Independent Thought

When I was a kid, I listened to pretty much everyone.  When my parents told me to do something, I did it.  When my teachers told me this is the way things are, I accepted it.  When my friends gave me advice, I took it.  As a child, this makes a lot of sense to behave and believe what people tell you because it’s the most efficient way to learn.  And generally the people around you are telling you things that are for your benefit (or at least from their point of view).

Now I’m an adult (albeit maybe not very wise).  When my parents tell me to do something, I usually still do it but not always.  When my teachers tell me to do something, I sometimes politely raise my hand and ask why.  When my friends give me advice, I thank them for their help and think about whether or not it is useful.  At some point, my accumulation of knowledge and experience reached an critical mass where, suddenly, my world didn’t always align with my parents, teachers and friends.  This was troubling to some of them because they still expected me to listen to them.

Although my natural instinct is to reject any new information that is wildly different from my worldly view, I’ve come to realize it’s much more useful to think about why someone has given you that advice.  What assumptions, beliefs and experiences have gone into it?  Sometimes it’s worth listening to and sometimes not.  In either case, you won’t get very far if you outright reject it, or just blindly follow it.  The best way is just to use your brain (like we all know how to do) and just think for yourself.