthinking is the reason for the lack of wit.

In addition, a soul worrying about doing well, straining and tensely drawn towards its purpose, is held at bay — like water which cannot find its way through the narrow neck of an open gutter because of the violent pressure of its overflowing abundance.

The desire to perform well, to not fail, to not embarrass ourselves can lead us away from exercising our wit. It can stop us from exploring this other side of ourselves, the more unconscious, unstructured and free-flowing aspect of our personality.

The occasion, the company, the very act of using my voice, draw from my mind more than what I can find there when I exercise it and try it out all by myself.

Montaigne exercised this part of himself through speech. By just talking and letting the words come out and then following this spontaneous line of thought and seeing where it takes him. He also exercised his wit through writing. Often going with the flow of his thoughts without forcing judgment on what he’s writing.

Where I seek myself I cannot find myself: I discover myself more by accident than by inquiring into my judgment.

This did lead to writing that didn’t make sense. But it also lead to unpacking what he truly believed in, what he thought to be important and what he cared about. Because the actions committed without judgment speak volumes of your true form. In this way, embracing the flow aspect of your thoughts can shine a light on what you really want to say. Once that is out there, on paper or in a conversation, then you can add organization and structure to the argument and present it as a complete package.

You don’t want to be limited by your own perceptions. Montaigne suggests that we can be both, quick-witted and have good judgment. He also suggests that this needs to be practiced. The practice may involve sitting down and writing an essay on a topic just to exercise your judgment. It may also involve a stream of consciousness type journaling where you’re not bogged down by the desire to present a concise argument. By practicing both sides we move towards the middle of the spectrum where we can then pick and choose how to act and be ready depending on external situations.


Montaigne On The Displacement Of Anger

Montaigne on The Importance of Emotional Moderation

Montaigne On How To Judge Someone’s Actions

Bad Memory Has Its Benefits

Reflections: Get Out Of Your Head


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Article: Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

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The Importance Of Belief

In the book, The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz goes over several practical actions and behaviors that can help a person achieve their goals. One such action is the importance of belief and a positive mind.

The power belief is a very cliche thing to say because it’s often misused or perhaps overused. The difference is that most people simply daydream and hope that someday their dreams come true. However, with true belief, it’s a more concrete approach to life. You don’t believe that someday it’ll happen but rather in the next 2 months or 6 months or 2 years or 10 years you’ll achieve your goals. And thus, with deadlines comes action. You have to act in order for the belief to be fulfilled. But at the very beginning, the initial action, the foundational step is belief.

Belief works this way. Belief, the “I’m-positive-I-can” attitude, generates the power, skill and energy needed to do. When you believe I-can-do-it, the how-to-do-it develops.

When you believe that you can be successful then you see that end goal and with it, you see the certain attributes and skills which are required. If you wish to run your own business but lack the ability to lead, then that’s a clear attribute that you need to work on. You may need to take classes, read books and be more conscious of your behaviors and the words you use. You can then objectively see the person you are presently and view the tools that you are missing, the skills that you need to acquire and create a plausible plan that can slowly get you towards your goals.

Believing they will succeed–and that it’s not impossible–these folks study and observe the behavior of senior executives. They learn how successful people approach problems and make decisions. They observe the attitudes of successful people.

The how-to-do-it always comes to the person who believes he can do it.

But if the belief isn’t there, then the goal isn’t there and without that, you can’t see the missing parts of yourself.

Belief is what starts the chain reaction of growth. It’s like visualization. If you don’t visualize where you are going, where you want to end up and what you want to be, then you’re blindly walking around. Similarly, if you don’t believe that you are capable of achieving your goals, then you’re simply shortchanging yourself. Limiting your own potential.

Belief in great results is the driving force, the power behind all great books, plays, scientific discoveries.

On the other hand, disbelief is an obstacle that can obstruct your momentum before it can even build.

Disbelief is negative power. When the mind disbelieves or doubts, the mind attracts “reasons” to support the disbelief. Doubt, disbelief, the subconscious will to fail, the not really wanting to succeed, is responsible for most failures.

It is always easier to come up with a list of things that can potentially go wrong. Reasons why you should stay safe and comfortable rather than take a risk. Failure and humiliation are real and many believers have experienced them. But the point, at least to me, isn’t about a 100% success rate. Rather it’s to act with a belief that you can get from A to Z and even if you fail in that belief and perhaps land somewhere around M, you can then plan once more and take action which allows you to inch your way towards your goals.

But someone with disbelief sees that potential failure as crippling and stays safe which also limits the experience and potentialities of life.

Look at it this way. Belief is the thermostat that regulates what we accomplish in life. Study the fellow who is shuffling down there in mediocrity. He believes he is worth little, so he receives little. He believes he can’t do big things, and he doesn’t. He believes he is unimportant, so everything he does has an unimportant mark. As time goes by, lack of belief in himself shows through in the way the fellow talks, walks, acts. Unless he readjusts his thermostat forward, he shrinks, grows smaller and smaller in his own estimation. And, since others see in us what we see in ourselves, he grows smaller in the estimation of the people around him.

The three ways to develop the power of belief are:

  1. Think success, don’t think failure. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions which bring you closer to your goal. Negative thoughts lead to negative actions which make the goal seem impossible.
  2. Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think you are. It’s only by believing that you are capable of doing great things that you can achieve them.
  3. Believe Big. The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. It’s extremely rare that people stumble into great success. Rather, it’s a calculated and measured approach that builds one towards that success.

Once more, it’s hard to separate cliche from a statement like ‘the power of belief’. There are aspects of life that are unknown or out of your control. So, there is always a degree of uncertainty that accompanies each action. Belief is there in order to overcome this uncertainty and allow you to act. In some ways, it’s similar to faith but faith which is backed by action because you believe that your goals are real and that you have the capability to attain them. Without belief, you stall out before you even get started in the race.

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. (Henry Ford)


Youtube: Learned Living

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Poem: Electric Self-Help

Article: Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out