By April 7, 2011 Read More →

How To Have a Beautiful Mind

How to Have a Beautiful Mind

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” —  Albert Einstein

Just like you can develop your body, you can develop your mind.  You can have a beautiful mind.  In fact, like a fine wine, your mind can get better with age.  According to Edward de Bono, “there is very much more that you can do to make your mind more beautiful.”

In the book, How to Have a Beautiful Mind , Edward de Bono writes about how to develop a beautiful mind.

What is a Beautiful Mind

What does it mean to have a beautiful mind?  Having a beautiful mind means:

  • You can easily explore ideas with others.
  • You can appreciate alternative points of view.
  • You can find possibilities and alternatives.
  • When you disagree, you can spell out the differences with clarity and precision.
  • When there’s a difference of opinion, you can openly explore the basis of the difference.
  • Rather than just black or white, you can see the shades of gray.
  • You make it a point to be interesting.

Key Concepts

Here are some cornerstone concepts that act as a foundation for a beautiful mind:

  • Exploring ideas is more beautiful than making a case. (Argumentation is not beautiful.)
  • Gentle disagreement is more beautiful than aggressive disagreement.
  • Being interesting is more beautiful than showing you are clever.

Ways to Agree

Here are some ways that de Bono suggests  to find agreement:

  1. Take a genuine delight in finding agreement.
  2. Seek to find points of agreement.
  3. Explore the subject versus argue a point.
  4. Remove your ego from the discussion
  5. Explore the other person’s logical bubble (how they see their world)
  6. Identify special circumstances in which you might agree
  7. Identify special values in which you might agree (“If I valued xyz, then I would agree.”)
  8. Identify special experience in which you might agree (“If I had had the experience of xyz, then I would agree.”)
  9. Disagree with a generalization, but agree with some parts of it.
  10. See a spectrum between none vs. all: none, a few, some, many, most, the majority, by and large, all.

Ways to Disagree

Here are some ways that de Bono suggests to disagree without being disagreeable:

  1. Don’t treat difference of opinion as a bad thing.
  2. Challenge certainty by suggesting possibility.
  3. Distinguish between having an opinion and disagreeing with an opinion.
  4. Identify the sources of differences (experience, values, focus, point of view, etc.)
  5. When you disagree about what’s “best,” remember that best depends on how you define it (easiest, fastest, most scenic, etc.)
  6. Spell out the difference in the two perceptions.
  7. Spell out the difference in personal preferences (You may be using different sets of values.)
  8. Spell out that your experience may be different.
  9. Acknowledge that you may have different views about the future (“We seem to have different views about what might happen in the future.”)
  10. Jointly explore differences in experience.  (It may be that the experience is value, but that the interpretation of the experience is not the only one.)

Ways to Be Interesting

Here are some ways that de Bono suggests to be interesting:

  1. Choose to be interesting over clever.
  2. Talk about what you are good at and what interests you.
  3. Tailor your language based on your audience: Those who know nothing about the subject, and those that know something about the subject and want to know more.

The Range of Disagreement

By knowing the range of disagreement, you can better understand sources of disagreement.  de Bono identifies a spectrum of disagreement possibilities:

  1. That is simply wrong.
  2. That is possible, but not certain.
  3. That is only one of many alternatives.
  4. That fits your experience.
  5. That fits your values.
  6. That is right for you, but not for me.
  7. That is based on emotions and prejudice.
  8. That is based on selective perception.
  9. That conclusion does not follow.
  10. That is one possible view of the future.

When Are Opinions Wrong

I just had to throw this in here, because it’s something many of us run into in our day to day experience.  Sometimes opinions are wrong.  de Bono gives a very nice example where people pass around a glass in the dark and ask whether it’s whiskey or cognac.  The opinions differ, but there is only one truth or correct answer in this case.   This is useful to keep in mind because if there’s a difference of opinion, but it’s about facts, then you can just check the facts.  When the disagreement is not about facts, then you have to explore the shades of gray, values, perception, perspective, etc.

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21 Comments on "How To Have a Beautiful Mind"

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  1. alik levin says:

    I liked this one:
    “Choose to be interesting over clever”

  2. JD, well said, man. Well said! I don’t know how we’ve come to this place as a society where we have to be around people who agree with us on everything. This runs completely counter to some of the greatest leaders in history (Lincoln, Edison, Einstein, etc.). These were leaders who made it a point to have continuous counsel with those who often disagreed with them the most. They were hungry for other perspectives. This is God-given and we need the company of those who think differently than we do!

  3. A beautiful mind takes cultivation. This is very true. We can enjoy our mind as it ages. These are some great tips. I love the concept of, “Taking genuine delight in finding agreement.” The more we can understand other people’s perspectives the more open our relationships will be.

  4. JD says:

    @ Alik — Yes, that one guiding principle is a sure-fire way to groom a beautiful mind.

    @ Bryan — Thank you. I like your phrasing — “… hungry for other perspectives” — that’s a great one-liner reminder of where greatness grows from.

    @ Karl — I really like the fact that cultivating a beautiful mind is something that continuously pays off the rest of our lives. Wherever we go, there we are, and having a beautiful mind makes the journey and the destination a better experience. And for me, life is all about the experience.

  5. Dia says:

    Hi JD,

    This is beautiful post! When we develop our mind JD, our life changes for the better and we can achieve great things in life.

    “1.Don’t treat difference of opinion as a bad thing.” This is so true. This is what makes the world a nice place due to differences in opinions. After all, if we all think alike, the world would be boring. Variety and differences are necessary… Thanks JD for sharing

    • Russel Reid says:

      Indeed, it’ll be really boring if we all think alike. Have you seen the movie equilibrium? We’ll die for freedom of speech and that is not possible without our uniqueness. I think differences, conflict and the like will always be there. How we react however is at our very disposal.

  6. Jk Allen says:

    Excellent J.D.!

    I loved the simple ways to be interesting. Particularly: “Choose to be interesting over clever.”

    It’s so easy to spot one who is trying to be clever. It stands out and doesn’t’ feel right. To be interesting this to be different, to allow your opinions to flow.

    Have a great weekend!

  7. Dandy says:

    This is fabulous JD. I try to have a beautiful mind. I like the idea of stop trying to impress people, and just be myself. I’m enough as I am. I will certainly check this book out. It sounds perfect for me. Thanks so much JD!

  8. JD says:

    @ Dia — Thank you. Variety truly is the spice of life, if we’re open to it.

    @ Jk — Thank you. I like your test — “it doesn’t feel right” … it helps bring out the subtle stuff. One of my tests with emails at work is, am I helping or proving a point?

    @ Dandy — Thank you. It’s a great book, filled with pragmatic advice. De Bono is the master when it comes to effective thinking skills.

  9. Keith Davis says:

    Hi JD
    Well put together post.
    Like the ways to agree section, useful info there.
    Also like “Choose to be interesting over clever” nobody likes a smarty pants.

    Looks as though I’ve got a distance to travel before I have that beautiful mind.

    BTW – I’d settle for whiskey or cognac. LOL

  10. J. D.

    I like the whole notion of making a commitment to developing your mind. This article also underlines what an art it is to converse with respect. I know I could improve my skills of “gentle disagreement.” I love being introduced to that term and having it at my fingertips now. Aggressive disagreement is always unpleasant, but sometimes people have this habit going way, way back. It takes time to change and articles like this give people a clarity of positive direction. Thanks so much.

  11. It’s alright to have your own point of view in life as long as you don’t try to push it on others.

    I like the Einstein quote by the way.

  12. JD says:

    @ Keith — Thank you. I’m always amazed by de Bono’s precision and depth. He not only has a way with words, but a way of turning insight into action.

    @ Sandra — I know what you mean. In fact, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the skilled executives around me and how they disagree with skill. It’s always through smart questions, never dismissing perspective or lashing out in anger. It’s gentle, and effective and more along the lines of truth seeking.

    @ Justin — Exactly. In fact, I think having an opinion and sharing it with skill is what makes conversations interesting.

  13. rob white says:

    This is great, JD. A beautiful mind indeed chooses “interesting over clever.” We fuel the False Self when we say things to look good and win the approval of others. A beautiful mind is an Authentic-Mind that is sincerely listening and interested… and thus INTERESTING.

  14. JD says:

    @ Rob — Thank you. I think this really reflects that we are social creatures, and listening and being interesting are ways to connect.

  15. Air says:

    This is more of how to be open-minded or (peaceful to some extents) rather than beautiful minded. A beautiful mind is indefinable. It is up to people’s judgments.
    However, a beautiful minded person does not always necessarily have to be agreeable. I’ve met a person I’ve claimed a beautiful minded person. She’s quiet yet as I get to know her more, there are all kinds of interesting and mesmerising new ways to look at her. Despite her outer-beauty, she has also got a pure and innocent soul. She has never hated anyone and she does not plan on starting, she has once answered my question I’ve asked out of curiosity. She will never say a lot because actions speak louder than words. But trust me, she knows exactly what is going on in the world. I guess I could say she’s got a high self-esteem too, therefore the ego is necessary in my opinion. So I disagree with that point of yours to.
    I guess I can give you one perspective to look at a beautiful mind, it is that “a drum is only loud because it’s got nothing inside.” If to forage a beautiful minded person, the one ought to be the person who are modest. Because you will never know what they have got inside of them and yes, that makes them so interesting and influential.

  16. Narendra says:

    A smart people are always good listener and less talk. They are quiet, soft talk, understand the situation then conclude.

  17. brian d says:

    it’s just amazing that beautiful mind exists. I think spreading the concept is influencing. We need more minds like this to help cleanse the old fashion ways of asserting once thoughts… this idea will surely help future great people.

  18. latonia says:

    yes the beautiful mind is what its all about and once you got it thats it . it cant be lost i love my mind and the more i put into it the best is to come and im a black woman and i think good now just listen because as one we must have right thoughts.

  19. mrhs says:

    [minor corrections] Please remove prior post.

    Mr. Meier: The article starts with an immensely brilliant quote from Albert Einstein. But it does not address his main contention — how to overcome obstacles that stymie a beautiful mind and are huge time sinks. Perhaps an evangelist is needed. When Albert Einstein misspelled a word, he pointed out to his critics he was not a dictionary. That is, he could not bother with the details that would set back his singular focus. He had more important details to worry about which he *could* get right in an untethered way. Someone else could could publish the results. All of your suggestions above are important or useful but typically, the culture prevents an already unqualified (from a political, evangelistic, sales, and ambassador points of view) individual from maximizing their beautiful mind.

    The second challenge is how to recognize a beautiful mind. Beautiful minds as stated above (and in my opinion), are NOT very good marketers and promoters of themselves. They shouldn’t have to be. Their work, not their 30-second commercial, should speak for itself. But it’s almost always overlooked. Perhaps a beautiful mind should be convinced to become a recruiter.