Nourish An Open Mind

In addition to being pretty laissez-faire with others, I strongly believe in keeping an open mind to new ideas, concepts and behavior. It has to be a conscious decision; it’s so easy to slide back into old mental models.

It sounds like a simple thing to do, but it’s always more difficult than I think. I often have to catch myself when I instinctively open my mouth to rebut an unfamiliar perspective. I stop and force myself to reconsider a point when I feel a spontaneous aversion to something I just read. It’s nice to be aware of it when it happens, although I probably don’t realize it every time. (If I ever do that to you, just tell me!)

There is the day-to-day serendipity of conversations and dialogue, in which I learn new things from people of diverse backgrounds. I also actively read books that are contrarian to my current points of view, so I can see if I’m missing anything. For example, recently, I read a book called The Tyranny of Merit. I was raised in a staunchly meritocratic society – Singapore – and have very fundamental beliefs about meritocracy. I used to think poorly about affirmative action (I was not ashamed to admit it, as a sad little meritocratic puppet). Now I wonder if we were just thinking the wrong way about meritocracy. Can we can provide more representation and dignity for those who did not win the genetic lottery for talent, or the right support from their environment?

Apart from that, I like random books about behavioral economics, evolution, societal issues, sci-fi in other languages, and more. I like hearing other people talk about situations I have no personal experience in, even something prosaic like the experience of having siblings.

All in all, I try to take care in listening actively and reading widely so that I can keep my mind open. I hope I never become one of those people (especially as I age) who get stuck in their heads and ways!

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