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Thinking like Rick Sanchez

Rick & Morty has been a cultural phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Mixing deep storylines, deep commentary, while not only being entertaining but making you fall on your ass with laughter.

I’m focusing on an interesting aspect of one character, in particular, the genius alcoholic, scientist, dick of a grandpa Rick. You cannot help but love the guy, a guy that never gives up an opportunity to flip the finger to the world when it tries to keep him down. The man has the ability to solve the unsolvable problems and operate through life with a genius level of creativity.

What is the golden nugget about Rick we can learn from to accelerate our success? His thinking. We need to start thinking like Rick.

Just like Rick, some real-world brilliant minds use a special method of thinking to keep them creative and accelerate their learning — Aristotle, Elon Musk, Nikola Tesla, and many many other great thinkers — tapping into a unique mindset to solve difficult problems and create groundbreaking solutions.

First, the Mindset

See, Rick takes things literally. Always taking things to its logical conclusion, always. Using an anarchic scientific thought process to help himself remain curious, yet logical. But, the lesson Rick wants us to understand is — stop following your assumptions about the world.

Take this small, yet impactful example presented in the show of this mindset. Rick was joking with Morty and Summer, he proceeded to make up a reference of the Red Green Grumbolt:

“Oh you agree, huh? You like that Red Green Grumbolt reference? Well, guess what I made him up. You really are your father’s children. Think for yourselves. Don’t be sheep.”

The show constantly makes pop culture references, this time I found myself laughing along with Morty and Summer. But why? Who is Grumbolt? We were following our previous assumptions, that this must be some funny reference to something, I’ll laugh along — I’ll laugh along to fit with the system. I’m sure many of us, myself included, have laughed along with something a friend has told a group, even though you have no idea what it’s referencing. Seems simple and no big deal — and most cases it’s not. But what does this mindset condition us into? Being Sheep.

Rick would stop and think, what are they talking about? What is that reference? Why do they think that’s funny? Stopping himself from falling in line with his assumptions.

We need to question the world around us, questioning everything, and avoiding assumptions.

But wait, Rick is a dick of a character….why should we embrace his selfish thinking? Tap into his unique thinking method, not the character himself!

Second, embrace First Principles Thinking

Rick follows this scientific idea of first principles thinking, made recently famous by the Elon Muck, saying in an interview:

“Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning. Generally I think there are — what I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy.
Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations.”

Essentially, first principles thinking is the method of vigorously questioning every assumption you think you know about ideas in general, solutions to problems, and the knowledge you perceive to fully understand. Stop believing you know everything about a given problem — learn to create new knowledge and solutions from the ground up.

Reasoning by analogy makes you succumb to bad decisions — even smart people make this vital mistake.

Constantly question your interactions with situations with the mindset of a child — always ready to ask why. See, as children, we have this curious mindset to get to that fundamental understanding we all seem to desire in some way. A way of understanding.

On the other hand, our typical line of thinking and reasoning is by analogy — building knowledge and solving problems based on prior assumptions, beliefs, and widely held ‘truths.’

By using Rick’s first principles thinking will help you develop a unique worldview to innovate and solve difficult problems in a way that nobody else can even fathom.

Ask yourself, what do you think is true? Then work up from there. See our brain, our memory is constantly operating within these assumptions — past experiences creating new and essentially instantaneous conclusions. We can break this habit, but only by making a conscious effort.

Here’s an example from Elon Musk to help put this in perspective.

Somebody could say, “Battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be… Historically, it has cost $600 per kilowatt hour. It’s not going to be much better than that in the future.”
With first principles, you say, “What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the stock market value of the material constituents?”
 It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation and a seal can. Break that down on a material basis and say, “If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange what would each of those things cost?”
It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour. So clearly you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.”

Rick’s first principles doing fine work. Instead of following a societal held belief that battery packs will ‘always be expensive’ or ‘there’s no better way,’ but Musk asks the right questions. Breaking down the idea at hand to discover the basic truths of the battery — clearing his mind to then be able to envision a new innovative solution.

We see Rick constantly do this with his inventions. But we also see Rick do it on a more basic societal level — a mindset for the day today.

Rick wants us to also question ourselves, the world, and society. What in our world do we think is normal that maybe when we take the blinders off, is it really so normal? Our cognitive bias rules us, allowing our brains to run wild and make assumptions to normalize the world.

We see this societal questioning when Rick talks about his views on school.

“Listen, Jerry, I don’t want to overstep my bounds or anything. It’s your house. It’s your world. You’re a real Julius Caesar, but I’ll tell you some, tell you how-how I feel about school, Jerry. It’s a waste of time, a bunch of people running around, bumping into each other. G-guy up front says, “two plus two.,” The people in the back say, “four.” Then the bell rings, and they give you a carton of milk and a piece of paper that says you can take a dump or something. I mean, it’s — it’s not a place for smart people, Jerry, and I know that’s not a popular opinion, but it’s my two cents on the issue.”

Just look at what our society has deemed ‘normal.’ Working 9–5 behind a desk. Normal. Going to college, having kids, getting married, buy a house in the suburbs. Normal. Go thousands of dollars into debt. Normal. Teach everyone to learn the same way in school. Normal.

But is it normal? Or is it dangerous assumptions that we’ve used to normalize our world we don’t understand — or worse yet, don’t want to think about.

Bring them together

By identifying your current assumptions, like Rick, breaking these down into their basic truths and unpacking solutions from this new foundation — you will discover innovative solutions and understandings to the complex problems we face in the world. Then, you can find a way to make unique contributions for yourself, society, and the world.

Rick just wants us to forget what we think we know — and get a little whacky. Becoming more true, more curious, and thinking a little more like Rick.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +386,297 people.

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