The benefit of applying critical thinking methodology to all aspects of life is that you are rarely surprised, and when you are, you can more easily adapt. But the hard part is that, at first, you will be nearly universally scorned by those who either can’t or won’t think critically.
Those that listened heard me correctly on my Art of Manliness podcast interview, that you have to very carefully tread the waters by slowly helping your boss come to the realization that asking for evidence is really important. Most leaders think that they got to their jobs by going with their gut. And some did through incredible thin slicing skills. But most of the knowledge and skills which helped someone shine at lower management aren’t the same skills that help them through much broader, more complex problems.
Study after study shows that intelligence is not correlated with critical thinking. So you’ll have to learn to politely say that you’re not questioning anyone’s smarts, but are only wanting to help them apply those smarts more effectively to the task at hand. When you hear someone ask if you think you’re better than them, politely raise your hands and say “no way…I needed help learning to think just to make it here.” Eventually you’ll be helping them.
It is very difficult to learn to subordinate emotion to your rational and logical mind. Yet, the most successful bosses of companies are those who say the three hardest words: “I don’t know” and they are the same ones who ask:”How do we know that? Show me the evidence. If that’s true, what should we expect to see.”
Applying this in family life will also be difficult…at first. Your family members are generally so used to making decisions on emotion and gut feel, that when you try to insert a deliberate process of logical reasoning, they’ll get on you about it.  But slowly and very surely, you’ll start to notice that your family members will begin using that very same thought process themselves. If you’re smart, you won’t say anything about it and will just be happy that they’re doing it.
That is how you become successful and make a name for yourself.  People want to be associated with someone who can keep his or her head when everyone else is frantically running around waving their hands in the air.  By quietly practicing critical thinking, and patiently teaching those around you, your organization will shine because everyone will be doing better.
By | 2016-02-11T22:38:50+00:00 February 11th, 2016|Blog|2 Comments

About the Author:

Tom Ruby
Tom Ruby is a retired Air Force Colonel who served 26 years on active duty in positions from Squadron Intelligence Officer, to Chief of Doctrine for the AF ISR Enterprise, to Chief of Special Programs for the Air Force Materiel Command. He was Associate Dean of the Air Command and Staff College where he developed exchange programs with the NATO School, the French École Militaire, the German General Staff College and Poland’s National Defense University. He served on General Petraeus’ Joint Strategic Assessment Team as well as in three combat deployments. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Kentucky, and actively mentors graduate students through the American Political Science Association. He is widely published and speaks globally on topics from critical thinking, to leadership, to strategy, to morality in warfare. He is currently CEO of Bluegrass Critical Thinking Solutions, a business and defense consulting firm.


  1. joe sanders February 15, 2016 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Grace under pressure…a skill i have been trying to teach to my tribe for years. Daily practice of “healthy critical thinking” is a skill that in this day of “likes” and “favs” is looked down upon. Awarenesss is often seen as being critical and negative in our modern society. I appreciate your positive spin on critcal thinking…thanks, nice post Tom.

    • Tom Ruby
      Tom Ruby February 15, 2016 at 4:36 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Joe. I appreciate the comments. You are right that in our hyper- world, we reduce everything and have little time for critical and objective thought. It is almost always accompanied by push-back, at best, and derision more likely. Stay tough.

Leave A Comment