LESSON TWO:  A Book Excerpt

By Troy Headrick

NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from a book I’ve written on critical and creative thinking, problem solving, and self-actualization.  Each chapter is called a “Lesson” and ends with a journal writing assignment that gives the reader an opportunity to explore the concept(s) discussed in the lesson.  I would appreciate your feedback on this excerpt and to the idea of the book overall.  Thanks.


My mother has told me stories about how curious I was as a child.  I don’t know if I was born this way or if this curiosity was mostly nurtured.  I guess that’s sort of a what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg type of question.  I do know that mom got me going in the right direction by encouraging me to look and listen and ask questions.  And for that, I owe her nearly everything.

Curiosity is the engine that drives us to ask more questions and become better thinkers.  It motivates us, keeps us alive and fresh and exploring.  I would even argue that those who hunger to examine and grow intellectually are happier.  The curious are less likely to be bored because they are aware of how little they’ve seen and understood and how much there is yet to see and understand.  The truly smart realize how dumb they are and how far they have to go to get to where they want to be.  On the other hand, those who think they know it all, often know the least.  The Dunning-Kruger effect explains this well.  This psychological principle holds that the truly incompetent are so incompetent that they are utterly incapable of seeing themselves objectively.  Such folks think of themselves as geniuses when the exact opposite, in fact, is true.

Curiosity can be aimed outward, toward others and the world, but it can also be aimed inward, toward the self.  In “Know Thyself,” an article by John D. Mayer that appears in Psychology Today, the author writes that we should all aim to have “personal intelligence” and that those who do “understand themselves and know who they are.”  Mayer goes on to write that they “evaluate others more accurately and…are better at acknowledging their own limitations.”  They also “make better guesses about how people are likely to behave.”

I would argue that having “personal intelligence” makes a person much more likely to be able to solve problems and handle the sort of stress that accompanies them.  Those with self-knowledge are likely able to draw on a wellspring of inner resources when difficulties arise.  They are capable of self-regulation, are able to stay calm and engage in the sort of unemotional analysis that leads to insights about what sort of problem they are facing and how to devise an insightful response.  I’m not suggesting that emotions are bad.  We all need to be able to feel things and respond emotionally.  I’m just saying that emotionality can easily interfere with good thinking and clearheadedness.

Thus, curiosity, self-study, self-awareness, critical thinking, artful problem solving, clearheadedness, and happiness are all interrelated.

It all starts, though, with looking inward, deeply and profoundly.  Those who take this first step—and take it seriously—are far more likely to end up living better, more fulfilling lives.  They will feel more in control when problems arise.  They will have inner resources to draw upon to empower them.  Rather than being pushed around by forces that feel overpowering, they will be able to push back and may even be capable of exerting force that overpowers.

“Know thyself” is a philosophical maxim that some date to the ancient Egyptians.  Socrates, the great Greek teacher and philosopher who was eventually forced to drink hemlock because his ideas were considered too radical—many great thinkers are so far ahead of their time that they are often misunderstood—claimed the basis of all knowledge was self-knowledge.  I would definitely tend to agree with that argument.

Journal Exercise

            In your journal, write about the following questions:

  • How curious are you? 
  • How much self-knowledge do you have?  How much time do you spend looking inward and self-reflecting?

Be as honest as you can in your writing.

If, after journaling, you feel that you need to work on developing your curiosity, read the online piece, “The Benefits of Curiosity:  5 Ways to Ignite and Nurture Your Curiosity,” by Adrienne Partridge.  Pay special attention to the practical advice the author provides toward the end of her piece.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

If you’d like to see some of Troy’s art, have a look.

18 thoughts on “LESSON TWO:  A Book Excerpt

  1. Great excerpt. I had never heard of personal intelligence as a measure of self-awareness but I love the concept, nurturing it and teaching it.

    I wonder in the journal exercises if something more guided would be helpful. Something like, “Think back to a situation that didn’t go in the way you intended. How much time did you spend unpacking how you approached it and why?”

    1. Hi. I actually haven’t looked at the manuscript for at least a couple of months. When I did so this time, I felt like the journal assignment might be a bit vague. I like your suggestion, and you’ve prompted me to go back and review all the journal assignments. Some are likely much more concrete than this one. I now know I need to go back and check them all (thanks to you). I appreciate the feedback.

  2. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. This makes you less worried about being wrong and increasingly keen to learn. I think you’re right to say curiosity can set you free. Knowing oneself and where one’s emotional reactions are really coming from is critical to self regulation. I enjoyed the post plus suggestions at the end. Thanks Troy 🙏

    1. Hi. I think I got at least some of the psychological analysis right, but a couple of readers have pointed out that the journal assignment was vague and could be improved. Invaluable advice. Thanks for the comment.

    1. Thanks. Some have pointed out that the journal assignment seemed vague. What are your thoughts on this? If you do do the journal, let me know how it went, please. Again, thanks.

  3. I personally feel that the purpose of human life is to know the true nature of oneself. No one wants to undertake anything without benefit. Wherever there is a developed intellect, there is curiosity about world, god and myself. On the other hand ignorance makes us restless. When you discover something wonderful, it gives you much more refined happiness which boosts our self image. So, these are some additions to your already listed points.

    1. I think for some, ignorance makes them restless. For others, ignorance is comforting. They don’t like their long-cherished ideas challenged. (Often, these long-held ideas are riddled with oversimplifications and racism and such.) A certain kind of person finds new ideas and unorthodox thinking very scary. You, clearly, embrace intellectual growth. One of the biggest problems facing the world today, is the rise of anti-intellectualism. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  4. Overall, looks good. The exercise feels rather vague. Not sure what I’m supposed to do with it. Wynneleon suggests a guided exercise. That might provide your reader with a clear idea of what to do.

  5. A book on critical and creative thinking, and problem-solving is a great idea. I enjoyed the chapter excerpt, and, as requested, have a few thoughts. One has been mentioned: increasing the specificity of the journal questions is probably a good idea. I liked wynneleon’s example very much.

    I’m curious about the afterthought feel of the “The Benefits of Curiosity” link: the piece feels important. Perhaps a “For further work on curiosity” or an introduction earlier in the chapter.

    I’m also curious as to the draft status: some of the sentences feel hard to read.

    1. Yes. When I was looking at this again–and I hadn’t done so for quite some time–I felt like that last piece, the one I link to at the end of he lesson, was quite important but that I referred to it too late in the article. Some of the chapters are more polished than the others. I am nowhere near ready to submit this. In fact, I know that chunks need to be entirely rewritten and the whole thing needs cleaning up. Thanks for the suggestions.

  6. I was literally just talking about one of these topics with my parents tonight! I talked of Socrates and the fact that the more intelligent and aware you are, the more you realize how little you know in the world.

    Thanks for sharing! I love reading books on creative thinking

  7. I love the book idea with the interactive journal bit at the end of each lesson. I really appreciate your initiative towards exciting people’s curiosity and critical thinking. So necessary in today’s way of thinking!

  8. I even didn’t know that it was called Personal intelligence😊

    To go back to the issue at hand, I agree with the point that people who reflect inwards, who make effort to understand themselves honestly are better suited to face challenges that come their way and have a chance at success than their counterparts who don’t. I think it’s because they have an honest idea of their strengths and weaknesses and would probably, through experience of past events know how to counter those challenges. Know what to avoid other than fool oneself into destructive choices, or know what they can take on basing on the knowledge of their strengths.

  9. I agree. I used to self-reflect a lot, and it made me very self-aware. However, that self-awareness has transformed into self-deprecation and a belief that I can’t ever improve and become who I want to be because of all my limitations.

Leave a Reply