Print is not dead.

How to Think More Critically: A Journey in Having Substance

The struggle of speaking with substance is the bane of my existence. Often in the middle of a conversation, I realize that I’m repeating myself and resorting to generic terms such as “interesting” or “this is awesome because yea it’s awesome, right?”. I don’t know why I do this. I’m an intelligent person whose able to synthesize information and make rational arguments. But why do I struggle to verbalize my complex thoughts? This very question made me realize the importance of academia.

Let’s face it, school sucks. It’s expensive, biased to patriarchal white western ideals, and not engaging whatsoever. But school excels at forcing you, no matter how tedious or boring, to think critically about the content you’re consuming. Unfortunately that content (from elementary school to university) is either antiquated literature or overtly dense textbooks. Maybe that’s why I never saw the value of writing essays and critical discussion while I was in school.

But being the intellectual junkie that I am — constantly consuming non-fiction books and watching video essays — and stepping up to the challenge of spewing words in front of a camera, it hit me that I’m being lazy with my words, relying on platitudes and hyperbole. Hence, I burrowed myself in a coffee shop earlier today, blasted jazz on my headphones, and scribbled a step-by-step guide on honing down my critical-thinking skills in this post-academia life. I’m sure some of my readers have this same issue and I hope this list will bring some value into your life as well!

Write a Medium post every day!

Yes. Every. Single. Day. Writing is a surefire way to organize your thoughts. When I write everything that I’ve been learning my mind starts synthesizing all of the information clogged up in my brain. I’ve lost my connection to writing since I’ve barely jotted down a word in the past year, but I’m committing to it again! This time with a focus on storytelling, because stories are all the rage nowadays. Everyone — from companies to personal brands —are telling their grand story to woo their audience and prospective investors. What’s my story? I don’t know yet! But let’s find out on this journey of daily writing!

Read Critically

Hello everyone, I’m Ariel and I’m a book addict. I read a book a week. Mostly non-fiction, because if I read fiction I feel like I’m wasting my time. However, as my addiction worsens, I consume books to never think about them again. From now on I’m determined to do the following:

  1. Take notes: Books used to be my sacred objects. I’d avoid writing on them for fear that they’d be ruined forever. But, ever since reading S by JJ Abrams & Doug Dorst — a novel that has another novel written on the margins — I realized that notes can be beautiful. Especially when my vast collection of books is passed down generations, and my great-great-great grandchildren will look in awe and perhaps laugh out loud at my jotted musings. Side note: I realized that I say “realized” a lot. I have to stop doing that.
  2. Write about what I’ve read: This ties into writing a Medium post every day! There are thousands of thoughts that cross my mind when reading, especially when connecting it with other books I’ve read. Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog is my key inspiration for this endeavor. She writes every single day about what she’s read, and throughout the years I’ve seen her mind expand all while accumulating an audience of 4M+ people.

Talk About Substantive Topics

Writing and making videos is my main tool for starting conversations, which means I need to take the conversation to a higher level when making content. Get in deep, explore, and elaborate!

There’s so much to talk about, which reminds me of one very important fact: I’m able to take the conversation anywhere I want. Wait a moment, I can start talking about video making and end up talking about quantum mechanics? Yes I can! The possibilities are endless. Plus, life is more fun when you hear outlandish connections.

One of my recent favorite authors, Graham Hancock, taught me about the power of synthesizing disparate topics (in his case it’s ancient mythology and geology) in order to create a powerful argument.

Create Content that Incentivizes Critical Thinking

We’re living in an age inundated with tools for content creation, but that means the bar is low for most of these tools. You can just Snapchat puppy dog ears on your face, or Instagram your latte, or Facebook Live a concert. But, making content that actually challenges you to form complex thoughts and your audience to think critically of those complex thoughts is a different game. Here are the types of content that I aim to explore in my journey to become more smart and stuff:

  1. Facebook Live interviews: You’re going to see more thoughts on live-streaming soon, it’s a medium that I’m thriving in right now. However, I realize that I need to take advantage of the power of interviews. They’re a great way to meet people who excel in their field and people tend open intellectually when they’re interviewed!
  2. Podcast: I consume so many of podcasts that I need to finally take a shot at it myself. Maybe it’ll be interviews, or short stories about history, or philosophizing about pop culture a la Idea Channel.
  3. Video essays: In the past year, I’ve literally given up on watching shows and movies in lieu of watching as many video essays as I can. It’s yet another intellectual addiction. Each of the videos created by Nerdwriter, Brows Held High, Lessons from the Screenplay, Cold Fusion, The Art Assignment, Channel Criswell, Kaptain Kristian, Art Regard, Every Frame a Painting, etc consistently blow my mind. My dream is to one day run a media conglomerate, hire these talented video creators, give them full teams, so we can have videos of them on a weekly basis! Alas, I don’t run a media giant, so I need to make my own video essays. Current ideas: the origins of the word “hipster”, a rundown of coffee, and guide to pizza.

Sounds easy, right? Nope. But that’s the point! I must challenge myself. Our brains are muscles just like any other, they grow and strengthen from outside stimuli. Let me work out my brain in effort to bring value to you as well. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow!

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