Think Differently by Inverting Your Questions
When you look at the benefits of certain things, don’t forget to look at the potential downsides
Whenever I wanted to take a dietary supplement, I would often search for something like, “benefits of X.”
X could be anything: From vitamin c to ashwagandha (a herb that’s been popular in recent years). I would also use that same line of thinking for other things I was interested in trying. For example, what are the benefits of…
- a vegan diet
- running every day
- waking up early
- trading stocks
This is the most common mental model when it comes to researching something. We tend to look at the positives.
But what happens when you only look at the positives? You risk overlooking the negatives, which could be very costly.
From studying the mental models and thinking methods of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, I learned that it’s important to invert your questions. You must force yourself to look at the negatives as well. So you can avoid them.
Charlie Munger was inspired by the 19th-century mathematician Carl Jacobi, who famously said, “Invert, always invert.” The idea is to look at things backwardly first. Munger says:
”The mental habit of thinking backward forces objectivity — because one of the ways you think a thing through backward is to take your initial assumption and say, ‘Let’s try and disprove it.’
That is not what most people do with their initial assumptions. They try and confirm it. It’s an automatic tendency in psychology — often called ‘first-conclusion bias’.
But it’s only a tendency. You can train yourself away from the tendency to a substantial degree. You just constantly take your own assumption and try to disprove them.”