Read Books that Challenge Your Beliefs

Previously I wrote a post about finding truths through consistency. In that post, I talked about how repeating underlying ‘themes’ between areas in life that are completely different to one another, can help you see truths that are otherwise not obvious.

But it is not enough that I only observe the activities I am familiar with. Just one person’s experiences and observations can’t carry much weight, as there could be lots of reasons why that one person could be wrong, and especially if that one person is myself. I believe this is because humans are masters at deceiving themselves.

This is why I feel that reading books are very important, if you want to have higher likelihood of finding the truth. Books are basically someone else’s experiences, someone else’s knowledge, and someone else’s perspectives. It allows you to learn what others see in other areas of life other than the ones you are familiar with. It is hard enough for anyone to delve deep into just one or two areas, so these books can become invaluable in allowing you to learn from others.

You could also talk to others, but often times the truth is not easily found, and without having access to the written thoughts of many of our great historical figures across different eras and different cultures, it is difficult to say that we have explored enough.

However, just reading books in itself is not enough. You need to have an open mind, because if you don’t, you will end up only reading the books which you feel you will agree with. If the title of the book implies something that you don’t believe, you should not dismiss it – in fact, you should embrace it.

When I was studying investing and trading, I had a valuable experience which opened my eyes to seeing both sides of the story. I started off reading about Warren Buffett and subsequently Benjamin Graham’s Intelligent Investor book and the Value investing approach. It made so much sense to me. Logically, there was nothing that felt out of place or odd. I did not have any doubt that this was the right method. And I believed this for a while. But when I had trouble finding value stocks, I decided to look at some other approaches. I read books on trend following, technical analysis, and other methods. And I found that these methods also made great deal of sense. While I did not agree with everything, it struck me how the different approaches were all true in their own way. There were people on Wall street making a living using any of these methods. And it was interesting how each method was true in regards to areas of the financial markets that the other methods did not address.

Another thing that interested me was how the proponents of each method absolutely refused to believe that the other methods could work. And since these were not dumb people, my conclusion was that none of these people refused to open their minds and read into the methods of others, absolutely believing that their own way was the only way.

Since this experience, I’ve lost all confidence to say that any single way holds the key. In fact, I have become more convinced that the truth accounts for the experiences of all the parties involved. Belief systems or theories that refuse to acknowledge the existence of the other side, most probably are missing something, and until they are able to account for why the other side believes what they do, their ‘truth’ is likely to be incomplete. Someone once said, a sign of intelligence is being able to hold two contradictory thoughts in your mind at the same time. What I believe is meant by this statement, is that those who can see how two seemingly contradictory things could both be true, are those with intelligence.

This is why I now read as much as I can. I read things that would challenge my current beliefs. As someone who was raised Christian, reading about other religions and seeing what they said used to be uncomfortable. Now I believe that without considering the other side, I can’t make any claims whatsoever.

JP

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