Simplexity and the importance of critical thinking

To all of you fellow dads, I hope you have a great Father’s Day. In keeping with family-business on a day to celebrate men who influenced us as children, I want to tell you about my grandpa.

My grandpa was a simple, yet very complex guy. Part hard-working farmer and part deep-thinking philosopher. That made him simplex. He had such a unique way of making poignant, simple statements that also held a much deeper, complex meaning to them.

There’s no doubt that as a kid I didn’t appreciate those statements as much as I do now. With my own growth, I’ve been able to expand my awareness and now have appreciation for the way grandpa could deliver a simplex statement with both a singular focus and the context of depth.

Powerful and commanding, they always seemed to set a focused and clear tone for the ultimate point he was making. It didn’t matter if it was the grandkids or our parents, grandpa’s logic was universally clear to all involved.

“Work ethic is like common sense…not everyone has equal portions.”

“If you want to eat before the sun goes down, you better get that mower and your butt in gear.”

“What part of what I just said didn’t you understand?”

“If you’re acting like that for my benefit you can stop anytime.”

“Did you choose to come to the breakfast table looking like that?”

“I’ll pretend that the thinking you didn’t do didn’t happen on purpose.”

“Grace is what we say before dinner and what grandma gives me if she catches us doing yard work on Sunday.”

You’ve got the idea…simple yet immensely complex, requiring you to do the simple task being asked of you but also forcing you to think critically.

I respected the man that everyone else simply knew as Bill. He wasn’t just my grandpa; he was one of my mentors. He had a way of challenging me to challenge myself. He taught me to set goals, concentrate, think specifically and learn through experiences.

Often times, he would incorporate “the” into his statements, aware of the strategic implication “the” can bring. This was his way of requiring me to drill my focus down even further. His approach went something like this; “What do you see as THE best way to cut the back forty (his reference to the many acres of grass down the hill from his back yard)?

Grandpa Bill was a master of Socratic teaching. I’ll paraphrase how The Foundation for Critical Thinking describes the approach.

The Socratic approach is one of the oldest teaching styles. The intended goal is to foster critical thinking by focusing on questions, not just the answers. Thought is expanded by consistently probing and asking questions in a disciplined way so that reasoning and logical connection are derived.

Last week I wrote about expanding your mindset and the implications of expansion versus isolation. This week, I want to challenge you to consider these 4 questions my Grandpa Bill might have asked you to help you establish the most important areas deserving your awareness, attention and focus.

  1. What’s the most important thing I’ve accomplished in the last 30 days?
  2. What’s the most important thing I’m currently working on?
  3. What’s the most important thing to accomplish in the next 30 days?
  4. What’s the most important action or step to take next?
  5. What’s the most important way in which I’m consistently expanding my awareness and mindset?

Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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