On Thinking: The Second-Order Thinking

3개월 전
“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.” ― Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Jason Strull

Lesson From A Bank Robbery

Anthony, low in IQ, and Job, high in IQ, rob a bank. Anthony however outperforms Job during the robbery because his mind is empty, and he thinks about nothing else other than the present, unfolding activities.

He doesn't care about getting caught by the police; he doesn't care about what to say in the courtroom; he simply doesn't have a plan B.

Job, on the other hand, worries about the police and the potential courtroom situation; so he ended up doing a poor job while robbing the bank. Job's concern about getting caught is Second-Order Thinking.

Another Second-Order Thinking Example

The Crane Toads have been taken to Australia to solve the problem of pests. Soon, all the pests were gone. Good! However, the Crane Toads are poisonous to dogs and other animals if taken as food, and they themselves ended up as a problem.

Seeing the problem of the pests is First-Order Thinking whereas seeing that of the Crane Toads is Second-Order Thinking.

Second-Order Thinking considers the long-term implications of a problem, situation or decision.

Beginning Of A Journey

First-Order Thinking is fast. And easy. At this level, the thinkers would go for short-term solutions. They'd go for the surface-level thinking. They wouldn't think very deep. They wouldn't see very far.

Whereas Second-Order Thinking is slow. And difficult. At this level, the birthplace of extraordinary performances, the thinkers would go for long-term solutions. They'd think very deep, and they'd see things that others can't see.

Thinkers go from

  1. Unreflective Thinker, to
  2. Challenged Thinker, to
  3. Beginning Thinker, to
  4. Practicing Thinker, to
  5. Advanced Thinker, and then finally to
  6. Master Thinker.

Marshmallow Test

Some children were given marshmallows in an experiment. They were told to wait if they wanted a bonus. Certain children ate the marshmallows immediately while others waited and received the bonus.

Those children who waited for the bonus are the doers of Second-Order Thinking.

The children were observed for several years by the experimenters, who wanted to compare and contrast the children's achievements and later-life trajectories. The result: the recipients of the bonus did better in life than those that immediately ate the marshmallows.


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“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.” ― Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

This made me remember a classmate whom I have so much respect to. There was this day, a discussion day, and our teacher noticed that she wasn't listening to hear but instead, she was busy drawing characters on her drawing pad.

So our teacher called her attention and she was asked what was the teacher was discussing before she called her. And to our teacher's surprise, she was able to answer exactly what our teacher wants to hear.

Our teacher then said that she believes that our section are filled with students that can kill two birds at one stone. Honestly, that was the first time I ever heard that phrase. Or maybe that was the first time that I understood what it really meant.

I could never hope to become like her, someone who can focus while doing different things at the same time. Although, I'm trying to multi-task since I think it would be much faster. - I haven't proven that myself.


Bruce Lee and very few people could be adept at multitasking. According to Bruce Lee stories, he could read a book, watch TV, and do dumbbell curls. All at the same time. Your classmate might be a BL's relative.:)