Practical Philosophy for Entrepreneurs


Most people haven't thought about philosophy since high school. Most people think philosophy is stuffy and too old fashioned to be relevant in today's world. Most people are wrong. Truth is, a major part of philosophy is critical thinking, and critical thinking is one of the most important tools in an entrepreneur's tool box.

Wikipedia says critical thinking reveals goals, examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, accomplishes actions, and assesses conclusions. All good things, right? Problem is our sneaky brains have ways to set traps for us, and these nasty traps can impair our ability to think rationally and make good decisions. 

Here's a list of 6 things that will challenge your brain into thinking critically:

1. Break the Status Quo 

We're creatures of habit and we get comfortable with "the norm" pretty quick. It's human nature to repeat established behaviors, and most people believe it's a result of our constant fear of change. It's important to detach yourself from your current situation, maybe it's a website design, or perhaps a product you're selling, and ask yourself objectively if you're letting your comfort level impact your ability to make a rational decision.

2. Think Twice

Ever walked into a store and been tempted by a sale? $15 marked down from $20 - what a deal! Well what if it just said $15, would you still think it's a deal? Would you be equally tempted to buy it? Statistics say absolutely not. Initial impressions instantly create a bias that heavily impacts your decision making process. Marketers are great at planting seeds like these, and it's important to think critically about your first thought (woah, what a deal), get past that, and move on.

3. Don't Protect The Past

Last week I was at a restaurant and ordered way too much food. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach. Anyways, I ended up reluctantly eating the last 5 chicken wings simply because I paid for them. I was protecting my initial decision to order too much food. But why did I buy the food to begin with? I got the wings to satisfy my hunger and because they're delicious. The fact that the portion was too large had nothing to do with my initial goal. I shouldn't have eaten the last 5 chicken wings. The money had already been spent, so it shouldn't have found its way into the equation. Keep your mind on the goal and don't do stupid things to protect stupid decisions.

4. See For Yourself

Too many people just see what they want to see. Don't hire "yes men" and be skeptical of people who agree with you too much. Surround yourself with people that will challenge you and provide you with the other side - even if they're just good at playing devil's advocate.

5. Who Cares What Everyone Else is Doing

Call it peer pressure. Call it the herd instinct. Other people's actions heavily influence our own, and we always have the tendency to conform. Ever read a book from Oprah's book club? I bet there are a million books that would be better for you to read. People like to consume what everyone else is consuming, but you should ignore this trap! Who cares what others are doing! You're better off to focus on yourself. Think critically and do what's best for you - ignore what's popular!   

6. Don't Drink Your Own Kool Aid

The official term is called illusory superiority, and it's a natural bias that causes people to overestimate their abilities and underestimate their negative qualities. It can also be called the above average effect. I prefer to call it "drinking your own Kool Aid" whereby almost everybody thinks they're above average at just about everything. It's impossible for everyone to be better than average. Chances are you're below average at a whole bunch of things - it's important to think about what those things might be.