3 Ways I Think Less, Notice More, and Keep My Head From Exploding

Have you ever heard this riddle?

You’re in the basement of a three-story building.
In front of you is a light switch panel with three switches, each one belonging to a light on one of the floors above you.
The switches aren’t labeled so you don’t know what switch goes with what floor.
You can only leave the basement once to figure out what switch goes to each floor.

How can this be done?

Don’t bother trying to figure it out. You’re not going to, and I’m going to give you the answer later.

I watched the movie, Lucy, the other night.

Storyline: Girl gets pumped full of nootropic-esque cognitive enhancers, only a million times stronger, and her brain capacity goes through the roof.

Soon, she’s a kung-fu master catching bullets with her teeth while memorizing encyclopedias in different languages.

Lucy hits her cerebral “peak” and, as motivational speakers say, starts “firing on all cylinders.” At one point, Lucy says, “I’ve accessed 28% of my cerebral capacity. I can feel every living thing.”

Ugh… I don’t want to be like Lucy. I want to use less of my brain.

In the film, they talk about how we only use about 10% of our brain. Other articles claim this isn’t true, and that people actually use 90% of the brain’s capacity.

It doesn’t matter to me. Whether it’s 10% or 90%, it’s still too much.

I want to think less and notice more.

I want to call in sick to my brain and all the useless thoughts that scream out for attention. None of them wait in line or play nice with each other.

I’m making breakfast and the part of my brain that manages responsibility starts creating a to-do list. All of a sudden, I’m thinking about everything I didn’t get done yesterday. Cue the guilt switch. But I need to pay attention — the bacon is burning.

I’m at a stop light checking Instagram. There’s a honk behind me. I’m sorry — I didn’t see the light. Now, the other driver is angry with me and I’m angry at him for being angry with me.

What a haunted carousel of goals, reflections, resentments, and regrets!

My boss is talking and I’m thinking of something else. I wonder if my girlfriend loves me as much today as she did yesterday. What part of the brain handles insecurity?

My “cylinders are firing” too fast. There’re too many light bulbs on in my head at once and I don’t know what switch belongs to what light. I’m stuck in the basement.

Did I mention that at the end of the movie Lucy’s head explodes?

These are the 3 things I do that help me think less, notice more, and keep my head from exploding:


Journaling lets me grab thoughts out of mid-air. Once I scribble them out, I can see them and hold them in my hand. Are any of these thoughts useful? Every good idea I have is usually plucked out of a crowd of 100 bad ones. But once they are written out, I can physically crumple up the ones that aren’t serving me and throw them away.

Another great thing about journaling is that you get to look back it later. You can put time between you and your words and then read them as if they were written by someone else.

Most of the time I go back and read old journal entries about things I worried about and think, “Wow, this guy sounds like a big baby.”


There’s already a ton of great stuff out there on the benefits of meditation. I’m not an expert. I use the Headspace app and (try to) meditate every morning.

For me, I don’t really notice the benefits of meditation until I stop meditating. Whenever I find myself particularly pissy or stressed, I realize, “I haven’t been meditating lately.”


Reading gets you out of your own head and into someone else’s. It gives you the chance to try on different lives and learn from other people’s mistakes and successes.

Your imagination is a muscle. Reading exercises it in ways watching TV just can’t.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”

Read more books. It’s good for you.

And if you need a recommendation, take a look at what’s on my shelf here.

What about that riddle?

Go to the light switch panel, turn on the first switch and wait ten minutes. Then turn it back off.
Next, turn on the second switch. 
Go upstairs.

The floor with the light off and a warm bulb belongs to the first switch. 
The floor with a light on belongs to the second. 
You know the rest.

This post is already too long, and I’ve already thought too much today.