Summary of Making Up Your Own Mind

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9 Overall

8 Applicability

10 Innovation

8 Style


Edward Burger, president of Southwestern University, developed a course on “effective thinking” that aims to slow down your thinking, help you deeply think through ideas and connect them with the entirety of your learning. The joy of learning arises during epiphanies – breakthrough thoughts and solutions – resulting from connecting ideas from one discipline with ideas from another. Burger’s 100-page course is an experience in effective thinking. He lays out 25 challenging puzzles and guides you through solving them without revealing the answers. He hopes you will take the time to consider each puzzle deeply via his “five elements of effective thinking.” You may find Burger’s puzzles and hints either challenging or vexing, depending on how much you relish them. He presents one chapter upside down and another as a mirror image to encourage you to engage as well as to disrupt your flow. But he will inspire you to get up, walk around, ponder and puzzle. Those with the patience to practice and reflect will appreciate Burger’s unique work. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why formal education should help people develop their thinking and learning skills rather than emphasizing only credentials and vocational preparation,
  • How to practice the “five elements of effective thinking,” and
  • How to slow down and ponder productively to innovate and create new ideas.

About the Author

Southwestern University president Edward B. Burger designed a course around these thinking practices through entertaining puzzles, which he teaches as a mathematics professor at Southwestern.



Intentional Learning

“Effective learning” requires the experience of doing, practicing, making mistakes and thinking through ideas. This leads to you generating your own thoughts and “making up your own mind.” Learning shouldn’t be a race toward earning a credential, certificate or degree and turning that credential into a job. Regard learning instead as a journey of self-discovery.

Approach learning as an interconnected, multidisciplinary exploration of what interests you. Don’t merely learn a subject. Learn past it and beyond it into other subjects as you connect it to a greater understanding and reinforcement of learning. Connecting learning in one area to other disciplines brings the thrill of illumination and the profound enjoyment of gaining knowledge. Adopt what the ancient Greeks referred to as a paideia approach to learning, as used at Southwestern University: seek “intentional connections” between the things you learn in each discipline or subject area.

You face many puzzles in your life. Whether...

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