This is the fundamental, most critical, make or break, life skill.
The only skill you need to succeed in life is the ability to discern the truth from falsehood, as David Hawkins, the author of Power vs Force, calls it. This skill is also called filtering the signal from the noise.
- If you are an investor, the truth is which investment will bring you the most returns.
- If you are an entrepreneur, the truth is which business idea will result in most profits.
- If you are a college graduate, the truth is which job is the best start to your career.
Besides the most critical points in life, the ability to determine the truth plays a critical role in your daily life as well.
- Which foods are the healthiest choices for you?
- How often should you work out?
- How should you spend your spare time?
If you read enough articles by experts, you’ll come across a lot of contradicting ideas on each topic. That in itself is sufficient to demonstrate how important this skill is. Once you have this skill, you can build a great life on top of it. You can actualize yourself by becoming the person you can be and by realizing your full potential.
“What one can be, one must be. This need we call self-actualization.” Abraham Maslow
How to Develop the Skill to Determine the Truth
Here are a few practices that will help you develop the ability to determine the truth.
Ask the Right Questions
The discovery of truth starts with asking the right questions.
- What is your full potential?
- What is the best use of your time at this moment?
- What is the best allocation of your resources now?
The questions above are just a few examples. You can come up with dozens of questions like them, determine the most relevant questions to you and your life at this moment, and start reflecting on them.
We all have our biases and fallacies that we aren’t even aware of. We adopt some of these from our culture and we carry some of them in our DNA. Our biases and fallacies make us irrational, which is a huge obstacle to our access to truth.
Learning the common biases and fallacies is the first step to get rid of them. The second step is to recognize them in our reasoning as we go through our days. As we recognize them in our reasoning, we need to work consciously to let go of them. Only by doing that consistently, we’ll eliminate our biases and fallacies and make progress towards becoming more rational.
Intuition is a great tool in the absence of knowledge. The problem with intuition is that it is susceptible to all of our biases and fallacies. Even if it wasn’t, we can’t be 100% sure that our intuition matches the truth.
Public knowledge on the other hand is subject to criticism. When a scientific theory is published, it is being reviewed, tested, and in some cases falsified. Therefore public knowledge has a higher probability of matching the truth than your intuition.
Moreover, you don’t know what you don’t know. There might be a marketing method out there that will make all the difference for your business. There might be a relationships advice out there that will make the difference between a happy marriage and divorce.
Ignorance, not learning what you don’t know you don’t know, is the biggest sin in the age of information.
We are in the age of information. Information is freely available to all of us for a minimal cost. Ignorance, not learning what you don’t know you don’t know, is the biggest sin in the age of information.
What does creating new ideas have to do with truth? A lot. Sometimes, truth can be found somewhere deep in your mind. You need to mine for it just like people are mining for natural resources in the depths of earth. Just like natural resources, your ideas have real world value, but they have to be processed first; more about that later.
How do you mine ideas?
There are several ways to do it. Sometimes, I just write down all the ideas that I can come up with on a piece of paper. By the time I got an A4 paper filled, I come up with new ideas I never thought of.
Another way to mine ideas is to ask a question and wait for the answers come. The right answers come when I have done the work of filling in an A4 paper, forgetting about it, and going on with my daily life. Then suddenly an idea pops up in my mind while doing something completely irrelevant, like driving. When an idea comes up, I write it down somewhere, most of the time in Evernote.
Brainstorming is a great way to mine for ideas. When you are with at least two people, you can build new ideas on top of each other’s ideas. An idea by one person will trigger another idea by another person. As a result, new ideas will come up that the individuals couldn’t come up with on their own.
A mastermind group refers to a group of people who work together towards the same goal. Scientific studies have shown that the average of the predictions by individuals are more accurate than the individual predictions. We can call this wisdom of crowds. By forming a mastermind group, you make use of the wisdom of crowds in a small scale.
When you come up with a new idea, it is sometimes possible to see whether this idea is viable or not by pure logical reasoning. However, most of the time, it’s impossible to know the viability of an idea without trying it out.
The best way to try out an idea is to experiment on it using the scientific method. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. It comes down to defining what you’re going to do in specific terms in advance.
- What is the hypothesis you are going to test?
- What is the outcome you are aiming for?
- What are the conditions of the experiment?
- What are the steps you are going to take?
Once you have answered those questions, carry out the experiment and evaluate the results. If you succeed, great. If you didn’t, go over the questions again and carry out another experiment. This type of working eliminates guess work, confusion, and stress.
Start from the Right Assumptions
Even though this is a part of being rational, I wanted to emphasize it in a separate section. We all have assumptions, conscious or unconscious. I’m not going to preach you to become aware of all of your assumptions and let go of all of them. That’s not realistic.
However, becoming aware of some critical assumptions, questioning them, and checking whether they match the reality or not is a good starting point. If an assumption is the basis of a business you are going to start, you might as well question it thoroughly before investing any funds, time, or effort in it.
Mindfulness is a critical skill in every area of your life and it plays a huge role in discerning the truth. It’s impossible to come up with good ideas, evaluate them, and to collaborate with others if your mind is filled with noise.
So, make yourself a favor by giving yourself a break once in a while from all the noise inside and outside of your mind.
The ability to discern the truth from the falsehood is the most critical skill to succeed in life. Every other skill is built on top of it. In order to develop this skill, you can make use of the following steps.
- Ask the right questions to search for the truth.
- Be rational. Become aware of your biases and fallacies.
- Learn what you don’t know you don’t know.
- Ideation. Create new ideas, by yourself and with others.
- Masterminding. Use the wisdom of crowds in a small scale.
- Experiment. Use the scientific method to try out new ideas.
- Start from the right assumptions. Become aware and validate your assumptions.
- Be mindful. Let go of the noise to have a clear mind to process information effectively.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.