The Thinker: Rule Over Yourself by Patrick Daniel

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11 min readApr 23, 2017


The world is a complex place we call home. The more you understand yourself and your environment — what you excel in, what you enjoy and what the world needs — the closer you get to living a life with purpose. Learning is the essential first step that can be followed by thinking and then doing. Learning allows us to acquire knowledge which over time turns into wisdom. Leaning gives us an advantage in the world over others. The process of learning should not stop after formal education. As Leonardo Da Vinci said:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”


Learning has allowed people to exceed society’s expectations. Your intelligence is not fixed and unchangeable. Applying effort and persistence to learning can change it. Your rate of learning has a direct correlation to your ability to change. Absorbing new knowledge and learning new tricks is an ongoing quest that should last a lifetime.

You need to be aware if your surroundings are restricting your growth. Take a step back and assess your current situation. Embrace the concept Adam Smith called the Impartial Spectator. From an unbiased perspective, we can determine how we should act. Identify any pain points and find the underlying problem to…


In an ever-changing world, nothing stays the same for very long. Rulers have risen and fallen, empires have been and gone. In order to progress, you must be willing to adapt.


If your path in life is leading you to a place that is not beneficial, change direction and take another path. You will see new possibilities and opportunities to learn as a result. After an honest assessment of your position, you can move forward. Do not ignore reality and do not complain about your situation. Take responsibility. Know what your limitations are and overcome them by learning and adapting.


Accept the position you are in and master responsibility so that you won’t let your future be defined by any bad hands you may have been dealt. Request feedback — the negative but constructive type is particularly important as it will help you to adjust and improve.

When possibilities and opportunities open up, a whole new world appears. Don’t let preconceived ideas restrict you so you can…


Leaders adopt the same attitude when rebuilding their countries from previous economic or military ruin. Imagination is needed to envisage a bright future and not be trapped by the past. Arnold Schwarzenegger applied this theory when bodybuilding:

“Create a vision of who you want to be, and then live into that picture as if it were already true.”

Having doubts is ok, in fact they are inevitable, but defining your desired future will give you the clarity required to help achieve it.

The next step after imagining your future is to action those dreams. Turn the wishes into plans through application and goals. A tried and tested method to increasing your knowledge that has been exploited by many people that have gone on to become billionaires is reading. Elon Musk learnt about space travel and rocket science by reading as many difficult books as possible on the subject. J. K. Rowling was (and still is) an avid reader. Her reading directly influenced her writing. Bill Gates read so much that his parents had a “no books” rule at the dinner table.


Reading can challenge and expand your thinking. In the same way that junk food affects our nutrition, it is vital you avoid low-quality material that could warp your understanding. Read above your current level of expertise to challenge and stimulate your thinking. In a world of decreasing attention spans, reading long texts will set you apart and give you an advantage. Where you cannot find the answer in books, consult people. Where people cannot help, learn by doing to learn in a practical way.

Learning allows us to grow and…


Introduce a feedback loop to constantly think about how to improve. Whether its documenting your progress or having a coach for guidance, find which system works best for you.

Don’t be afraid to change existing rules or traditions. Many are there as a result of people being conditioned to a particular environment. Challenge ideas for they may contain unexamined truths. This enables constant evolution and improvement.


Question, rather than blindly believe everything you hear or read. Examining what your told can lead to thinking independently. Expand your horizons and your comfort zone by travelling. It will help you think in different ways and better understand the way the world works.


Different experiences will give you a different perspective on your circumstances. It allows you to learn things that could otherwise be hidden. An expanded viewpoint gives you a more complete view of the big picture.


Whilst the future is uncertain, it is grounded in reality and reality is a product of history. By studying the teachings and lessons from history, you can appreciate the situation as a whole rather than being fixated on specifics that may not be that important in the grand scheme.

Seeking guidance is vital but ultimately you must decide where to focus your life. Eliminate options to get clarity on how you want to spend your time.


How can you do this? By asking yourself some difficult questions. What have you done with your life? What makes you feel alive? What would you do if money wasn’t a barrier? Finding your purpose may take time but as Sir Winston Churchill said:

“It’s all right to be a late bloomer if you don’t miss the flower show.”

The more you understand yourself and the world, the closer you will be to finding your purpose. Learning is a lifelong endeavour.


The ability to think is a critical advantage to be successful in this world. We need to trust in the power of thinking as often when things go wrong we are quick to blame people or circumstance, when in fact it was insufficient thinking that is to blame.


Your life is a product of your thinking. Act accordingly. Changing your thoughts could change your life. Many people are not comfortable being alone with their thoughts. Don’t be one of them. Avoid distractions and listen to your inner voice. By monitoring your thoughts, you can train them to your advantage.

Do not disregard your thoughts or put too much weight on the thoughts of others.


There are many distractions in modern life, but a certain amount of solitude helps you to crystallise your thoughts. Many have spoken about group psychology and the madness of crowds. In certain situations, individual thought is more rational than group thinking. That’s not to say you should always go against the crowd. As Peter Thiel once said:

“The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.”


There are many schemes promoting getting rid of physical clutter from your life, but what about mental clutter? Identify and disregard any thoughts that don’t serve you anymore. Do not give them another moment of your time. Avoid unnecessary complexity too. Albert Einstein always preferred the simplest explanation, stating:

“If you can’t explain something simply, you probably don’t understand it.”

Removing over-complication allows for clear thinking. When writing code there are normally several solutions to overcome a particular problem. The simplest always wins. Introduce constraints to reduce options and encourage focus.

We have thousands of thoughts a day. Some take you forward, some keep you from advancing or set you back. There are many cognitive biases that affect the quality of our thinking. We avoid potentially painful information and overemphasise information that is closest to us. Social media algorithms show you more of what you want to see, promoting confirmation bias and meaning your thoughts are challenged less. This makes it easy to stay in denial in certain situations.


Seek out people that can challenge you and your thoughts and surround yourself with them. Their feedback will make your biases more obvious and therefore easier to eliminate.

To think clearly you need to stay in the present. Thoughts on a regretful past or fearful future will make it difficult to focus on the here and now.


This can be achieved in different ways. Meditation is a traditional method. Letting thoughts come and go, rather than focusing on every single one. Writing is another method. Often documenting emotional scenarios help you to reconsider a particular decision or action which may otherwise be taken prematurely.

Staying mentally relaxed means staying in control of your emotions.


We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to what happens to us. Maintaining composure allows you to adapt to the situation you find yourself in.

When met with a decision to make, ponder and analyse the choices available to you, but once a decision has been made, commit to it 100%.


Let your principles guide your decision-making process. It is particularly important to rely on your principles in times of uncertainty.

The mind can only take you so far without the help of the body.


Walking can influence creativity, sleeping can change the way you think about a problem. Physical exercise and a healthy diet also impacts the body and neglecting our body indirectly neglects our thinking.

The way you think will have a tremendous effect on your life. The world is ever-changing. Humans are living longer. We have access to a global market more so than ever before. As a result, the list of potential opportunities is unending and your thinking must reflect that to take advantage of it.


Learn to recognise the difference between critical and negative influences. Critical thinking is a vital tool to help you improve, negativity only undermines your attempts to achieve your goals. Be careful who you associate with and their influence on your life.


Surround yourself with people you can learn from in a setting that provides opportunities.

Predicting the future is difficult. This is because that whilst the past cannot change, the future always has many potential possibilities. The world is a complex system where one small input can result in large-scale changes.


By being mindful of the risks in any future endeavours, you are more likely to thrive in your efforts. Apply your thoughts by combining them with action.


Test your thoughts by carrying them out in the real world. Only then can the full power of thinking be truly realised.

Part 3: ACTION

To apply our learning and thinking, action is required. There are many obstacles that can prevent you from taking action but in order to turn your thoughts into reality, you need to:


The easiest way to take the initiative is to find something that excites you. Enthusiasm and desire will help you spend your time and energy on carrying out your thoughts, rather than pondering whether to give up. Avoid procrastination by knowing there is no perfect moment to begin. Your focus with your actions should be on completion rather than perfection.

For many years in history, flying was deemed impossible. That was until the Wright brothers came along and built their flying machine. At first not many people believed them. They had no press or spectators for their test flights and the newspapers didn’t believe them. You may come up against similar resistance when working on your plans and ideas.


There are always going to be people resistant to change, especially when you’re trying to push for something new. Doing anything worthwhile will be challenged and it’s important not to let this stop you.

Leverage your interests and strengths to find a niche where you can offer value to people. The less competitive the market, the better.


You can do so by knowing what your skills are how to combine them. Be aware of what other people are doing too; by working with others, you can create a unique asset.

When planning for the long-term, be bold, aim high and then have the courage to follow through with those plans.


By being willing to take risks, rejection will be something you’ll have to accept and grow to love. It is a part of the process of achieving anything worthwhile and should be treated as a learning and growing experience. It’s a temporary defeat on the way to ultimate victory.

To become one of the best in your chosen field, dedication and intensity is required.


Learn to say no and not get distracted by other ideas. By sacrificing other options and not multitasking, you can more easily achieve an intense focus which will in turn will lead to excellence in your field of expertise.

It is inevitable that you will make mistakes. Learning from failure is imperative and when you do fail:


Treat every failure as a lesson to be learnt from. Mistakes should be analysed and then not repeated. Do not be afraid to experiment and if an experiment is not working, stop quickly and switch to another test.

A routine and habits are crucial tools to aid time management, but there needs to be a balance and some time should be left each day unscheduled, to promote creativity and serendipity. A balance to this…


of scheduled and unscheduled time is required to be struck to maximise the potential benefit.

The road to success is not a smooth one. There are often bumps in the road where your progress towards your goals may slow down or even stall completely.


In times like these it is essential to find a catalyst to kick start your enthusiasm again. This may require a change in environment or simply an understanding of the situation and what’s missing. Whatever the catalyst is, the important aspect is acting on it.

Train yourself to spot openings as they are often disguised. Pay attention to small details in order to…


An awareness of the big picture will also help you work out what is required. Large shifts in society often produce opportunities for the people quick enough to recognise the change. The invention of the printing press resulted in an increase in reading glasses, for example.

Success often takes longer than you expect. Like a political revolution may have many failed uprisings on the way to eventual triumph, you too may experience failure that is just part of the process of ultimate accomplishment.


By managing your expectations with patience, you can avoid disappointment. Eventually you will hit a turning point. By embracing that turning point, you can be redefined and grow exponentially.

You may believe that a lack of resources can limit what you can or cannot do, but by focusing on what is important you can turn the situation to your advantage.


Find creative ways to leverage what resources you do have. Look for opportunities where others don’t. It is rarely a lack of resources that stop you from doing what you want to do. The main trait that is necessary for achievement is persistence. Do not give in when you suffer a temporary setback. Keep your enthusiasm when you encounter multiple failures.


Commit to what you want to build and the future you envisage. You may go up against people that are smarter, stronger or more experienced, but by having persistence you have a chance to beat them all.